Friday, September 14, 2012

Recap of Brewery Vivant's Beer Dinner at The State Room

Written by  Ryan Ranspach
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Recap of Brewery Vivant Beer Dinner at The State Room

We were at The State Room inside the Kellogg Center in East Lansing last night for this month's "Tapped" beer dinner featuring Brewery Vivant from Grand Rapids. It was a 5-course meal served with several of Vivant's standby beers and a couple of their limited batch features. As usual, The State Room did a tremendous job with the beer & food pairings, and the dish presentations were fabulous.
We kicked off the night by chatting with the bartender, Todd, over a couple pints before the start of dinner. The work week can be hectic, and the State Room's relaxed, classy bar area is the perfect spot to unwind with a cocktail. With the Olympics currently underway, we got to catch up on the latest medal count and to see American Terrance Jennings capture a bronze medal in Taekwondo by landing a face kick as time expired for the match's winning point. After that, we were ready for some beer and meat!

After we took our seats for dinner, we were greeted by Jon Trasky of The State Room who welcomed everyone and introduced Rick & Brooks from Brewery Vivant to say a few words as well. There were about 60 people in attendance, and our hosts were tremendously warm and grateful for the amount of support this dinner generated. For a palate warm-up, we were served a taste of Vivant's "Zaison" Imperial Saison Ale. This is a big, 9% ABV saison ale brewed with peppercorns and orange peel and despite it's untraditionally high alcohol content, is very easy to drink. This is a delightful beer, but it was good that we just got a small taste as there was still a long road ahead.

Course #1

Wild Boar Ragout served over a Rosemary Infused Spoon Bread

The first course of the evening was a Wild Boar Ragout served over a Rosemary Infused Spoon Bread. When I first saw this dish on the menu, I was apprehensive about the boar. The only way I had ever had boar prior to this was as jerky, and it was greasy & tough. But the pieces of meat in this dish were moist and flavorful, and the spicy, tomato-base ragout was delicious as well. The spoon bread served beneath it almost tasted corn-based and was wonderfully rich and warm. Served with this course was Vivant's "Solitude" Abbey-style ale. This is a classic Belgian-style ale with strong caramel and and raisin notes. It worked very well with the depth present in the boar and spoon bread.

Course #2

Michigan Morel Mushroom Cake served with Asparagus Tips and Chicken Glace

The second course was a Michigan Morel Mushroom Cake served with Asparagus Tips and Chicken Glace. The mushrooms were chopped and mixed with potatoes that were then made into the cakes. Morel mushrooms are a sort of regional delicacy here, and Paul and I both really enjoyed this dish. The asparagus atop it was cooked perfectly and the chicken glace reduction was a nice, added touch of flavor. We were served two different beer samples with this course, Vivant's "Triomphe" Belgian-Style IPA and their Michigan Brewer's Guild 15th Anniversary IPA. They both did really well with the dish, the Triomphe has all the subtle characteristics of a Belgian beer but finishes hoppy and strong, very much how morels work the palate. The Anniversary IPA was a limited release beer and was delicious, similar to the Triomphe but with something special that neither of us could quite place.

Course #3

Prosciutto de Parma salad with Fresh Bocconcini Mozzarella, Arugula, Diced Cantaloupe, and a Lemon-Honey Vinaigrette

The third course was Prosciutto de Parma salad with Fresh Bocconcini Mozzarella, Arugula, Diced Cantaloupe, and a Lemon-Honey Vinaigrette. After a couple fairly heavy courses, this was a nice repose. The rugged and peppery arugula went very well with the gentle sweetness of the cantaloupe & tang of the dressing. The mozzarella was soft and decadent and the prosciutto was delicious (prosciutto is always delicious). We got two more beers to enjoy wit this course, Vivant's flagship "Farm Hand" French-Style Farmhouse Ale, and a limited release "Barrel Aged Farm Hand Ale". The original Farm Hand is great; I have drank this beer by itself and with just about every kind of food. It is styled after the family farm beers, of which almost all had their own version, in rural northern France. It is drinkable yet complex, and gentle & comforting to the palate. The barrel aged version of this beer had a nice flavor, though we thought it tasted a little flat. This was an understandable and forgivable trifle though as all the other beers were perfect, and it is difficult to transport small quantities of these small-batch beers. We really enjoyed the lightness and simplicity of this course.

Course #4

Filet Mignon Au Poivre time

For the main event, it was Filet Mignon Au Poivre time. This was a Center-Cut Filet served with Wilted Baby Spinach and Roasted Sweet Potatoes. The steaks were cooked to a perfect medium-rare temperature (we both commented on the wizardry it takes to pull this off...60 fillets all cooked to the same's game, State Room!), and  the wilted spinach & sweet potatoes were a nice, earthy touch to compliment the meat. We were very excited to try Vivant's relatively new Imperial Stout offering with this course, and it did not disappoint. Pretty much every brewery pumps out an imperial stout now, and we were anxious to see what Vivant's take on this style was. It had the usual roasted malt, coffee and cocoa notes, but it also had an undercurrent of complexity that is common-thread throughout their entire portfolio. There were cherry and other fruit notes and a nice amount of booziness that was strong but not too strong. The cocoa seemed to linger as well and I thought this went particularly well with the big piece of meat we were eating. Hats off to the chef and brewers on this dish.

Course #5

Flourless Hazelnut Chocolate Cake with a Praline Chocolate Crunch

For dessert, we were served a Flourless Hazelnut Chocolate Cake with a Praline Chocolate Crunch. The cake was good but dry, as is to be expected with flourless cakes. The praline crunch accompanying it was delicious; it was almost like a thin candy bar wafer and we both really liked it. The beer served with this was Vivant's "Contemplation", which falls under the 'Biere de Garde' style. It was sweet and bready with a slight amount of bitterness but also with fairly pronounced fruit notes. We enjoyed this and would like to get to Vivant to try some more soon.

Overall, we felt that this dinner was a tremendous success. The State Room really does a nice job with these and is truly one of the area's best kept dining secrets; it simply is not another hotel restaurant. And as always, the offerings from Brewery Vivant did not let us down. They have one of the coolest projects going right now in Michigan craft beer and we look forward to their continued expansion and growing distribution network which will soon include the Chicago-land market. Thanks again to The State Room and Brewery Vivant for a wonderful meal.