Pairing beer with a meal — or courses within a meal — can be a delicate process. Trust me, it involves much more than grabbing a cold beer to go with your hot dog. Every chef will tell you, when he or she creates a dish they think about the intensity level first. Then, the chef seeks a beer with an equal amount of intensity. He or she doesn’t want a beer that’s going to get lost or overpower the food. The chef wants both to shine.
Thankfully, Jacob Thacker, chef at The Swiss Restaurant and Pub, follows the same conviction.
Last night, The Swiss hosted a four-course dinner, with 7 Seas Brewing on hand to pair its beers with all the dishes. Excluding the inaugural beer dinner with Georgetown Brewing, The Swiss beer dinner wasn’t a bacchanalian kegger. Instead, each course included an ample sample of beer, which was sipped and savored, not chugged. Though, full-disclosure, the pre-dinner reception with 7 Seas Life Jacket Session IPA and an intermezzo glass of 7 Seas Ballz Deep Double IPA kept the conversations lively, with Swiss owner Jack McQuade, 7 Seas Brewing co-owner and head brewer Travis Guterson, chef Thacker and 7 Seas sales director Joe Neese adding conversational topics with every course.
The menu for the 7 Seas Brewing beer and food pairing dinner began with the Depth Finder IRA paired with a roasted vegetable and herb stone soup. Thacker steered away from the run-of-the-mill beer cheese soup and created a tasty “button soup” with turnips, parsnips and thyme floating in the broth. According to Guterson, the Depth Finder was a good pair due to its balance. The spring seasonal follows a hoppy, aromatic amber line but has the hop profile of an IPA, with a biscuit, toffee toasted malt base that keeps the resinous, bitter finish in check. Off to a good start!
The second course: the endive stuffed smoked salmon mousse topped with pickled fennel turned out to be incredibly rich and creamy, even more crowd-pleasing after Thacker explained he braised the fennel in the 7 Seas 253 Pilsner paired with the dish. Guterson proudly introduced the 253 Pilsner to the crowd, explaining the importance of community to the brewery and the philanthropic partnership with the 253 Heart Foundation behind the Northwest-style Pilsner, which sips hoppy and crisp.
Guterson’s description of the night’s intermezzo beer, The Ballz Deep Double IPA, kept touching on “balance.” Yes, the IPA is massive, but it’s brewed with pale malt and several different varieties of crystal malt for a firm, slightly sweet malt flavor — which balances the copious amounts of resiny Yakima Valley hops.
Up next, the main course, my favorite pairing of the night: fork-slicing, braised beef short ribs in peppered demi glace, fluffy Duchess potatoes, paired with the Chili Pepper Imperial Stout. The nine percent stout was treated with three different kinds of chili peppers — including ghost peppers — which were added during the second fermentation, letting the oils seep out. The beer starts off with a nice, silky chocolate, espresso roast flavor with the peppers hitting the back of the throat, cutting through the bitterness at the end, bringing back the chocolate notes. The assertive beer stood up to the bold flavors of the beef short rib.
Finally, an intriguing desert was brought out to finish the evening. Thacker presented his take on Crepe Suzette, a toothsome treat served with fresh orange and mounded with butter, with Guterson’s Comet Single Hop Pale Ale incorporated into the Grand Marnier sauce. The Comet, a Guterson favorite, showcases the short supply, but high demand hop Amarillo, resulting in an approachable, soft beer with a super juicy tangerine flavor.
More Swiss beer dinners are on the horizon and at $40 a person; it is a steal. You receive six beers plus delicious food, education from the brewer, and partake in fun, lively conversations with like-minded beer lovers at the tables.