Politics & pints.

I’d intended to leave politics off the blog, so I won’t dwell on this. Today, Birmingham’s mayor was convicted on all 60 counts in a bribery indictment. I say this to the people who live outside the metro. Those inside already know, and have their opinions of Mr. Langford. Now, our council President moves into the role of interim mayor. It all changes in a month or so when the new council is sworn in. Prepare for a fun ride.

Now, on to the beer and the food….

I had a lovely evening tonight down at J. Clyde tonight for the SweetWater beer dinner to benefit Black Warrior Riverkeeper. If you’ve never been to a J. Clyde beer dinner, you should. However, now that they’re just quarterly, you won’t have as many opportunities.

Here’s what we had tonight:

SweetWater Motor Boat & Corn Chowder with Caramelized Sea Scallops
A fabulous way to start the 5-course dinner! The Motor Boat is a little darker than amber, with a hoppy aroma. There’s not as much hop in the flavour- but combining it with the scallops and the sweet fresh corn in the chowder really brought it out. Very nice pairing.

SweetWater 420 & Asian Egg Roll with Fresh Gulf Shrimp drizzled with a 420-honey reduction
I’d always associated 420 with fabric softener. That’s because the first time I had it, I was sitting outside my building’s laundry room as someone was washing their unmentionables. (Kidding about the unmentionables. Not sure what was in there.) This course may cure me of that.

420 has a light character with a bit of hops, but not too much. That played a nice counterpoint to the reduction sauce, which had darker, richer flavours going on (and still a good soy nose). It also paired well with the fresh Asian-style vegetables in the egg roll. They were cooked to the point where they still had some firmness- perfect. The single shrimp pn the side of the dish also brought out a nice sweet orange-like overtone in the beer.

SweetWater IPA & Okra Salad over mixed greens and shoepeg corn tossed in a Honey Lime Dressing
SweetWater IPA is easily my favourite in their regular lineup. The grapefruit-like overtones and the hop bitterness appeals to the hophead in me.

This was one of the most complex pairings of the night. First, I tucked in to the salad. The honey and lime played well together. When the fresh (grassy even) greens and the sweetness of the dressing met the beer, it turned the flavour a little spicy and almost woody. The light sweetness of the corn was a nice element, but the red beans were a little distracting. The okra (which was thankfully not overdone) had darker flavours, and a wonderful peppery overtone. For such a different flavour from the greens, it also brought out a remarkable sweet and spicy flavour when it met the beer.

SweetWater Georgia Brown & Soy Honey Tilapia served with Alabama grown Sweet Potato mash
I am not a huge fan of nut brown ales. I appreciate their sweetness and their sessionability. They just don’t really have enough zing for me, for I am a hophead. For me to really enjoy them, they need a pairing like this.

The Georgia Brown starts off with a nice hazelnut quality, then morphs to dark caramel and hits a quick hop highlight before the caramel returns to close the deal. Drink it with the pleasantly slightly lumpy potato mash, and all bets are off. It gives you a wonderful pumpkin pie effect. The caramelized grilly-bits of the fish also went well with the mash- but overall, the tilapia didn’t meld at all with the beer. The two flavours were wallflowers at the dance on my palate. Neither would ask the other to waltz. In the autumn of this dish, the fish was summer. That’s not to say it was bad fish; it was certainly not. On the contrary, it was very tasty- but just didn’t fit in.

SweetWater Dank Tank Big Ol’ Belgian Blue Balls & Native American Rice Pudding with golden raisins, dried blueberries, and a Maple butter rum sauce
First off, the native American dish was made by a Canadian. (I know….before the Europeans arrived, even the pre-Canucks were native Americans.) I wanted to sing Oh, Canada! when this arrived at the table. But we’ll start with the beer.

There’s a nice sweet blueberry aroma on the Blue Balls (combined with a brown sugar note), but it’s mostly absent in the flavour. That’s sweet, caramel-y, with a hint of citrus, and a distinct Belgian overtone. The pudding looked like oatmeal with big dark spots. :) The aroma reminded me of bread pudding and oatmeal. The flavour was a little darker than some of the rice pudding I’ve had. It was interspersed with bursts of flavour from the berries, which had reconstituted. I’m not entirely sure there were any raisins. The sauce was mostly maple, with a lurking hint of rum. The highlight for me was the texture- with rice that was almost al dente, a pleasing graininess to the sauce, and a nice smoothness to the blueberry innards. The beer pairing didn’t bring an overwhelming change to the flavours, but did lighten up the beer, and really bring out its yeasty Belgian goodness.

After all that, maybe you can understand why I advise you to get yourself to J. Clyde for the next beer dinner. It’s in February, and there may be a very special guest!

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