BEER DINNER :: Berkshire Hog and Buckeye Brewing

by Harvey Gold on July 8, 2011

As many of you know, YBN’s first webisode, BEERdinner, was captured on video at The Buckeye Beer Engine,  Buckeye Brewing’s beer pub. The food was tremendous – Chef Greg Tushar created some really interesting and ultra-tasty dishes; he and the rest of the Buckeye gang worked up great pairings. I had become aware of this coming event, and being the fan of pork that so many of us Nice Jewish Boys tend to be, I had an interest. However, it was when Chef Greg, catching up via e-mail, described what he was planning—well, Dave and I simply had to go. So, with a couple of digital cameras, great hunger and thirst, and seats at the table by the kitchen doors, we went to work.

Leberknuedlen Zuppa

Buckeye “English Mild”

1) The first course was described by Greg as a “ubiquitous soup in southern Germany, Leberknuedlen Zuppa. Basically a rich chicken broth with tiny pork liver dumplings.” Addressing the gathering, Greg told us that when he was a boy and first tried such dumplings, he didn’t know they were made of liver. He suggested that, upon tasting them, if you had never tasted liver, you might raise an eyebrow and think it was the cardamom you were tasting. I immediately tasted it as a very mild liver; the consistency of the dumplings in the savory chicken stock, creamy in consistency. A delightful soup. This worked well with the Buckeye “English Mild,” an aptly named English Style Mild. A 4.0% ABV, the nose was malty with the scent of sweet caramel. To the tongue the brew was light but creamy. Roasted grains gave it a good dryness—this was a great example of a complement as opposed to a contrast. A good thirst quencher matched with the savory/salty soup, my first thought was that I could easily drink more of this.

Buckeye "CBW Black IPA"

Black Forest Ham w/ Gran Cru Surchoix on Black Rye Bread

2) Greg: “For the second course, I’m baking a black German rye and topping it with thin slices of Black Forest Ham and a really cool 3 year old gruyere cheese from Roth Kase in Wisconsin called Gran Cru Surchoix, with a side of whole grain bier mustard. It is served with Buckeye’s Black IPA.”

Buckeye Brewing Brewmaster Eric

Buckeye Brewing Beer Engineer, Eric Anderson

The beer always hits the table first, allowing for a clean taste before dealing with the pairing. The “CBW Black IPA” was described by Beer Engineer Eric Anderson as an “American Style Black Ale” at a 7.0% ABV. Buckeye produced this ale to celebrate the 2nd annual Cleveland Beer Week that was held in October of 2010. Of course, there was a citrusy nose, nice lacing, and a well placed bitterness to it—attributable, it would seem, to the Chinook hops. This beer was originally red, then made black, really for aesthetics, by a malt extract used for coloring.

The bread was excellent. The ham was ridiculous: crispy/chewy around the edges, melt in the mouth throughout. (The word “creamy” came to mind a lot during this meal.) The quality of these organically raised Berkshires was unbelievable. The Gruyere added a little texture and a deliciously pungent bite.

Great contrasty pairing. Some very rich stuff—every sip of the citrusy, edgy IPA, provided a refreshing reset to better dive back into the richness of the next bite. Another killer course.

Chef Greg Tushar

3) “Back in the 1900’s I worked for a little while at the only Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle, and the Mom who ran the kitchen would make a dish for the staff’s family meal called (I’m guessing here) ‘thit heo kho thrung.’ I’m trying to recreate that dish for my third course. Basically, I dry rubbed the pork bellies with salt, pepper, and garlic and seared the fat cap until it was crispy, then I made a caramel sauce with palm sugar, more garlic, and fish sauce, in which I braised the pork belly. At the time of service I’ll warm hard-boiled eggs in the braising liquid and serve half them with the belly and some pickled mustard greens, to cut the richness of the belly. We’re going to serve it with unfiltered 76 IPA.”

Eric called this “Cleveland IPA” a mutt. It’s a mutt all right. This interesting beer made with CTZ and Centennial hops has advanced past the opening rounds in the National IPA Championship and  will soon be released in 12 oz. bottles. Our first impression was that, in place of the standard IPA citrus nose and first taste, there was a piney quality out of the blocks to both. Eric confirmed that this was attributable to the CTZ hops.

Caramel Braised Pork Belly w/ Egg & Greens; Beer: Buckeye "Cleveland IPA"

But again, as in the previous course, this kind of edgy beer was perfect, as the main part of this course—the Pork Belly—was like a layer cake, one of meat, one of fat, one of meat, another of fat… a fat you absolutely knew, from the get-go, you were going to want to eat and love. And we did—the tender meat glazed with a subtle sweetness. This combination of chewy and creamy, as noted in the last course but unique to this cut and prep, continued the theme.

Interestingly, in a meal based on pork, instead of the collards I had grown up with—so filled with pork, smoke and ham fat that by the time they hit the plate, no longer qualified as a vegetable—these were sweet AND tart AND had a little bite (though they too may also no longer be viewed as a vegetable), while the hard-boiled egg provided a soft and mellowing component. My only complaint was that, being one who likes symmetry in his mouthfuls, I could have used a little more hard-boiled egg to get through the plate, and I very much DID get through this plate.

Back to the beer—this again was the perfect match in that it had a real edge that cooled and cleansed the tongue, making the next bite as fresh and stunning as the previous. This brew though, calling back the note about the CTZ hops, maintained that spectacular piney flavor throughout. Very much a “Wow!”

Pork Shoulder Confit on Spent Grain Bread

Buckeye "Aigre bois de Erique"

4) “Recently we changed the way we cook our bacon here. Now we do it in the oven rather than on the flat grill, and as I was pouring off the fat I could feel my maternal grandmother looking over my shoulder and shaking her head at the waste. She was the type of woman than always had used butter wrappers in her refrigerator to grease pans with. So I started saving my bacon fat, and go figure, I cook a lot more bacon than Grandma Eble. So I had all this bacon fat around, and I started thinking about pork confit. So this is what happened: I cooked a Berkshire pork shoulder at 180 degrees for 24 hours submerged in bacon fat. I’m thinking about putting it on the regular menu and calling it “pork on pork crime.” It came out amazing, and I’m making some spent grain eggrolls to serve it on, with some mustard/vinegar barbeque sauce. We’re serving Aigre bois de Erique, a slightly sour Belgian Ale.”

Eric (or should I write “Erique”?) called this an American Sour. Starting with a jaw locking sour cherry nose and presenting a 6.3% ABV, it was bracing at first sip. He had thrown white peach and ginseng teas into the process, then placed half in a Chardonnay barrel, the other in Syrah. This was a truly sour beer, and over a very short time, the smell and essence shifted toward what my wife once described as the used hay one finds only in the horse barns at the Wayne County Fair, evoking something these Buckeye guys brewed up a couple years ago called “Horse Blanket.” Doesn’t sound too appetizing? I know, but there was something about it that worked, particularly in the context of this evening where there was a real need to feel something in the beverage cut through the richness to cleanse the palate—what I like to think of as rebooting.

While the pairing of the beer with the dish was, once again, spot on, the dish itself had an issue for us. This confit of pork shoulder, cooked for 24 hours in bacon fat, was actually outshouted by the sweetness of the spent grain bread. Greg used the wort as the liquid in his bread dough, which brings a lot of sugars into play, making it almost, in this case, like Hawaiian bread. While the contrast between the bread and the beer was really worth writing about, the pork itself was overshadowed in this dish. The mustard BBQ sauce that Greg put on the side was great, but even if it had been put on the sandwich, it would have become a part of the overall, hiding the pork even more.

Semi-poetic note from Dave about the beer: “ Reminds me of Fall…cherry, apple, and oak.”

Beer Braised Ham w/ Red Cabbage & Chive Spaetzle; Beer: Buckeye "Christmas Girl"

5) “For the fifth course, I’m going back to Germany and serving a beer and maple glazed ham with sweet and sour red cabbage and chive spaetzle. Enough said. Served with Buckeye Christmas Girl.”

This was a really interesting course. The “Christmas Girl,” a Belgian style Blonde Ale, came with a strong apple nose and a 6.5% ABV. It looks in glass like a cider, but the flavor also spoke bubble gum…or maybe Juicy Fruit. While it’s been clear that if these Buckeye Brew guys (like a lot of this breed of gunslinger brewers) are creating something for a car show, they’re not above throwing a chunk of Ford Mustang into the kettle; when it comes to their holiday beers, though, they go far more purist and look to the yeast character to bring the spice. In this one they used a French Pilson Malt and ran with 5% wheat.

The pairing was magic. Greg: “I think the cloves I used on the ham complements the beer. I basted the ham with this beer as well.” We see it as being an even cleaner set of relationships with more definition. The ham was salty and savory with the distinct flavoring from the cloves. The cabbage was sweet, but tied in by the clove flavor, and the spaetzle was just heaven in the middle, oniony and – yes, again – creamy.

In this relationship, as complex as it might be, for my taste, the Christmas Girl’s greatest asset was the apple component, offering a true reset before every bite. Just wonderful.

Blueberry & Apple Crisp w/ Bacon & Hazelnut Streusel; Beer: Buckeye "Quad Loco"

6) Finally we bid what might be a sad adieu to all this wonderful rich pork, but Greg kept us connected (never disappointing with his desserts) bringing it with a Blueberry & Apple Crisp with Bacon & Hazelnut Streusel, served with Buckeye’s “Quad Loco” (12% ABV Belgian-style Trappist Quadrupel, sans caffeine).

The dessert was simple: bacon, hazelnuts, brown sugar and flour. What went through my mind’s eye as we sipped the beer was a ticker moving across the screen “Fruit…Fruit…Fruit…Fruit…Fruit…” Dave and I wondered, what fruits were we tasting? We came up with a kind of cherry/chocolate and fig. Dark fruits saw it perfectly through its dark and creamy end. Buckeye’s description: “…Belgian-style Quad brewed with Belgian and French Malts…Abbey yeast esters backed up by a rich malt backbone.”

We were encouraged, based on the 12% alcohol, to hang out for a while before leaving, which we all did. I should be saying that with all this beer and pig, we were too stuffed and buzzed to move, but truth be told, as it works with any really high quality foods and beverages in a proper balance, we were all just fine, smiling, and mobile. This was a great BEERdinner. Compliments to the chef. Kudos to the brewers.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Carol July 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Oh I can’t read any more.. I’m getting so hungry and thirsty I have to take a break. I’ll probably head to my local pub just to take the edge off. Good work Buckeye, good pairings. Nice job summarizing the experience too, Harvey.

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