Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Beer Dinners — they're a thing

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 8:38 AM

Somewhat in the spirit of pop-up dinners, most prolifically pushed locally by chef Kevin Campbell and pals, a new, monthly dinner series has emerged under the care of the folks behind Common Cause Catering

It's called The Beer Dinners, and technically produced by an arm of CCC called Local Relic. What sets these events apart are a move beyond mere craft beer pairings per course; instead, beers are homebrewed specifically for these meals (and provided for free as part of the ticketed meal, which we explain below). 

Here's how brewer Grant Goodwiler describes the format to Focus on the Beer:
While most beer dinners are showing off beers that are commercially available, Local Relic is crafting five beers expressly for each dinner. Our philosophy is to avoid ‘flagship’ beers, instead focusing on crafting what is both seasonal and just ahead of the curve. The beers created for each dinner are unique, creative, and exclusive. You can only try them with us, and if you miss trying them at the dinner, you’ll have missed out forever!
The third dinner in this series took place this past Saturday evening inside of the Colorado House and Resource Center, a residence run by the local nonprofit Partners in Housing. CCC, set up as a social enterprise, partners with the organization, which works to help transition people out of homelessness, via its Partners in the Kitchen program, which teaches "critical life skills related to the kitchen," essentially showing folks how to cook nutritiously for their families, on a budget. 

Explains CCC co-owner Melissa Lofton:
This location is private and secure to protect those living there. We do not, nor plan to open this location to the general public at any point in time.
We are not selling beer!!! We are simply giving away the beer to our guests, who are only paying for food. We love getting feedback from them on each style, and hope to someday open a space that can hold a liquor license so that we can sell the beer. For now, this is a private dinner event that is not open to walk in diners from the general public, but requires a ticket purchased in advance for food only.
We want to operate within the law and provide a great experience to all our guests. Being able to expose them to the great work of Partners in Housing is a bonus.
The Indy paid for me to attend, a $50 fee which includes tax and gratuity for a five-course, (mostly) beer-paired meal (i.e. one of our courses sported a wine). Below, I'll share photos from the evening, as well as more info on the players and potential for these Beer Dinners to grow into another drink-driven eatery in town. 

click to enlarge The evening's menu, set on table decorations meant as a nod to A Midsummer Night's Dream. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The evening's menu, set on table decorations meant as a nod to A Midsummer Night's Dream.


Melissa Lofton, 34, met her husband, CCC co-owner Jeff Zearfoss, 32, while volunteering at the Marian House Soup Kitchen, where he ran Wednesday service (as "Chef Jeff") over the course of eight years as a volunteer. She has a background in finance and business, while he studied hotel and restaurant management and counts time at three Broadmoor eateries among his experience.  


click to enlarge Course one: cucumber saison with shrimp ceviche and grilled sourdough. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Course one: cucumber saison with shrimp ceviche and grilled sourdough.


Chef Corey Hoff, 24, grew up in the Springs and came up under the ProStart program, then the Broadmoor's Culinary Apprenticeship Program (where he met Zearfoss). He later spent time on the East coast, including working under Bryan Voltaggio, runner-up on season six of Top Chef. Hoff joined CCC this past November, and hopes to work closely with Goodwiler, Zearfoss and Lofton on a future fine dining beer house. 


click to enlarge Common Cause Catering executive chef Corey Hoff, a Springs native with hopes for a collaborative restaurant down the road. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Common Cause Catering executive chef Corey Hoff, a Springs native with hopes for a collaborative restaurant down the road.

click to enlarge Common Cause Catering co-owner Melissa Lofton and her husband and co-owner Jeff Zearfoss (far right) introduce chef Corey Hoff (middle) and brewer Grant Goodwiler (left). - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Common Cause Catering co-owner Melissa Lofton and her husband and co-owner Jeff Zearfoss (far right) introduce chef Corey Hoff (middle) and brewer Grant Goodwiler (left).


“I want to grow social enterprise as a market segment,” says Zearfoss. "By going with us, you get value added."

 
click to enlarge Course two: charred tomato garlic purée with Brussels sprouts, asparagus and summer squash. Served with a three-melon Kolsch. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Course two: charred tomato garlic purée with Brussels sprouts, asparagus and summer squash. Served with a three-melon Kolsch.

click to enlarge Course three: strawberry lemon wine with duck confit, grits sweet corn and roasted garlic oil. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Course three: strawberry lemon wine with duck confit, grits sweet corn and roasted garlic oil.

"Grant looks like a brewer. He is a brewer," jokes Lofton during his introduction. Goodwiler is 31 and has been brewing since he was 21. He spent 2 1/2 years working at Rocky Mountain Brewing and then three years ("off and on") at Brewer's Republic, where he co-launched the short-lived Battle of the Brewers series. He says he brews traditional beers with untraditional ingredients (basically the Field Beer category at the GABF), and for these dinners, makes 5-gallon batches to serve around 35 drinkers per course. 

click to enlarge Local homebrewer Grant Goodwiler, also a Common Cause Catering employee, gives away his creations as part of The Beer Dinners series. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Local homebrewer Grant Goodwiler, also a Common Cause Catering employee, gives away his creations as part of The Beer Dinners series.


The next Beer Dinners are on Saturday, Aug. 9 and Saturday, Sept. 20. Tickets for each event go on sale the day following the previous. Folks attending a dinner have a chance to buy tickets early, following the meal. 


click to enlarge Course four: peppercorn-crusted flank steak with smoked cauliflower purée, tomato hash, mustard jus and thyme vinaigrette. Paired with the Christmas in July Ale. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Course four: peppercorn-crusted flank steak with smoked cauliflower purée, tomato hash, mustard jus and thyme vinaigrette. Paired with the Christmas in July Ale.

click to enlarge Course five: almond-lemon cake with pineapple peach salsa, ginger brittle and citrus mascarpone. Served with a ginger-lemon IPA. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Course five: almond-lemon cake with pineapple peach salsa, ginger brittle and citrus mascarpone. Served with a ginger-lemon IPA.


32-year old Anastacio Garcia, currently working at the Little London Cake Shoppe, joins Local Relic for the Beer Dinners. He says he's been working with sweets since age 10, and studied at Johnson & Wales in Providence, R.I. He says it was particularly difficult to pair his dessert course with Goodwiler's lemon-ginger IPA, but all in attendance seemed to agree that he pulled the task off quite well. 

click to enlarge Pastry chef Anastacio Garcia of the Little London Cake Shoppe. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Pastry chef Anastacio Garcia of the Little London Cake Shoppe.


Overall, our meal was quite good, starting simple and light on the first two courses and building in complexity into course three and four, with nicely layered flavors complementing the beers. The duck and grits was my favorite course, with a fun, 10-percent ABV strawberry lemon wine pairing, though the final IPA proved to be my favorite standalone beer. The Christmas in July was also a treat (with ingredients that include honey, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and nectarine), as were the opening two beers, with clean, forward fruit flavors. 

The crew appeared polished and especially comfortable with public interaction, making the whole evening feel like a community hangout more than a stiff fine-dining meal. They floated often through the dining room to chat with guests and tell stories about one another, also floating the plans for their future offerings, should everything fall into place as envisioned. 

click to enlarge Attendees included local homebrewers and beer enthusiasts. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Attendees included local homebrewers and beer enthusiasts.

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