Goose Island and Hubbard Grille paired up Thursday night for a joint beer and food tasting menu. Sara, a representative from Goose Island, did a great job leading the group through the tasting and explaining in real-people terms how to approach and taste beer, with and without food.
We started with a small pour of Matilda, which I tried the other night in a bottle at St. James Tavern. The difference between the draft and bottled versions was stunning. At St. James, the beer was heavy, syrupy even, and punched me in the nose with apple, dried apricot, golden raisins and spices. The draft version at Hubbard was markedly lighter, more bitter and a tad tart. The apple and apricot were still there, but they hung out in the background.
First course: Pere Jacques with Maytag Bleu Cheese Flatbread and Pistachios Pere Jacques has a ton of banana in the nose, and then I was struck by, of all things, red licorice rope. I took solace in reassurances from Sara that there is no such thing as an incorrect flavor identification. You get what you get on your palate. The sweet ale countered nicely against the bleu cheese flatbread and brought out the nutty flavors in both the cheese and the pistachios.
Second course: Sofie with Pan-Seared Scallops, Red Onion, Mango, Avocado, Arugula and Roasted Corn with Champagne Lime Vinaigrette, Cilantro and Sliced Jalapenos Sofie and Pere Jacques are pretty different characters. Jacques is sweet, and Sofie is tart and dry. I got a ton of cloves, lemon and orange peel drinking it alone, but paired with the food – the arugula and cilantro in particular – I picked up wonderful grassy flavors in the beer. The beer cut through the avocado and scallop nicely. The plate was small, intense and a little busy, but somehow it all worked.
Third course: Pepe Nero with Beef Short Rib Sliders, Tomato Jus, Red Wine Reduction, Crispy Shallots, Ohio Gruyere and Horseradish Aioli Pepe Nero is not shy. This ale is redolent of smoke. Tons of sweet smoke, rye, molasses, coffee. But it’s surprisingly light on the tongue and, no exaggeration, finishes clean. Pepe Nero and the short rib sliders were best friends, foiled by the sweet-spicy horseradish aioli. Everything in this pairing worked together. Goose Island suggests pairing Pere Jacques with bittersweet chocolate, wild game or spicy curries. Yes, please. One thing I wouldn’t pair it with is a smoked meat: One trick to enjoying this beer is to play it opposite the food. Smoky loves sweet. Sweet loves savory. All of those things were at play here.
Fourth course: Fleur with Ohio Rhubarb Cobbler and Mint Whipped Cream Kombucha tea is a component of Fleur, and kombucha fans will recognize its slightly sour, tart smell in this beer. But what a surprise to sip: This beer exudes strawberries, so your brain expects sweetness. Instead, you get tart, very dry, delicately carbonated. The beer was a nice foil to the sweet, syrupy cobbler.