It's a tough job, but a couple of weeks before every beer dinner at Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats, a crew of co-workers sits down with a sample of all the new dishes and figures out which beers work best with each one.
"We've got all this really nice food and 100 sample glasses of beer spread out all over the table," says Assistant Manager Matt Patton. "We have a lot of fun with it."
The monthly beer dinners, which run from October through May, are a chance for the brewpub to get reckless. The menus are loaded with exotic ingredients, off-centered recipes and pitch-perfect pairings.
And while you'll find a few perennial favorites among the themes this year -- Cheese Please, Chocolate and Pork! -- you'll also see new avenues like Breakfast for Dinner, Get Cozy with comfort food and A Spirited Celebration, featuring Dogfish's rums, gins and vodkas.
"It's fun," says Chef Dennis Marcoux. "Making something for 60 people is a hell of a lot easier than making something for the 10,000 who come through here during the week, so we get to do a lot of things we don't normally get to do. And it's almost like a trial run. A lot of the stuff that's on our pub menu came from last year's beer dinners."
Dennis gets as many of the ingredients as possible from local farms, and of course, the beers are imported from the next room. And this year's dinners will have a twist: The first course will be made not in the kitchen, but right in the upstairs dining room.
"We try to make it bigger and better every year," Dennis says. "Adding that layer of interaction is an interesting way to bring people into the experience."
Each five-course dinner is limited to 60 people, and reservations are a must. Tickets are about $60 (including tip) and available by emailing your name and phone number to Matt Patton. He'll get back to you for credit card information and other details.
"We always have a lot of fun with this," Matt says. "We kind of shift into a different mode. Instead of cranking and being super-busy every day, we get to focus on what we love to do, which is make awesome food and pair it with great beers."
Cheers to that! Check out the lineup and link to the mouth-watering menus below.
Oct. 16: Breakfast for Dinner
Nov. 6: Pork!
Dec. 4: Ancient Ales
Jan. 29: A Spirited Celebration
Feb. 26: Chocolate (Enough said)
March 18: Cheese, please
April 15: Get Cozy
May 6: World of Pangaea