June 11th, 2013 rolled around this year with another Pitmaster’s in tow. This time the theme for the dinner was Surf & Turf. The price tag was on the higher side (at $75) but as always it was delicious. The brewery paired with this dinner was the Right Brain Brewery from Traverse City.
I can honestly say I haven’t heard of Right Brain before, but they also have only been brewing for 5.5 years. Recently moved to a new complex, and are located pretty far north in Michigan. They brew beers that are sometimes never brewed again. They experiment a lot and at their pub, you can find a lot of one-offs that you wont’ see anywhere ever again. What I can say is that every beer they brought to the dinner was delicious. I think I ordered seconds of almost every beer, and the only reason I didn’t order a second of the Looping Owl is because I had to drive home.
Right Brain representative Dave came prepared with swag and a raffle. But not just a raffle, he had enough prizes for everyone in attendance. It was just a matter of who got first pick. Luckily our boy Elson got second pick and wisely chose the set of two hard to find, bottled beers. After that I managed to snag a pretty cool hat, and John got a growler cozie for the growler he has at home.
The first course was Crab Stuffed Smoked Pork Loin with Chipotle Fire Starter BBQ Sauce. This was paired with the extremely delicious Midnight Rendez-Vous Black Ale, which I proceeded to have 3 glasses of throughout the evening. The beer is only 5% ABV and tastes a little nutty. It is very light and smooth, something that I could’ve drank all day while hanging outside on a hot summer day with friends. I very much enjoyed it and it’s a huge shame that you can only find it at their pub in Traverse or Pubhouse BFD in Rochester.
The way the pork loin was smoked left a crispy skin while maintaining a tender and moist interior. The crab that was stuffed inside the pork loin was stuffed in and smoked together. You can definitely taste the smokiness in the crab. Together with the spicy sauce that it was served with you get a great combination of creamy, smoky, juicy flavors that end with a slow heat. The beer didn’t really add or detract from the meal, though it did seem a little more bitter after the food. Both of these were great standalone offerings that made for a great appetizer.
The second course was a Seared Ahi Tuna and Tri Tip Salad served with a spring mix and mango, red onion, carrots and candied pecans with a strawberry vinaigrette. This was paired with the Willpower Pale Ale (4.2% ABV) which served as the brewery’s original beer. As pale ales go, it was not too bitter. There is a bit of bitterness but then lightens up almost immediately. There is a very floral flavor to the front of the beer, with some citrus sprinkled here and there. I primarily can taste the floral notes, which is what I think lightens the beer up considerably.
The salad itself was probably my favorite dish for the night. The arugula, mango, and candied pecans balance the bitterness of the beer out while not being overly sweet. The tuna is rubbed with some kind of spicy rub while the tri tip is smoked in a more peppery and savory rub (probably salt & pepper). Both proteins were extremely juicy and I only wish I had more. Trying any of the salad, tuna, tri tip, or beer in combination with each other provides a new culinary blast in your mouth. But the real treat comes when you combine everything together. It’s like a flavor explosion in your mouth. The citrus and floral tones come out in the beer, the spiciness, savory flavors, and sweet of the salad blend with the bitter arugula and just dance all over your taste buds. Your taste buds won’t be able to repel flavor of this magnitude . That’s the only way I could describe this course. Everything just coalesced amazingly together.
The main entrée was Smoked Beef Tenderloin with Pancetta Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp served with grilled asparagus. The pairing beer was the Looping Owl Barrel Aged Amber Ale (8.5% ABV). I generally like beers that have been aged in a bourbon barrel – period. This beer was no exception. There was a very heavy bourbon taste at the front before lightening up into something much lighter. I had expected a more hoppy beer and was pleasantly surprised by the generous amount of bourbon flavor I was getting in such a light beer.
Your attention is immediately drawn so the jumbo shrimp wrapped in pancetta. These shrimp were huge, and I mean the diameter of this coiled mini-sea dragon was probably 3 inches. Large. Very large shrimp. By smoking the shrimp, the pancetta infused a lot of flavor into the shrimp though left it a bit salty. It was interesting because if you ate a bite of the shrimp, then drank the looping owl, the beer ended up cutting the saltiness while the shrimp brings out the bourbon flavor – a lot. The beer basically tasted like bourbon this way. The beef tenderloin was extremely succulent and melts-in-your-mouth amazing. It was sweet and buttery and when the beer was paired with it, the combination caused the bourbon flavor to disappear and left you with a light and crisp beer.
Dessert was a delicious Key Lime Crème Brulée paired with a CEO Stout (5% ABV). Now crème brulée is one of my favorite desserts ever, so to say I was excited for it is a huge understatement. And it did not disappoint. It had a nice hint of key lime throughout, but maintained the deliciousness that is crème brulée.
The CEO stout was a very light stout made of espresso, chocolate, and oatmeal. Normally I do not like drinking stouts and porters but I found myself loving this one. Something that I could drink through a night while hanging out around a fire. Dave informed us that the beer was made with 1 lb of beans for every 2 gallons of beer. The coffee flavor was very apparent throughout the beer and the beer cut some of the lime flavor with the crème brulée. A great way to end a delicious meal.
Usually when we come to Pitmaster’s we always take a doggie bag home. This time I managed to finish everything. One of the things I like about this event is that I always seem to meet new people also, we sat next to a lovely couple, Mike and Sue, who had been to Right Brain’s pub before. They were regaling us with stories about it, and we had a great time talking to them. I hope to see them and you at a future Pitmaster’s Dinner.