Sunday, December 7, 2014

Beer Dinner w/ Rapp Brewing and Urban Brew & BBQ November 2014

Have you ever been to an expensive restaurant that serves you dinner as a series of courses served over several hours instead of a several different servings piled up in the middle of your plate?  You know, the meals that offer wine pairings for each course for an additional $50.00?  This dinner was exactly like that ... and exactly opposite of that.  "How so?", you ask.  Well ... it was exactly the same in that we were served several courses over the period of a couple of hours and we did have drinks paired to each course.  Other than that it was the complete opposite.

We have been lucky enough to have attend a great many events like this and some of these events come quite close to the lofty aspirations of a Michelin starred restaurant and their wine pairings with cuisine that makes your job drop and your taste buds dance.  BBQ is not usually described as 'cuisine' and beer is rarely mentioned as the drink of choice for the cultural elite.  Luckily, we are not the cultural elite and we were not expecting the finest of fine dining .... we came to eat.  And best of all the cost of the whole dinner was around what we usually pay for a wine pairing during fine dining

Our host for the evening, Andy Salyards, is not who you expect to find as an owner/operator of this kind of joint.  First of all Andy is from California.  Not Memphis, not Texas, not the Carolinas ... California.  Then he must be the product of a long line of restaurateurs, right?  Nope, he was a sailor ... a frigging sailor.  No, this charming fellow just always wanted to own his own bar and grill and when his wife was transferred to Florida he kind of fell into this place, and we are happy that he did.  Hell, everyone knows that the best BBQ is a creation of the culture of the dirty south.  Sweaty, grimy and grim BBQ joints make the best smoke ....
everyone knows this.  Urban Brew and BBQ is none of those.  Clean, tidy and in good repair, the building has enough architectural interest that if you drink a few too many and squint your eyes you can pretend that you are in one of those traditional dives.  But then there is the beer board mounted of the wall front and center, with their current craft beers listed that would never been seen in an old style barbeque joint.

The dinner itself would not win many accolades from the food writers in the large markets but was well prepared and tasty.  I would like to have seen a few more risks taken but they chose items that were safe and proven.  Sometimes risks = failures and on this night, we had no failures.  All of the beers were from Rapp Brewing.  If you know anything about Greg Rapp you need to know of his passion for brewing correct beers.  Rapp's beers are flawless reproductions of the styles that they are labeled.  If he says that he is making a Munich style Hefeweissen, then you may bet your last dollar that it will be a remarkable example of that beer.

Our first course was a simple green been casserole with house cured bacon that was tossed in a tiny cast iron skillet rather than the traditional gooey layered mess that you grew up eating.  It was nice, light and simply elegant.  It also took much convincing to keep one of the snobs from taking this cute little skillet home.  As is typical with beer/food pairings, the food and beer started light and moved toward heavier and more intense as the meal progresses.  Our beer was a delicious light and easy drinking blond/helles beer. 

For the second course the beer was more of the star for us.  The 8% Dopplebock was rich, malty and smooth that had a noticeable alcohol kick in it.  The prosciutto cup that it was paired with had a cooked egg inside, sprinkled with sea salt.  Pairing a dopplebock with a salty meat dish is a never fail option for a German style beer. 

Do you know the advantage of being the only child of a brewer?  You can pout and say "Daddy, I want a strong Belgian style golden ale", and viola, you get it.  Apparently his daughter, Candi, tried and loved this style in a brewery in Ashville and her father, being a brewing genius, whipped her out a version.  You can also call it an Alcohol Yeast Bomb, because that is exactly what it is.  Andy took a bit of a risk for our third course with this one in that he house cured a ham for this pairing.  Not that cured ham is a rarity, but this was the first time that he has ever tried curing a ham, which takes 8 days, and we applaud his efforts.  The smoky ham and the candied carrots were a perfect counterpoint to the yeast bomb.

Our favorite course, the fourth, was fried turkey paired with a robust porter.  Typically when you are serving poultry you want to use something lighter, like a saison, but the fried aspect of the brined bird made is strong enough to stand up to the porter.  The bird was tender and moist and served with mashed potatoes and gravy.  The porter was silky smooth and chocolaty, reminiscent of a chocolate silk pie served at traditional Thanksgiving Day dinners.

By the time the desert course came around we were packing a healthy buzz and our stomachs had little room left.  Sweet potato soufflĂ© with marshmallows?  This evil little bastard came with candied pecans and topped with marshmallows served in the mini cast iron skillets.  Rich, cinnamon decadence.  The malts in the Rapp Amber accented the sweet potatoes oh-so-well .... smoooooth.  The dish was so delicious that it was devoured before we even remembered that we were taking photos, sorry.

On the whole the event was very well appreciated by our group and we applaud the efforts of those involved.  Bravo, gentlemen.

We highly recommend that you try Urban Brew and BBQ as that their BBQ is among the best in the bay area.  And while Rapp Brewing is a bit out of the way in Seminole you are nuts if you haven't been or planning to go. Superior beers. 

Cheers - Bon

Urban Brew and BBQ
1939 Central Ave,
St Petersburg, FL 33713

Rapp Brewing Company
10930 Endeavor Way,
Seminole, FL 33777

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