“Suds & Sustainability Beer School Event” – Lucky32 & Great Lakes Brewing Company
I looked forward to this event for weeks, and I was not disappointed. I would doubt very seriously if anyone in the sold-out room was, either!
I had previously tried almost all the beers on the tasting menu, but never with a designated food pairing. One of the first things I learned, starting with the Dortmunder Gold, was that Great Lakes’ beers are excellent on their own, but truly exceptional when paired with the right food. With the Dortmunder, we had two pork liver-based dishes. I strongly preferred the boudin (a Louisiana favorite) to the pudding, but as Chef Pierce himself said, if you call it “sausage,” folks will eat it. The real bond here between the beer and the food was the whole grain German-style mustard; the spice of the mustard brought out a really surprising spiciness in the hops in the beer.
My personal favorite of Great Lakes’ many offerings going into this event has long been Eliot Ness, the amber lager. I’m a big fan of amber lagers anyway; my own local brewery, Natty Greene’s, makes an awesome amber lager called Buckshot. And if I learned from the first course that I needn’t have been concerned about the liver pudding (I agree, it should just be called “sausage,” it doesn’t even look appealing as I type the words myself), maybe I should have been a bit less optimistic about the smoked trout crostini. I think I was expecting a slightly tangier chevre, and the trout didn’t stand out to me. But the really, truly pleasant surprise was the butterscotch/sherry vinegar dress. With the amber lager, it was sublimely delicious. I even forgot to snap a photo before we ate up all the crostini.
A pale ale, called Burning River, was the third course. While I like this beer on its own a lot, pale ale in general isn’t my favorite (though I think this one might have the cleverest name in the Great Lakes lineup of very clever names). I still really enjoyed the pale ale here, but was less impressed with the food course. Chef Pierce explained that he had intended to serve portobellos rather than shiitakes, and I think that would have made a big difference had he been able. The mild little shiitake just got overwhelmed by the salty bread crumb & bleu cheese “stuffing.” The beer did cut the saltiness really well, and I think that probably makes it the most all-purpose of Great Lakes’ beers for informal, chips & dip-type gatherings. And – sorry, Chef – the pickled green cherry/grape tomatoes just didn’t do it for me.
Two very intensely-flavored beers made up the fourth & fifth courses: Doppelrock (a double bock named for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame) and Commodore Perry (an Imperial IPA), and they came along with intensely flavored dishes. The Doppelrock was paired with a house recipe meatloaf which, although everyone at our table had different ideas about what was in or why, everyone also agreed was absolutely delicious. The meatloaf seemed to combine the saltiness of the previous course (though it came from the bacon the meatloaf was wrapped in, so less intense) and the spiciness of the first course, and the beer brought both qualities out beautifully.
The English-style IPA was quite surprising in how delicious it was on its own, and it was only better with the pulled pork & cornbread it came with. That cornbread, in my opinion, is one of the finest things that Lucky 32 serves. I wish they’d sell it by the loaf. And if they did. I’d buy it and pick up some Commodore Perry IPA on the way home. Not surprisingly, Chef Pierce does pulled pork barbeque and cornbread very, very well.
Finally (and a little sadly), the meal came to an end with a half-glass of Edmund Fitzgerald porter and some intensely chocolatey whoopee pies. Chef Pierce made an awfully fancy cake/cookie batter for these, from a recipe for French chocolate cake, and I could have eaten those on their own all night. But, throw in a giant homemade marshmallow, and along with that amazing porter and the chocolate overdrive, I can’t think of a better end to the experience.
The theme of yesterday’s tasting event was Earth Day and sustainability. Lucky 32 maintains an excellent reputation for its (and its chefs’)dedication to local food & farm development. That reputation has surely been affirmed by this event, and I’m sure that more than a few new Lucky 32 fans were made. And for people like me, who love to cook and (more importantly) love to eat, and are constantly learning about new & exciting ways to do both, the educational experience provided by Great Lakes was invaluable. The local breweries here are wonderful and most of them do a great job of making their beers sustainably, but I’d really love to see them doing more of the kind of outreach that Great Lakes has taken on. I’m a Southern gal and a Southern cook, but I couldn’t help but smile at their comment that Great Lakes is working “to turn the Rust Belt into a Green Belt.” That’s exactly the kind of thinking we need so badly around here, and I’m so thrilled and proud that we have restaurants like Lucky 32 and forward-thinking chefs like Jay Pierce.
See for yourself:
Great Lakes beer is available at most local supermarkets.
Lucky 32 is located just off of Wendover Ave in Greensboro.