TRAVERSE CITY — Craft Beer enthusiasts flocked to 7 Monks Taproom on Tuesday night for a highly anticipated beer dinner featuring an outstanding pair of breweries.

New Belgium Brewing Company has long been a big name in the craft beer scene and finally became available in Michigan last August. Upon their arrival the Colorado brewery teamed up with Grand Rapids-based Brewery Vivant, which over the last few years has become well known for its love of the tradition and artistic approach of the Belgian and French styles of beers.

We had the privilege of being joined by New Belgium’s Mike Lasher and Brewery Vivant’s Rick Muschiana, who offered their take on each of the beers throughout the evening.

The first course to the table was a Wild Mushroom and Leelanau Fromage Blanc Tartlette served with Brewery Vivant’s Contemplation. The tartlette was a delicious start to the evening and the Contemplation was the perfect blend of Michigan grown hops and Michigan honey.  A well-balanced seasonal beer that I will be sure to stock up on before it runs out.

Second up was New Belgium’s new Lips of Faith beer, Pluot (Hook up a plum with an apricot and they’ll make you a pluot). The deep dark fruit tones paired perfectly with a goat cheese salad with red wine poached asparagus tips, crispy spec, tossed with balsamic and crowned with a Moomer’s Peach Riesling Ice Cream that offered a different yet delightful addition to the salad. This dish was packed with rich flavors that brought out and accentuated the deep tones of this tart and fruity ale.

The third course featured sauteed skate with caviar butter, steamed baby kale, and potato nicoise served alongside Brewery Vivant’s Big Red Coq. The Hoppy Belgo-American Red Ale paired great with the mild flavors found in this course and offered a great change of flavor mid way through the dinner. Big Red Coq started out as a specialty offering and quickly became one of Brewery Vivant’s best selling beers, and according to Rick Muschiana, it will now be offered as a year round staple.

The main course for the evening was seared quail over an asparagus cream with cajun cornmeal fried leeks, paired with New Belgium’s Lafolie. This Flemish Sour Brown Ale is fermented in stainless, then transferred to barrels for 1-4 years of aging, and finally blended to taste. Looking around the room it seemed that a sour ale of this magnitude was a new flavor profile to some, but based on the smiles it was well accepted. The tart finish paired excellent with the quail and made this one of the best courses of the night in my opinion.

“We were very pleased with the attendance of this dinner,” said 7 Monks General Manager Jason Kasdorf. “We love the relationship between these breweries and are proud to have an opportunity to work with them.”

It wouldn’t be a dinner without dessert, and this one concluded with a flavor packed Strawberry Napoleon featuring layered fresh Michigan Strawberries, Basil Mascarpone, Ancho Dark Ganache and Gunpowder Spongecake. This was paired with two features for the evening; Escoffier and Biere de Garde, both collaboration brews from New Belgium and Brewery Vivant. Escoffier was brewed at the Grand Rapids brewery, while Biere de Garde was brewed in Fort Collins, CO. Both beers brought outstanding complexity and awesome drinkability.

The ambiance and hospitality of 7 Monks offered a comfortable and intimate setting for the evening which allowed these pairings to be experienced at their finest. The staff of both breweries provided a wealth of knowledge and an occasional anecdote about the beers we experienced. The night was an example of the camaraderie and fellowship of the craft beer industry that we’ve come to know and love.

“A lot of people didn’t get why we were pairing up in the beginning [New Belgium and Brewery Vivant], the big and the little, but to us it was a perfect relationship and it’s great to get together as a team and make great beer,” said Lasher. “I couldn’t think of a better partnership.”