Heavyweight Beer Dinner
123 Monmouth Rd
West Long Branch, NJ  07764

Here was a different event where a normally wine savvy group was introduced to a variety of beers paired with each course of a meal.
Tom Baker of Heavyweight helped Branches owner, John Lombardo, to set up the beers on the menu. Several were his own, but he also incorporated some of the top local breweries into the mix.
For a welcome beer, Tom chose his Biere d'Art, a biere de garde style with a light, peppery taste, which was a popular choice for these wine aficionados. Everyone got to meet Tom and his wife, Peggy, as they made their way through the crowd.

Finally, everyone found seats and Tom did an introduction to beer for these neophytes explaining beer styles.
Then on with the food! The first course was Wild Mushroom Soup accompanied by Victory Brewing's Pils. It was an exquisite pairing. The soup was rich and creamy with the light hop profile of the Pils offsetting it.
Next up was a Mesclun and Arugula Salad with Toasted Pistachios and Orange-Honey Vinaigrette. High Point's Ramstein Blonde Wheat beer was served with this course. The light spiciness of this Northern NJ brew matched up with the vinaigrette and the greens perfectly.
Chinese 5 Star Shrimp over Pumpkin Risotto paired well with Tom's Lunacy, a Belgian Golden Ale spiced with coriander and a smooth fruity profile. The spicy shrimp was tempered by both the risotto and the beer.
More seafood was yet to come! A Cous Cous "Paella" with Crabmeat and Seafood was placed before us. Again, a nice spicy dish was paired with an equally "spicy" beer. Yard's IPA is a wonderful brew with lots of hop bitterness to augment the spices in the paella.
For a meat entree, Pan-Seared Pork Loin Stuffed with Pears was offered to an increasingly stuffed crowd. Another of Heavyweight's beers was paired with this course. Stickenjab Alt, a German style from Dusseldorf, has a great malt profile with just a bit of hop finish to offset the sweetness.
Just when you thought you could eat no more, they served up a Black & White Creme Brulee! The creme brulee was poured over a chocolate ganache base and then flamed on top to form an exquisite sugar crust. What an outstanding finish to an already fantastic meal! Of course, Tom's Perkuno's Hammer Baltic Porter was poured with the dessert. This very dark and rich beer is a pleaser every time especially with a rich dessert or even a beef entree.
Branches chef Jaime Fierros and visiting chef Chuck Tomney really pulled out all the stops for a grateful group. Being the first experience with beer for many of the attendees, I think they were a bit skeptical that the beers would match up to the array of flavors in the dishes. But I believe everyone had a good time and enjoyed tasting some new flavors.
I'm sure we'll be seeing more of these presented at Branches in the future so check out www.branchesnj.com for events, facilities and catering capabilities.