Beer First, Food Second: Barley & Board Launches a Seasonal Craft Beer Supper Series

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Barley & Board test drove the first of what will hopefully become a quarterly seasonal supper club this week. The private event featured a craft beer-driven pairing menu of five fall-inspired courses served to friends in their intimate private dining room.

Executive chef Chad Kelley walked guests through a few of the dishes, but was quick to give credit where credit was due. Sous chef Jennifer Dahlen was in the kitchen turning her dream of a seasonal tasting event into reality. Dahlen had been pushing for such an event for some time; the evening was the culmination of three months of planning and development. Chief operating officer Kjell Knutson said the group hoped to expand the event to the public in the future, selling tickets in advance and hosting three or four events a year. He admitted their only hesitation had to do with the time commitment. In order to make the next event as successful as the first, “we’d have to start planning pretty much tomorrow,” he says. 

The event was a unique departure from similar pairing events. Instead of matching craft beers with prepared dishes, they started by identifying a flight of limited edition beers, developing a menu around their unique characteristics with a focus on seasonal foods and flavors. Knutson said the overall philosophy behind the evening was “beer first, food second.”

The first course was a savory malted rye “cream puff” filled with foie gras mousse and paired with Ayinger’s Oktober Fest-Märzen, a lightly sweet and balanced beer with a subtle dryness. The cream puff’s delicate crunch and umami-laden filling was reminiscent of an elevated, gourmet version of prepackaged cheese on wheat crackers which, paired with a true märzen, served as an excellent starting point for the evening.

But the star of the evening was a dish of crisp veal sweetbreads, battered and fried to perfection and served atop a creamy celery root puree with shallot, mustard seed, a rich demi-glace and a single piece of cold-smoked bacon. The sweet breads were served with Avery’s Kaiser, an imperial Oktoberfest. Another great pairing, it matched an indulgently rich dish with a massively malty beer.

Chef Kelley flexed his barbecue chops, serving a dressed-up Texas-style brisket dry-rubbed with 20 different spices and cooked sous-vide for 36 hours. The result was a hedonistic cross between true Texas brisket flavor and the texture of a New York strip, served alongside a jammy fig and raisin mole, an impossibly creamy mac ’n’ cheese and a sweet yet simple cabbage slaw. The brisket was paired with 903 Brewer’s Sasquatch, a milk stout aged in Balcones barrels for a smooth chocolate malt taste with a bourbon finish. Kelley’s fans are already eagerly anticipating his next venture, a smokehouse and barbecue joint in the same lot as Earl’s 377 in Argyle set to open late November, but his dish just upped the ante.

Some of the beers highlighted during the evening were pulled from Barley & Board’s reserves; Dogfish Head’s Immort Ale was released in limited quantities in January after a two-year hiatus, so the dessert pairing was aged for almost a year before it was served with a trio of spiced chocolate truffles. The beer provided a lush and smoky finish that enveloped the truffles’ notes of coriander, cardamom and pink peppercorns into a decadent dessert package.

For many guests, the event was their first beer pairing, though many had previous experience with wine pairings, and were interested in the similarities. Tasting events with beer pairings are relatively new to Denton, despite the overall growth in the craft beer industry nationwide. With the influx of new craft beer-centered business (Midway Mart’s expansion, East Side’s commitment to local and craft beers, the impressive selection at Bearded Monk), we hope Barley & Board’s seasonal supper pairings inspire other restaurants to do the same.

Barley & Board, 100 W. Oak St., Denton

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