Monday, August 19, 2013

A Pair of Kings

I'm going to be totally honest with you. I'd never been to a beer and food pairing, before last night.

To me, a beer pairing is two bottles of beer in a row. If I were asked to match up food and beer at an event, it'd be pizza and chicken wings all around. Pairing always seemed to fussy for me—a bit of a pain in the ass. I just want to pick a pint and order a burger and be done with the whole thing. But when some one does all the picking for you—it's a whole new ballgame. More to the point, when the person picking the beer is the Foaming Head's Kevin Burns and the person making the food is chef Micah Kuhar, of the Palmer House Café.

Stand the fuck back.

Courtesy of
Let me set the stage for the soiree I went to last night—a Stammtisch (a small plate meal, served family style)—was put on by the Palmer House Café to benefit the Rensselearville, New York's Library, during said Library's Festival of Writers. Let's start off with Rensselearville, itself. Visiting R-Ville is like stepping back in time to the 1790s. The village center is built right on the main street, and you feel like a Paul Revere-esque dude, complete with tri-corned hat and stockings, is going to zoom past you on a horse at full gallop. The event itself took place in the backyard of the Palmer House, amid a garden of wildflowers and home grown tomatoes—under a white tent, sparkling with tiny, white lights. I'm just a beer geek with an internet connect, so all of this was pretty swank to me. But, as the festival goers began streaming in, I quickly realized that this was going to be a pretty laid back crowd. A t-shirt and shorts kind of crowd. 

I spoke first, which was good, because we got the nerdy history stuff out of the way early. Having pity on you as well, I won't bore you with the details —yeah, yeah, yeah, Albany Ale was huge, blah, blah, blah. Then it was Kevin and Micah's turn…and bang it was on! Each course was introduced, first by the chef and then Kevin gave a brief background to the beer and why he chose that particular style to either compliment or contrast with the dish.

How's this sound? Batter-fried heirloom tomatoes with goat cheese and corn butter paired with Hennepin from Ommegang. What about Ropa Vieja, made with beef brisket—from Kuhar's family farm, no less—capers, tomatoes, olives and garlic, all slow cooked in C.H. Evan's Kick-Ass Brown Ale, and served in Parmesan polenta cups? Is dessert more your thing? How about Chocolate Stout Cupcakes, made and paired with Long Ireland's Breakfast Stout, served with an espresso cream? There was more, but I'm holding back, no sense being mean, right?

A goal of the Palmer House is to use fresh, local ingredients, and it didn't get more local that last night. Kevin picked all New York made beer, and Micah used as many, not only grown or raised in New York ingredients, but specifically those found within a 25 mile radius of the village! The food was amazing, the beer was fantastic—and it was all for a good cause.

Have I seen the light? Will I be getting into the pairing biz? Probably not—especially if Kevin is on the job. I'll still most often think of chicken wings when it comes to food and beer, but maybe the next time I'll serve them in tiny little polenta cups.

Oh, one last thing. I need to send a special thank you to Becca Platel for doing everything she's done. 


  1. Can't believe you've never been to a beer dinner before. They're awesome. Usually very expensive, but more often than not totally worth the money. City Beer Hall has them quite often. I'd definitely recommend going. Talk to the owners, they'll probably comp you a seat anyway.

  2. Of course the next question is, who invented the beer dinner?