I have to admit that I was a skeptic. “A beer and food pairing? No one in our wine loving bailliage will ever go for this,” I thought. Boy, was I wrong. Vice Echanson Michael Monnin and Bailli George Elliott were the masterminds behind this exquisite October evening. Mike and George had previously attended a beer and food pairing dinner at the Moerlein Lager House on the river in downtown Cincinnati. They were absolutely captivated by the event and decided to share their experience with our Mondiale members.
The Moerlein Lager house is a gorgeous multilevel glass and stone building on the Ohio River across the street from the Great American Ballpark, home to the Cincinnati Reds. Upon entering the massive restaurant and brew house, we were led upstairs to a room with large picture windows overlooking both the ball park and the river. Servers greeted us at the door of the party room with trays of Caprese skewers along with three varieties of house made sausages. We were then given the option of a light Original Golden Helles or a dark Helltown Rye-ot. My wife and I shared one of each and found the pairings to be surprisingly tasty. Little did we know that the evening would only get better.
Following some time for socializing, the sold out crowd was led to their tables and Vice Echanson Monnin introduced us to the Head Brew Master and emcee for the evening, Richard Dubé. Mr. Dubé is a French Canadian from Quebec who worked at Molson, Labatt, and Boston Beer before moving to Cincinnati in 2011 to become the Head Brew Master at Moerlein. At the beginning of the evening, Mr. Dubé, in an elegant French accent, identified the most hard core “beer pairing skeptics” in our group. He made them a promise that by the end of the evening, he would find a beer for them that would change their entire outlook on what beer is all about. There was unanimous agreement by evening’s end that he was amazingly correct.
While Mr. Dubé gave us animated descriptions of each beer during the evening, Executive Chef Nathan Whittington shared the lowdown on how he prepared each gourmet food pairing. Our first course was a prawn “beer”-viche with avocado mousse paired with Se7en Hefeweizen. This was followed by free range chicken with sweet potato puree and OTR beurre blanc paired with OTR Over-the-Rhine Pale Ale that was used in the beurre blanc. Just about this time, my wife and I had our “aha” moment when we understood that beer does not just go with bar food but can complement gourmet dishes every bit as well as wine. The next two courses included shaved rotisserie pork on pretzel roll paired with 5th and Vine Oktoberfest followed by citrus barbecued short ribs paired with Northern Liberties India Pale Ale. With each of these dishes, the beer was expertly incorporated into the sauces. The evening was capped off with a chocolate stout cheesecake and whiskey sauce paired with a Barbarossa Double Dark Lager. For those of us who yearn for that ever popular port and chocolate pairing for dessert, a new dimension was brought into our lives with this rich, dark, luscious beer.
Vice Echanson Monnin, Bailli Elliott, Brew master Dubé, and Executive Chef Whittington certainly fulfilled their mission of getting us out of our shells and into uncharted territory where we could experience something extraordinary. We thank them for the adventure.
Graig Smith, Vice Chargé de Presse