Not all the beer we brew here at Dogfish makes it into a bottle or keg for distribution heck we usually have a handful of Brewpub Exclusive beers on tap that only visitors to our Rehoboth Beach brewpub get to try. But recently, the team at the brewpub has been dialing things down, brewing tiny 5-gallon batches for those guests at our monthly Beer Dinners.
The idea for the first one-off, Tiny Batch Beer surfaced when we were planning for a beer dinner that we were hosting with the Miso Delegation from Japan (lots o' miso!). We wanted this beer to be exclusive to the dinner as a special treat for the guests who came. Since there were about 65 people signed up for the dinner we figured a 5-gallon batch was adequate. The fun thing about it was that it was a chance to do something crazy that we might not necessarily want to do on a larger scale - if it was horrible we didn't have to serve it, and who knew what we would stumble upon.
So our team at the pub rolled with it and got pretty adventurous with the flavors we were working with. We went with a beer loosely in the Gose style, a historic type of tangy German wheat beer normally made with salt and coriander. We used the Miso (sent to us from Japan) as our salt source, and then added Nori (edible seaweed), and Japanese Yuzu juice to add that acidic citrus quality. In the end, Miso Miyagi as we called it, was paired with a Miso soup. The beer itself was pretty weird - intense flavors with the savory Miso and the acidity and Yuzu flavor.... Some people loved it, others didn't like it at all. Overall it worked well with the pairing, but that was about it.
But, we realized that was the best part of doing these beers. They are brewed specifically with ingredients in the dish it is to be paired with. I think an easy example is chocolate stout paired with dark chocolate, but with these beers we get really crazy with the ingredients and flavors we're going for. It's not about making a beer to enjoy pint after pint, but something that will truly enhance the gastronomic experience, elevating it beyond simple beer and food pairings. It's a neat synthesis of flavor from both the beer and food. We decided from then on we should do a special small batch just for each beer dinner.
So, the next two beers followed...
Choc Lobster was brewed for the annual Chocolate Beer Dinner (in February). Our chef and brewer had been talking for awhile about working on a brew together - it started as an Oyster Stout with local oysters, then chef Dennis wanted to do an Apple Oyster ESB, then an Alt, then finally he said he wanted to do a porter with lobsters and chocolate, and finally our brewer Ben said "let's do it!" Choc Lobster was to paired with a Dark Chocolate Lobster Bisque and a White Chocolate Lobster Salad Slider. We first brewed up ahearty batch of porter and then we had ourselves a good ol' lobster bake - adding 3 live lobsters to the boil. After finishing our lobster mac 'n' cheese (a necessary by-product of the brew day), we added some dark cocoa powder and basil tea after the boil was finished. The beer was rich and chocolaty with a gingersnap spiciness from the basil with asubtle briney lobster finish. Needless to say it paired great with the bisque and the slider.
The March Beer Dinner was the Cheese & Beer dinner. For this one we wanted to take a stab at making a cheese fermented ale - Muffet's Tuffet. We chose Berliner Weiss, a tart light German wheat beer style, as the base. Then, as a side fermentation, we added goat cheese curds from our housemade cheese (and a little bit of lactose as extra food) with three different bacterial cultures which fed on the curds and other sugars. These three side fermentations were then blended in specific quantities back into the original base beer. The result was a delicate wheat beer with an ever so slight acidity and a really interesting goat cheese funk. This was paired with a Noble Rot Homemade Goat Cheese Crab Dip and served with some Old Bay Bread. The way these two mingled was really fantastic with the funky goat cheese beer that would get washed away by the creamy-salty crab dip.
Our next tiny batch beer is in the fermenter and has yet to be named. We strayed a bit from adding ingredients from one of the dishes, but went along with the theme of the dinner, which is Comfort Food. We figured what could be more comforting than cider? So we figured it would be neat to do a cider, which has a ton of history in America. But of course in true Dogfish fashion it couldn't be any old cider. So we did some research and found an old Colonial Wassail recipe, which included clove, cinnamon, oranges, brandy, and rum. We went with that as my inspiration and hand-pressed a case of Red Delicious apples, and then heated it up for 20 minutes (both to infuse the additional ingredients and to kill off any unwanted bacteria) along with Belgian dark candi syrup, brown sugar, 4 blood oranges, and a touch of Garam Masala (a North Indian spice blend including cinnamon and clove). It's fermenting now and then will be aged on Brown Honey Rum soaked oak chips until being served at the Comfort Food dinner (April 15th).
Wonder what our crew will come up with for the May 6th dinner the theme is World of Pangaea? This has been so much fun, weve even planned a "Tiny Batch Beer Dinner" on Tuesday, May 15th for American Craft Beer Week, where we'll be serving 5 exclusive Tiny Batch beers brewed specifically for courses to be served at that dinner.
Want to join us for one of our upcoming dinners? We've love to have you! Please email Matt@dogfish.com and he'll take it from there. Our Beer Dinners take a vacation for the summer and come September, well be rolling out the schedule for the 2012-2013 series and opening up reservations so stay tuned!