Date Night With 2 Amazing Breweries And A Sticky Waterfowl

As anybody who knows us, or has read this blog for awhile knows, Sara & I have become a couple of ‘wear it proudly’ beer snobs. It’s really not our fault, though – blame the microbreweries for making such fantastic beers that we can never go back to the In-Bev pisswater. The first beer to start it off was a Porter at Moon River Brewing Company in Savannah, Georgia. So really, if there’s anywhere to point the finger, there you have it. After that, we started tasting dark beers from all different breweries – mostly from bottled craft beers sold at the local wine store. We were hooked and there was no turning back. The real issue we have with this, though is that one of the first breweries we fell in love with was Founder’s. I splurged and bought a 4 pack of Backwoods Bastard, a six of their Porter and a six of their Scotch Ale named Dirty Bastard. Now, you might say “but Bryan, those are fantastic beers. Where is the issue?” and I would agree with you, but this was one of my first big purchases of craft beer and the bar was set HIGH from there on out. It’s hard for us to even drink a craft beer that most people would consider a damn good beer without being too critical of it. There are very few breweries that we’ve found that can compete with their standard.

On that front, here’s my list: Three Floyds,  Revolution Brewing Company in Chicago, Lagunitas, Hoppin’ Frog, New Holland and Fathead’s right here in the Cleveland area. From this list, I would put the top three as #1 – Revolution, #2 – Fathead’s & #3 – Founder’s and truthfully, that’s because we’ve been to the Founder’s brew pub and the food leaves something to be desired (At least when we went there) and I’m sure that’s only because they don’t make their own food – it’s a subcontracted sub sandwich/deli counter. ****PSSSST! I’m know you guys can make some great food, so how about you get on that, alright?****

With that being said, Sara & I were ecstatic to find out that Fathead’s and Founder’s were doing a collaboration dinner right here at the North Olmsted Fathead’s location (they recently opened one in Pittsburgh from what I hear). I was losing my shit like a Catholic school girl with backstage passes to a {insert random mainstream douchebag band here} concert. There was no way we could miss this. We look at the menu they had planned and Sara looks me in the eye and tells me that I had better take her to that fucking dinner or she was going to stab me in the eye while I sleep – now get your ass up and get me my tickets, bitch! Or at least, that’s what I gathered she wanted to say, but instead it came out something like “That’s what I want for my birthday, baby. You think we can do it?” Of course, I’m not one to argue a night of amazing food and equally fantastic specialty beers, so I threw caution to the wind, got my ass up and put it on the card.

So, of course, we get there a little later than we wanted to – abut 6:10 and the dinner doesn’t start until 6:30. At the host stand, we let the girl know we’re here for the dinner and she asks me for the receipt. Immediately, my brain goes into melt-down “The guy told me I wouldn’t need my receipt. He said once my name is on the list, I’m good”. “Do you remember who that was?” “No, not really. I can maybe point him out”. Then she tells me that there is some mixed communication and one manager’s saying one thing, while the other is saying something else, so my name is on the list and don’t worry about it.

Now I can breathe.

We stop off at the bar to grab a ‘pre-game’ beer since we still had about 20 minutes. We go over to the reserved dinner area and pick our seats. The table with the couple sitting alone that looked like they may have had about 8 to 10 years on us. We definitely didn’t want to sit at the table filled with fat, hairy hipster wannabes or the table with the girl’s night feel to it. nope, this one was just right. As soon as we sit down, a waitress comes over and drops off our first beer – Fathead’s Zeus Juice – a potent Belgian & what instantly became my favorite Belgian to date – not very skinny like you expect, very flavorful. Now we’re double-fisting it right out of the gate. We introduce ourselves to our new cohorts and they do the same. Ed & Carolyn. They were a nice couple – alot like I imagine we might be not too far down the road. We talk beer and restaurants for a little while and the next couple sits down – Mike & Gene, Also nice people, but the table is a little long, making it hard to talk much with them.

Now, the brewing crew and the food staff introduce themselves, give a little rundown of the collaboration, how some of the food was inspired and serve us the First Bite of this 6-course meal: the tuna poke seasoned with citrus & avocado and garnished with wonton chips. This was coupled with the Fathead’s Sunshine Daydream IPA. Mind you, I have never eaten raw fish before, so when Sara mentioned something about sushi, I was kinda freaking out. I didn’t think I could take the texture of it. I was wrong. Way wrong. It was delicious. And the texture was more like a rare steak than the rubbery mess that I had imagined in my head. The beer was awesome, too. One of the better IPA’s that I have tasted. I wouldn’t put it in the same category as alot of the IPA’s out there because it’s toned down on the bittering hops and cranked up on the citrus and floral hops – very well balanced and smooth. The perfect pairing for the tuna.

Next up, the salad. Now, mind you, I’m not a guy who’s too big on salad. Yes, I have been eating them more often lately to control my calorie intake, but for the most part, I’m not one to go looking for a ‘good salad’ to eat. That being said, this was an amazing salad. It was a bed of mixed greens with sundried tart Michigan cherries, Saga bleu cheese, shaved red onion and cashews. It was served with Founder’s Cerise Ale. What’s cool is that they used the same cherries for the salad that they use to brew the Cerise and when I would take a forkful with each piece of the salad on it together and then wash it down with the beer, it made me wanna go make love to a cherry tree. Not really – that would hurt. Like, alot.

What the fuck? We’re only on the appetizer? Yep. This is one I was waiting for – the lobster pot pie with truffles and Ohio sweet corn served with Fathead’s Caveman Keller Weisen. Not like any pot pie I’ve ever had. They didn’t skimp on the lobster, either. Everyone at the table was pulling half-claw sized chunks out of the stew and the fact that they used a large, flaky biscuit instead of the usual heavy pot pie crust was the right call. Everyone was already starting to feel full and we didn’t even have the entree yet.

And speaking of the star of the show, they set it down on the table and instantly any feelings of being full slip away. Maple glazed duck breast with sage risotto and butter poached leeks. The chef introduced this one and explained the inspiration -drumroll, please   ……………breakfast! Wait, what? Yep – Maple as in syrup, sage as in sausage seasoning and of course, butter. Pure genius. The duck was cooked perfectly tender, the risotto was seasoned a little on the heavy side -which was fantastic in my opinion and the leeks were tasty by themselves, but even better when taking a bite of the duck with it. This was served with Fathead’s Incubus Maple Belgian Triple Ale – do I really have to go into detail on how ridiculously delicious a beer this is? Absolutely one of the top ‘must drink’ beers for any craft brew lover.

Finally, a bit of a break from this assault on my stomach – the cheese dish. I swear, I was starting to feel like the food critic from that Monty Python flick The Life Of Brian at this point. There was a very rich and pungent bleu cheese which was too strong for my taste, some other cheese that didn’t impress me much and an amazing ash cheese. It reminded me  somewhat of a Havarti with how creamy it was, but the flavor was very deep and warm. This coupled with Founder’s Red’s Rye Pale Ale was the perfect segway to desert.

And what would be better for desert than to continue the breakfast theme with a hazelnut chocolate belgian waffle topped with vanilla ice cream, powdered sugar and coffee syrup? I don’t know, but if you know the answer, it’s too late because I already call this perfect. They coupled this with a Founder’s small batch beer that they call their Frangelic Mountain Brown. This was also a strong beer. It was actually deceptively strong. There was huge amount of rich flavor, but not much of the alcohol aftertaste that you would expect from a beer touting a 10% ABV. I’m really upset that we don’t have this one available to us around here. It would be nice to have a Frangelic in front of the fireplace with Sara on a chilly November night. Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to wait – or plan a trip up to Grand Rapids one weekend when we don’t have the kids – oh, wait, that’s like never, so I guess we’ll just have to wait -insert frowning emoticon here.

At the end of the dinner, Ed and Carol didn’t stay much longer and we were able to spend some time talking with Mike and Gene – which was really nice. What’s really ridiculous , though is that there were 2 empty seats at our table the entire time. Those people really fucked up. I almost hope they were in some seriously dramatic situation or a car accident or something because missing that dinner for any other reason is just stupid.

We all walked over to the bar together & Mike filled his growler. We said our goodbyes and Sara & I grabbed another drink to sit and talk. She got the Zeus Juice and I got the Incubus (they didn’t have any Frangelic on tap – that was only for the dinner) and we sat and talked and felt inspired and just spent a little more time enjoying our time together before heading back home. It was a perfect evening on so many levels and it really makes me feel like I can do no wrong with a wife that wants to spend a night like that with me for her birthday.

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