Thursday, January 29, 2015

SideDoor's Rare and Vintage Beer Dinner with Goose Island

By guest contributor Jeff Balasa

Chicago boasts one of the most diverse and innovative craft beer scenes in the country, and arguably the world. Yet as I have seen the “boom” progress, I keep asking myself what are breweries, bars and restaurants going to do to keep beer enthusiasts coming back? Jeff Van Der Tuuk of SideDoor and his visionary staff have embarked on a mission to answer that very question.

I had the distinct privilege of being part of SideDoor's Rare and Vintage Beer Dinner, featuring Goose Island beer this past Wednesday, and what an experience it was. It’s a rare occurrence to find a collaboration of this caliber, teaming up to create an unforgettable night for those in attendance. The focus was the acclaimed Bourbon County Stout, its marvelous variances, as well as some wonderful sour offerings. The beer alone speaks for itself, but when paired with the exceptional cuisine of SideDoor, something profound occurs.

The first course was a salad with fresh greens with a citrus dressing, candied pecans and bourbon macerated blackberries. This dish was paired with Lilith, a pomegranate Berliner Weisse. A magnificent pairing that balanced the spicy nature of the greens with the acidic qualities of the dressing and beer. The blackberries were the stand out element in this dish, and took on an identical flavor profile of Bourbon County Bramble Rye.

Second up, duck confit paired with one of Goose Island’s famous ladies, Madame Rose. Few words need to be uttered about this dish other than WOW. One stab at the duck and it all fell off the bone. An amazing salty and savory taste was only amplified by the tart flavor of Madame Rose. Cherries that had been cooked down under the duck danced on the palette when in contact with the rare beer.

Being affiliated with Lawry’s means you have to bring some steak to the table, and a New York Strip was the answer. Cooked to a beautiful medium rare and accompanied with kale and brussel sprouts, this main course was destined to be a home run. The menu indicated that this dish was to be paired with Bourbon County Stout, which was a bit intriguing as its sweetness doesn't always lend itself to savory flavors. While the dry, tannic qualities of the red wine espresso reduction was a perfect match for the tender steak, it did not pair particularly well with the sweet, fruit forward beer. Bourbon County Stout, as amazing as it is, was reserved on the side to be savored on its own.

Finally, dessert. There was a buzz in the dining room dedicated to the flight of beers that were about to be presented. Bourbon County Barleywine, Coffee, Vanilla Rye as well as Proprietors were delivered to the tables as if Fort Knox was transporting gold bricks. After the sticky toffee pudding with chocolate covered espresso beans was distributed, we all were offered the chance to experiment with the flavors of the BCS varieties. Each offered a unique experience, but in the end Proprietors reigned supreme.

Feeling extremely satisfied, and full I might add, the meal concluded but the experience was far from over. Sitting down with Jeff after the meal allowed me the chance to hear his vision for SideDoor – to bring exceptional, reserve beers to the table with equally exceptional cuisine. Based on the evening I had, this was accomplished with flying colors. 

So what’s next for SideDoor? Well there is a vacant room in the building with some exciting plans in mind, but you'll have to ask Jeff yourselves when you visit him for a stellar evening.

Contributor Jeff Balasa is a passionate advocate of craft beer with experience in Brand Strategy and Packaging Design. Constantly searching for innovative events and experiences, Jeff is always ready to step outside of his comfort zone.