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Are beer floats a perfectly good waste of beer? And other questions from an ale lovers dinner

Are beer floats a perfectly good waste of beer? And other questions from an ale lovers dinner

News_real ale firemans  No. 4 blonde ale
Fireman's No. 4 Blonde Ale from Real Ale
News_Benjy's_Washington_Chef Mike Potwoski
Benjy's executive chef Mike Potwoski plating the pork rillette dish Courtesy of Studio Communications
benjys beer dinner sashimi
Ama Dai sashimi
News_Real Ale_Brewhouse Brown Ale
Real Ale's Brewhouse Brown Ale
News_real ale firemans  No. 4 blonde ale
News_Benjy's_Washington_Chef Mike Potwoski
benjys beer dinner sashimi
News_Real Ale_Brewhouse Brown Ale
News_Benjy's_on Washington

Wine dinners are nothing new, but I was excited when Benjy’s on Washington continued its experimentation with local Texas breweries this summer, pairing up with Real Ale Brewing Co. for a recent six-course dinner by executive chef Mike Potowski and Real Ale owner Brad Farbstein.

Before the dinner started, I got a sneak peek at Real Ale’s 15th Anniversary Ale, on tap at Benjy's. This is a fantastic beer that could replace a ten o’clock scotch. With a hint of molasses texture, it had to be chewed to get down. It’s an excellent, full-bodied ale similar to a port or stout. A few slices of smoked cheese would pair perfectly. Needless to say, the evening started off on the right foot.

 Beer floats remind me too much of my few attempts at sneaking beer past parents in my teenage years. Now that I’ve reached a legal age, I find it unnecessary to hide my beer in ice cream. 

As the event, began we were welcomed to our seats. Being seated is an uncomfortable experience for me — I’m always concerned about being placed at the head of the table. The position demands responsible behavior. One must stimulate conversation, liaise between staff and guests. Not everyone is capable of such demands, so of course this was my burden to bear. Thankfully my pre-dinner beverage loosened my inhibitions just enough to accept the challenge.

By the end of the night, all were conversing and laughing, and although the alcohol might have played a role, I truly believe that it was due to positive leadership at the head of the table.

The biggest culinary disappointment was the amuse bouche, a cheese "lollipop" encrusted with espresso grounds. Unfortunately the tangy, syrupy Sisyphus Barleywine pairing failed to cut the bitterness of the coffee and the muted flavor of the soft Polo cheese was somewhat odd in the mouth, similar to biting into a ball of butter.

However the local ama dai (a.k.a. red snapper) sashimi with jalapeño oil and citrus vinaigrette had a nice mix of salty and tangy tones, with Rio Blanco Pale Ale as a nice, light, slightly bitter foil. Next was the forest mushroom thin-crust pizza with fontina, pine nuts and a mercifully light dash of truffle oil alongside a Full Moon Pale Rye Ale, which was a bit richer and bolder, with a nice balance of bitter and sweet flavors.

Of course, how can you go wrong with pizza and beer?

I was impressed by the Black Hill Farms pork rillette with Lost Gold IPA, and by the mini-cauldron of jumbo lump crab with unusual black fried rice that was served with a Firemans #4 Blonde Ale. But my personal favorite was the coco-crusted Akaushi beef braised short ribs. The meat was insanely tender (and fell apart in my mouth) and I loved the balance between savory and sweet in the short ribs. The combination with the Brewhouse Brown Ale nicely complemented the heartiness of the dish.

I would have preferred an alternative dessert to end the meal rather than the coffee porter float with bourbon walnut ice cream. The Real Ale’s coffee porter, is one of my personal favorites but it's simply best as a stand-alone beer with maybe a side of cheese and fruit, or even some dark chocolate truffles.

Beer floats remind me too much of my few attempts at sneaking beer past parents in my teenage years. Now that I’ve reached a legal age, I find it unnecessary to hide my beer in ice cream.

I left satisfied and impressed, with two new beers on my favorites list —Rio Blanco Pale Ale and 15th Anniversary Ale. What more could I ask?