Beer dinners are heating up restaurant menus all over the state, as foodies recognize that the intricate flavors of craft brews compliment many of our favorite dishes. So when an invitation came my way to attend BeerSocialGR at Derby Station in East Grand Rapids, I jumped at the opportunity.
In what was the second of a quarterly-held event, BeerSocialGR offers guests the ability to sample some of Michigan’s finest beers, while indulging in a variety of small plates. The catch? I, along with the nine other guests, had to tweet about each course as cyber-followers experienced the evening vicariously through our posts and photo uploads.
This was my first visit to Derby Station — but it won’t be my last. As we settled in, we were treated to a session beer to sip on throughout the evening – Arbor’s Ypsi Gypsi Pale Ale (5.3% ABV). Its golden honey color, crisp citrusy-flavor and light bodied flavor made for the perfect brew to weave all the courses together throughout the night.
The official tasting started with Mt. Pleasant Brewing Company’s Crazy Train Black IPA (6.6% ABV). Traditionally not a fan of IPAs, I was impressed with this darker-colored beer which had roasty flavors that tamed the hop tones, and paired perfectly with the warm pieces of cheesy bread that were delivered from the kitchen. We were off to a good start.
The second course brought another MPBC beer — the Train Wreck Ale (8.2% abv). This American amber is brewed with maple syrup and honey, giving it a slight sweetness which balanced well with our loaded potato skins — made with caramelized onions, bacon and cheese. Talk about comfort food (and beer).
In true foodie fashion, we were treated to a palate cleanser — a single homemade tater tot that had my mouth watering as I asked for a to-go order for the drive home!
My favorite course of the evening came next…a pairing that I’ve been dreaming about ever since. The culinary team sent out platters of “Little Mac Sliders” — patties of deep fried mac-n-cheese on a bun, with thousand island dressing and crispy homemade pickles — paired with New Holland Brewing’s Cabin Fever seasonal brown ale (6% ABV). A bite and a swig, swirled around in my mouth was almost more than I could handle, creating an amazing flavor explosion — each one better than the last.
Just as the fourth course was being delivered, a light snowfall began outside.
“It’s snowing! Nature must know Christmas Ale is coming,” tweeted @ParalegalMom.
A finger-licking-good plate of breaded chicken wings from Otto’s farm in Middleville was brought out next — paired with Bell’s Christmas Ale (5.4% ABV) — the winter seasonal from Michigan’s largest brewery. This sessionable beer uses locally-grown malt and 100% Michigan-grown barley, which deliver earth and herbal aromas and flavors, reminiscent of the holidays, without the addition of any spices.
”Digging the stories behind our food and brew,” tweeted @CliffWegner, as the group was informed about how Otto’s raises antibiotic- and growth-hormone-free turkeys which are supplied to many restaurants throughout West Michigan.
All the talk of turkeys had me feeling stuffed, but I had just enough room left for dessert.
In honor of the holidays, the chef prepared a Red Velvet Whoopie Pie — two pieces of red velvet cake hugging bright green filling and paired with Dark Horse Raspberry Ale (5.5% abv) — which, according to a tweet from BeerSocialGR creator @JoshLeo was “fruitydelicous.” This pairing was a match made in beer/dessert heaven! Unlike other heavily fruity beers, this ale is beer first, fruit second, making it easy-drinking and well-balanced. Without question, a very sweet way to end the evening!
@JoelLeo summed up what I think we were all feeling at this point: “It’s snowing, I’m drinking beer, and I’m eating good food. It’s a good night at the Derby Station.”