Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bells Makes Misery Tolerable

When we moved to Misery, I was afraid I had left everything I loved about the Great Lakes region behind. In many ways, I had. However, one favorite from my days in Ohio followed us to Misery: Bell's Beers.

We moved here in the summer of 2005. As a beer drinker, I appreciated the Boulevard Wheat (with a slice of lemon) available at nearly every bar and restaurant, filling my need for a suitable summer beer. This made me hopeful for the beer in this town, but I still missed some of my favorites from back home. The best was Bell's Oberon, a seasonable wheat ale best served with an orange slice.

Luckily, Bell's Brewery out of Kalamazoo, Michigan ships to Misery. It's not available everywhere, but almost. I live off Two-Hearted Ale throughout the year. The beer is a welcome reminder of from where I come.
Flash forward to the present. Last night, R and I enjoyed our first real night out together since Lucia's arrival. Lucia joined us of course for her very first beer event, the Bell's beer pairing dinner at The Wine Cellar and Bistro. The menu looked like this (my notes are in italics)...

Winter White Ale (Reception Beer)

Caramel Popcorn with Parmesan & Lavender

Was the caramel simply infused with lavender? Either way, it reminded me of my grandmother's homemade caramel corn. I once had this ale in a bottle which did it very few favors. The beer paired perfectly with our starter, meaning good things were to come.

Amber Ale

“Fresh baked pretzel” stuffed with shrimp, caraway Greystone pork sausage, spicy white cheddar emulsion and wasabi-whole grain mustard

This was actually a stuffed pretzel, believe it or not. I was afraid that the spices in the sausage and wasabi would clash terribly, but they actually complimented each other well. The amber is, according to the Bell's rep, the brewery's signature beer. It's light on the hops and alcohol, making it an ideal session beer (read: drink it all night long without getting sick).

Pale Ale

Smoked Patchwork ribs with roasted red pepper oatmeal, crispy sweet potatoes and ale reduction

Again, this was an excellent pairing. Pale ale just works with the smoked pork and sweet potatoes. The oatmeal was sort of a risotto-type of thing. The pale ale, like the white winter, definitely tastes better when allowed to breath from a glass.

Two-Hearted Ale

Pan seared scallops, saffron poached potatoes, kafir lime beer blanc, roasted carrots and fried leeks

This was going to be my favorite course before we even began. The food actually cut some of the bitterness of the IPA and pulled out some of the more aromatic aspects. Excellent.

Consecrator Doppelbock

Chestnut stuffed grilled quail and grilled duck, wilted local greens, topped with green tomato chutney and cilantro

I didn't remember this doppelbock as chocolaty as it was when I tasted it at the lager night for the beer club. Of course, I probably tasted 20 or so lagers prior to trying this one. Then I wasn't sure if such a flavor would go with the dish. I was wrong. These two paried very nicely.

Third Coast Old Ale (Barley wine)

Baked Missouri caramel apple soufflé with rosemary and bay infused anglaise and caramelized apples

I was a little disappointed to get such a fresh barley wine (a few weeks old). The rep suggested buying a six-pack, drinking one, and storing the rest for the future. Now that I had some at the dinner, I purchased a six-pack today to store the whole thing. What saved this beer was the dessert. The infusion of bay and rosemary matched the apple perfectly with the beer really pulling out the carmal flavor.

Bell’s Stout

Crater Lake blue cheese crème brûlée with blackberries and espresso syrup

I think I counted no more than four different Bells stouts on the Hyvee shelves this evening. Interestingly, the basic stout was served with our final course last night. Instead of the beer providing all the coffee flavor, the dessert's syrup filled the need for an afterdinner coffee. Surprisingly, the blue cheese fit in nicely.

All in all, it was a great night of beer and food. The pairings were both unique and well-matched. It is easy to see why we choose the bistro as our celebratory restaurant over and over. Although the beer was not as intense or varied as the event I missed at Sycamore, it was all as good as American craft beer gets. I highly recommend both The Wine Cellar and Bistro as well as my favorite brewery, Bell's.

1 comment:

Lauren K said...

The Wine Cellar is so good. One of the best places to eat in Columbia in my book.