Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Scene: Chef JJ's Make it Local

We were invited to Chef JJ's Back Yard by some great friends who are really starting to get into craft beer. It was one of Chef JJ's Make it Local events and for us it was the perfect double-date night! Chef JJ's Back Yard is a fantastic but easy to miss little spot by Brugge in Broadripple. He has an amazing view of the water, and on a beautiful summer day there is no better spot in Indy.

The Make it Local event was a cooking demo on the Green Egg where Cheff JJ used locally sourced meats and cheeses and of course my favorite thing, locally sourced beer.We were welcomed warmly and escorted to his patio. There was room for about 35 or 40 guests in this beautiful and intimate setting. Five breweries participated: Triton, Barley Island, Bier Brewery, Bloomington Brewing Company and Daredevil. The brewer or one of the owners of each of the breweries was there, and they came around and sat with every table of six guests for one course.

The first course was a cheese plate from Goose the Market paired with Triton's Gold Trans Am a light, sessionable golden ale (head brewer John has challenged himself to start making a session beer every season). The beer was crisp and refreshing without any major hop character. Great for a hot summer day. The cheese was amazing and all locally sourced. It was served with some crustinis, an delicious pickled kale, and beer jelly made from the Gold Trans Am. The jelly was awesome. It paired so well with the strong dry flavors of the cheese. It was the right amount of sweetness to balance out every bite. 

The second course was a crab salad. It had roasted greens done on the Egg. The crab was light and bright and the salad had a nice citrus vinaigrette. The salad was paired with Sheet Metal blonde from Barley Island. This light Belgian Wit beer was the winner of the Brew Bracket Wheat event in September of 2012. It was light with just enough sweetness to bring a smile to my face. It went great with the summery salad.

The third course was an amazing steak dish on top of some grilled pickled vegetables paired with Bier's Special K Kolsch. Special K is probably one of my favorite Kolsch beers on the market right now. It is easy drinking but flavorful enough to have its own personality. The steak was amazingly tender. I would normally go with a darker beer that has more body when I am eating a steak, but this worked so well. It helped lighten the heavy red meat and gave it a great summer feel. 
The fourth course was my favorite. It was a shreaded pork and lamb that had some great mexican spices. The meat was big and bold, totally in your face. It had an outstanding avocado mouse on top that helped cool off the meat and brighten the plate. It was paired with Lift Off IPA by Daredevil which is a bright clean West Coast style IPA. It has to be one of the best balanced IPAs that I've every had. The hops marry well with the clean sweet malt to give you one strong flavor.

The fifth course was desert. It was a deconstructed S'more with a roasted whipped marshmallow and chocolate panna cotta. This was paired with a possible one-time-only release beer by Bloomington Brewing Company, Vanilla Stout. It was their stout aged on vanilla beans, and it was delicious. The Little Lady waited all night for this one and was not disappointed. This was probably my favorite beer of the night, but I'm a sucker for anything dark and aged. Plus, after five courses you've had enough beer to get a little more generous with your reviews.

For me the coolest thing about this dinner was having the brewers come sit at your table and talk. When John from Triton came over, he talked primarily about the growing craft community. Triton has recently opened their tap house in Broadripple and now they are working on extending their distribution to IL. Jeff from Barley Island talked about some of the challenges that come with being a brewer in a small town, and dealing with the local politics. We got a great perspective from BBC about the craft beer boom in Indiana. The owner of Bier talked about the competitive brewing that his son Darren, the head brewer, was doing. Lastly we talked to Michael from Daredevil (also in the picture to the right) about the importance of water purity and your taste buds when it comes to beer. (Look for a full post on this later). It was realy cool to get the small group time with the brewers, and the food was amazing.

This is the perfect date night for the true beer geek and a very tolerant date. Cheers!

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