BEER DINNER :: The Lockview Restaurant & Founders Brewing Company

by Harvey Gold on October 24, 2011

Our friends at the restaurant (and former indie rock club) The Lockview, in Akron OH, have an eclectic menu centered around a substantial list of creative grilled cheese sandwiches and the BEST Mac ‘n Cheese for grownups (the fresh basil really makes it) you might ever enjoy. They offer specials of interest and, of course, have more on their menu than cheese-based offerings, but it was with the above-mentioned cheese dishes in mind when I made a suggestion a few months ago—that it might be interesting and fun to hold a grilled cheese & beer pairing dinner. Not so crazy and limiting as one might think—remembering Bob Wright, owner of Buckeye Brewing singing the praises of beer & cheese tastings, speaking to the low acidity of beer as opposed to wine.

While mentioning Buckeye, YBN crews shot a Beer Breakfast there a few months ago with Founders Brewing. This hasn’t yet appeared in edited form for a couple reasons, but what we NOW have is kismet! Founders Brewing & The Lockview doing a full blown, fiercely delicious Beer Dinner!

We started with a Papaya & Black Bean Salsa, served with homemade chips, paired with Founders Red’s Rye. While I have to admit the salsa wasn’t quite as exotic or distinctive as I would have looked for in an opening volley, the informality of having it on the table as we entered, our beers rushed to us almost before we were in our seats, set a nice tone for the evening: informal, fun…Lockview! The rye beer was perfect, as well, with a very floral nose, attributable to the Amarillo hops. The homemade chips were excellent, with modest salt. I mention this as there’s a sweetness to Red’s Rye that isn’t a false note brought out by some sort of salty pairing, but far more likely coming from the four different Belgian Caramel malts used to create it. Ending with a fine edge (70 IBU), a simple, crisp start to the evening.

John Host, Founders Brewery

Recently, a knowledgeable wine expert suggested trying a quality rosé, claiming the dry tartness would dispel my dry red wine prejudice, that I would find it refreshing and satisfying. I did so, and to my chagrin, it didn’t, and I didn’t. I was reminded of this as I took my first sips of Founders Cerise. Brewed seasonally using local cherries—from Spring through August—while fruity, this Cerise proved tart and refreshing, as opposed to sticky sweet or bitter, seeming to provide me with everything promised, and to my palate…that of…a…barbarian, undelivered by rosé. John Host of Founders tells us it sweetens without becoming cloying as it ages, but I would be happy if it always tasted as it did at this dinner. It started with the slightest cherry nose, then some spice (cinnamon?) as it warmed.

The Cerise was paired with a Caramelized Apple & Ohio Bleu Cheese Salad with Walnuts, served with an Orange Vinaigrette. The apples were firm, the dressing delicious and, interestingly, we found that, opposed to the bleu cheese bringing out a sweetness in the Cerise, the fruit and dressing reinforced it’s tartness, making for lots of complement and contrast in the one course.

John: ”This is great at festivals to break and reset from everything, and distinctive enough not to get blasted by the IPAs.” That said, coming after the balanced rye ale, this was a smart transition. At 6.5% this didn’t really test John’s theory by following a comparatively ballbuster IPA. But the interesting story was that it presented lighter than it actually was, a good thing with a salad course, establishing a perfect balance as the flavor notes more than did their job.

Course #3 started (the beer presented before the food course) with Founders Dry Hopped Pale Ale. Brewed with 100% Cascade hops, this mild (5.4% ABV) brew started out with a nice floral nose, oddly coming up as a vapor through the drinking more than the sniffing. We liked that. Then it arrived: Bacon Wrapped Scallops served with a “Pale Ale” Relish made with locally grown tomatoes and onions.

This was THAT course! You know, the one that makes eyebrows REALLY rise, that moment the chef makes a beer dinner his or hers. This was the one that had us wanting to meet, shake hands, and talk with Chef Phil.

The relish was the thing, both sweet and tart with a firmness but fully cooked. With the salty bacon and sweet scallops, nicely seared and just a bit caramelized, Chef Phil presented a perfect sweet/savory creation.

The pale ale worked, in this pairing, mostly as a quencher. It’s bitterness, interestingly notable given the published 34 IBU, served as a welcome reset, readying the palate for the next bite.

But at the end, as pleasant as the beer was, it was the food that was the story of this course.

No Founders event can happen without their Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale. Leading off the 4th course, this is where meat starts to rule. Dirty Bastard brings a big 8.5% ABV with a 60 IBU. This started a conversation with John about the alleged fact that the human can’t detect a bitter above 92. We’ve sampled beers well above 100, so…? I suspect it’s like the human ear unable to hear above the frequency of 20,000 Hz (if that), but does, in fact, benefit from high harmonics. Maybe we can detect higher bitter values, maybe not, but we’re thinking, the way flavors and essences move around the nose, tongue, throat, sinus cavities, perhaps there are harmonics in flavor as well. The soft voices of Angels. That aside, in anybody’s book, Dirty Bastard, Founders’ signature offering, stands tall as a fine Scotch Ale.

The food: Grilled Lamb Kabobs with Pommes Frites and Caramelized Onion Dip. The frites (translation: fraaad spudz) came in the form of crispy cottage fries, the dip, Nouvelle Midwestern, in that the caramelized onion provided a richer version of an old N.E Ohio fave, Lawson’s Chip Dip (something also served on the regular menu at The Lockview). Nothing wrong with that.

This then was the sweet and savory meat course, the skewer comprised of medium rare chunks of lamb, tender, juicy, grilled to perfection—no mean feat when serving 30—green and red pepper, grape tomatoes, and mushrooms. As a course, the whole gamut: meaty, savory, juicy, creamy, salty, caramelly, malty…brown. Super tasty on all counts.

This may offend some, but take it in the spirit it’s given. Course #5 was what I dubbed “The Jesus Course.” It was a moment of culinary transcendence that can only be described with the greatest of superlatives. I should note here that I was joined in my evaluation, discussions, and in this case, odd moans of great and grand passion, by our YBN co-editor, and frequent photographer, Dolli, and a couple other BEERdinner attendees at the table who helped me, both well and often, as the evening proceeded. Important to note that when I declared this to be such a course one hopes for at one of these dinners, I was met with smiles, nods, and further moans of affirmation.

Course #5: Founders Porter with Porter-Braised Ohio Beef Short Ribs under a Shiitake Mushroom Sauce served with a Sauteed Vegetable Bundle. My first notes read: “Founders Porter 6.5% ABV. Caramelly, sweet and yet sea salty. Black as night. On the edge a dark burnt orange, but light does NOT penetrate.”

When the meat came, the smell was immediate. It was my mom’s brisket. The scent of meat, onions, garlic (my mom always used it)—I became light headed immediately. I then hit it with my fork and it fell apart as would a fine and awesome pot roast. The meat tasted like…well…it was the centerpiece of the “Jesus Course.” Along with the mushrooms, it was all so rich and meaty.

The Founders Porter, in this pairing actually served the purpose of cutting through all this richness, but it did so with it’s carbonation. There was no bitter, nothing cloying about this Porter, the chocolate, coffee, and malt, the “dark” notes contributed to the big drowsy pillow of meaty goodness that was this course.

Chef Phil, The Lockview Restaurant

The veggies were perfectly done and were a perfect balancing accompaniment to the heavenly meat and the delicious drink. John Host took credit for suggesting this pairing, for which I salute him. As for the execution by Chef Phil…I offer to him the “We are not Worthy” salute.

This was a Beer Dinner that kept building and building. Often we find the dessert course to be really good, but a bit anticlimactic in intensity, the obvious match ups, so often a dessert or even breakfast stout with something chocolaty. Not that I’m complaining, but all too often we’re left without many surprises when it comes to dessert.

This one, however, surprised and delighted from the outset as we were served a freshly tapped Founders KBS, their “Kentucky Breakfast Stout,” an American Double/Imperial Stout sent from Heaven. Aged in bourbon barrels underground for a year, everything about this was big and vivid, yet remarkably balanced. I immediately tasted very distinct flavor notes of grain, coffee and chocolate. Lacing like a sonovabitch. Founders uses Sumatra and Kona coffees, and Belgian milk and dark chocolates.

I’d not yet been won over to the Bourbon Barrel world, but to be fair, hadn’t had much of it yet, what I had tasted striking me as being a brew with an additive, not a truly crafted and homogenous creation. This KBS, however, certainly was a knock-out example of doing all the right things in the right proportions in the right way.

With an 11.2% ABV, and an IBU of 60, this was a big delicious dark with a glistening edge to it.

Chef Phil whipped up Braised Bananas Foster finished with a Butterscoth “KBS” sauce. Having been sipping the KBS first, the Bananas Foster with this unique KBS Butterscotch, according to my notes “busts through with that grand statement of sweetness a good Bananas Foster is required to do, and then the KBS, so huge, just rolls back up onto you.”

As a rule, Dolli doesn’t drink beer, so throughout this meal she drank an Australian Malbec. But somehow sensing the gravitas in the presenting of the KBS, she uncharacteristically asked our server for a taster. Fast forward to a couple nights later, as we planned getting a bite with some friends. In the process of deciding what we felt like having for dinner, first thing out of Dolli’s mouth was, “Do you think they might have any of that KBS left at The Lockview?

Lockview's Weber with Founders' John Host

That says a great deal about the beer, but it also speaks in the broader sense about this Beer Dinner with Founders and the folks at The Lockview. Organizer and beer aficionado for The Lockview, the enigmatic Weber; Founders’ John Host; and Chefs Phil and Bob designed a feast that built, and built intelligently, satisfying on every level, leaving us happily sated—but as in every good meal, well prepared with fresh ingredients, and the right amount of finely crafted beer, we were clear-eyed, energized for the experience, and truly happy to have been there. Yuz kicked it, folks!

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