My Stone Vertical Epic Dinner
A Dinner Over A Decade In The Making!
by Ian Fraser
Way back in 2002, Stone Brewing Company was entering its 6th year of existence with a forward-looking, aggressive (arrogant?) presentation of a radical idea for a vertical epic series of beers released on a specific date for each year. The idea was that the series of beers would age and all be served together at the same time in a “vertical epic” tasting. Stone started with 02 – 02 – 02 released on February 2, 2002 and ended with 12 – 12 – 12 released on December 12, 2012.
I thought, at the time, it would be cool to use this as a platform for an epic vertical dinner. And to make it really challenging, I could actually incorporate the beer into the prepared dish!
So I set out to collect at least 3 bottles from each year for the dinner, plus a few extras to cook with and for tasting over the years.
This dinner is the result. I decided that the beers would not be served in order, that the menu would follow a typical dinner service, and that the beer paired with the dish would be served at the time the dish was served. There were two 15-minute breaks during the dinner — one after the cured pork belly and the other after the Kalbi dish.
Below, I have posted a short description of each dish with an explanation of how the beer was incorporated into the dish, and used Stone’s own descriptions of the beers. I included a picture of the served dish. My menu choices were driven by my own cooking experiences combined with the tasting notes from Stone Brewing Company’s own tasting event, held on December 12, 2012.
AMUSE: Portabella mushroom cap stuffed with deviled egg
Paired with Stone 03 – 03 – 03
This Beer was a take on the Cali – Belgian style ales with some additional interesting ingredients added coriander, grains of paradise and both wheat and dark malt. Stone calls this a Dubbel that has been twisted by the addition of high-alpha hops and American ale yeast.
As my amuse bouche, I wanted to serve something I have never made before, but that would still give a clear indication of the direction I wanted this dinner to go. Stone’s own tasting notes indicated that the beer plays well with deviled eggs, so that gave me the idea to try and stuff a deviled egg into a smoked portabella mushroom. I added melted butter and garlic and lemon to the mushroom, smoked them on the bbq and, while they were still hot, I piped a deviled egg yolk made with mustard, chives and Stone VE 03 – 03 – 03 into the cap and served them on tiny little spoon plates. The result was a hot/cold bite of smooth, creamy flavors that really complimented the complex malt character of the beer.
1st: Warm camembert wedge topped with honey, clove & pecans
Paired with Stone 06 – 06 – 06
I called this beer the Belgian Christmas vertical; it was a dark brown ale with hints of malts, chocolate and molasses and a yeasty sweetish finish. Stones tasting notes indicated that it paired well with honey and clove, so I decided to serve it on warm camembert cheese topped with a sauce made from honey, cloves, spicy roasted pecans and Stone VE 06 -06 – 06. The result turned out to be my personal favorite dish, with the warm cheese nicely enhanced by the sauce, which really contrasted well with Belgian yeast in the beer.
2nd: Lemongrass Marinated Chicken Salad
Paired with Stone 04 – 04 – 04
This was my favorite Vertical Epic Beer. On release, it reminded me of a Biere de Garde that someone hit with fruit. The original lime notes from the kaffir lime added to the brewing has faded to a background of citrus hiding behind the banana esters from the Belgian yeast. This dish actually had the beer added in two different and unique ways, first in the lemongrass marinade and then again in the salad dressing. I even toyed with the idea of soaking the blood orange royals in the beer as well for a third addition but rejected that idea due to wanting the full citrus flavor of the orange to be unhindered. This dish had many votes as favorite dish from some of the guests. I took chicken breast and marinated them in a lemon grass marinade that included Serrano peppers, soy sauce, lemongrass, lime juice, cilantro and Stone 04 – 04 – 04. I then cooked it off on the bbq. The salad was spring greens tossed with a balsamic/avocado vinaigrette (that I incorporated the beer into), topped with green onions and yellow bell peppers, the chicken and blood orange royals. The resulting flavors in the salad really enhanced the fruit notes in the beer.
3rd: Cured Pork Belly wrapped in Chocolate
Paired with Stone 05 – 05 – 05
This was the dish I was most excited about making in advance. I found a butcher that would cut me inch thick slabs of cured pork belly (bacon) that had been cold-smoked on pecan wood. I then baked the bacon until it was crisp on the outside but still meaty on the inside, then dipped it into melted See’s candy chocolate chips and chilled it overnight until it hardened Before bringing it back to room temperature for serving. Then at service I melted more chocolate, added chipotle chili powder and cayenne pepper to give it spice and just enough Stone VE 05 – 05 – 05 to make it creamy. The sauce served as the bed for the bacon. The funky combination of smoky bacon and sweet chocolate really brought out the chocolate and toffee notes in the beer but the beer retained enough malt roastiness to stand up to it. It was like a main course and a dessert course rolled into one. This dish had some seriously fervent fans!
4th: Tequila Shrimp
Paired with Stone 11 – 11 – 11
This was a simple dish utilizing a dish I make frequently for backyard bbq’s, only with a twist. I made a simple marinade of olive oil, lime juice and zest, garlic, chili powder, cilantro and tequila, and then added a double shot of Stone VE 11 – 11 – 11 to incorporate the beer. The shrimp was cooked on the bbq and then placed on a simple bed of salad greens garnished with lime juice and cilantro. The seasonings in the marinade complimented the hatch chilies used in the brewing of the beer extremely well, with just a hint of heat!
5th: Seared Scallop on Smoked Paprika Aioli
Paired with Stone 08 – 08 – 08
This was another seafood course of a simple seared scallop placed on an aioli made from home-made mayonnaise, smoked paprika, lemon juice and zest and Stone VE 08 – 08 – 08. It was plated with a lemon garnish and capers. The beer is a strong golden ale made with American hops, including Amarillo and Simcoe, which lent the beer its lemony, citrus character. I enhanced the aioli with lemon to bring out this characteristic in the beer and it worked fantastically. This had some serious fans in the group as well!
6th: Korean Kalbi Rib
Paired with Stone 12 – 12 – 12
Being from Hawaii, I have been making Korean Kalbi Ribs since I first learned to cook, and when I saw that the Stone chefs paired the Stone VE 12 – 12 – 12 with a spicy quail knot and Korean BBQ sauce this dish was a no brainer! The last in the series of Vertical Epic releases is dark brown in color and has all kinds of spice that their tasting notes claim make you think of holiday baking. I disagree; it reminds me of a Belgian Dubbel with that hint of cinnamon being a forward note. The beer is not too sweet and I thought that would complement the sweetness in the Kalbi sauce. I made my standard Kalbi Rib sauce (soy, mirin, garlic, brown sugar, sesame and green onion) and substituted the Stone VE 12 – 12 – 12 for the water I normally add to thin the marinade. It was plated with two types of kimchee: a standard cabbage style and a leek kimchee.
7th: Potato Soufflé
Paired with Stone 07 – 07 – 07
I wanted to serve a vegetable dish during the dinner, so when I saw that the Stone chefs served the Stone VE 07 – 07 – 07 with potatoes, I thought I would do something similar. So I mashed potatoes with some Speyside cheddar cheese and used the beer instead of some of the cream for the potatoes, then formed then into crenels on a baking sheet and painted them with egg wash, topping them with chives. They were then baked until brown. The heavy character of the potato dish offset the light character of the beer with its subtle carbonation and hints of ginger spice and citrus — reminding me of a spiced Belgian Tripel.
8th: Pasilla Pepper Beef w/ Purred Turnips
Paired with Stone 09 – 09 – 09
This was another of my specialty dishes reformatted for use in the dinner. I have made this dish many time in the past as an alternative to Carbonnade á La Flamande. It has large chunks of cross rib beef browned then braised in a sauce consisting of puréed roasted red bell peppers, pasilla pepper, red wine, star anise and Chinese Five Spice. I just added the beer into the dish before baking it. The flavors of the star anise and Chinese Five Spice really brought out the chocolate notes in the Stone VE 09 – 09 – 09. I plated the beef on a bed of purred turnips to add a sharp counter point to all these smooth flavors
9th: Cherry Apple Tart
Paired with Stone 02 – 02 – 02
OK, full disclosure time. I could not have possibly pulled off this dinner without some serious help from my friends, and one of those friends made these tarts. Mitch Kraus, take a bow; they were amazing! I asked for a simple apple and cherry tart and he hit it out of the park. They had a filo dough crust and apples and cherries and raisins as the filling. Since he did not include the beer in the making of the tarts, I made a whipped cream using Jim Beam Double Black Bourbon and Stone VE 02 – 02 – 02! The result was fantastic with the complex flavors of the dish more than covering up any oxidation the beer was exhibiting! The beer was originally a non-descript, wheat-based Golden Ale at release and that really had not changed over time; however it was still clean and refreshing given all the flavors it had to stand up to!
10th: Cheese Course
Paired with Stone 10 – 10 – 10
Stone VE 10 – 10 – 10 is a beer with Muscat and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, added; it just screams cheese! I had already planned on having a cheese dish as the finish, seeing as an 11-course meal was just way too much food! With all the wine notes and chamomile added to this beer, it has the proper character for a finishing-course palate cleanser like a cheese paring. I was simply going to go to the Fairfax Farmers Market cheese shop and order up any cheese that I thought would work. I found a drunken moon, a 4 year old cheddar and a dried sheep’s milk (gouda like) cheese, plus a triple cream I fell in love with over the holidays. However, how to incorporate the beer into this dish? I found some dried Turkish apricots and rehydrated them in the Stone VE 10 – 10 – 10 and then fished the apricots out, stirred in honey and powdered sugar and reduced the liquid down to a thick glaze that we then streaked onto the plate, the cheeses were plated with the apricots, some pecans and a slice of baguette. The high carbonation combined with the wine and citrus notes in the beer made for a wonderful collaboration with all this variety of flavors.
Twenty-one people attended this six-hour dinner; I plated 231 dishes during that time. I would like to thank my Sous Chef Norm Z for some spectacular assistance in the kitchen, Pam Wyatt for the table decorations, Mitch Krauss for the tarts and especially Tomm Carroll and Danise Delgado for opening up their home, the soon-to-be-famous Trux Stop, for this truly epic undertaking. And to Danise for the cool sign!
This was a once-in-a-lifetime event that could not possibly be surpassed unless some brewery comes out with a 12 beer vertical release… [As I cast a sideways glance over at my collection of The Bruery’s 12 Days of Christmas releases] …Uh oh, stay tuned!
Me and the 51 empty bottles the next morning: