Recently we hosted a Wisconsin craft brewing tour group, that stopped at Red Eye Brewing Company in Wausau, WI for a very special beer and food pairing lunch.
Let’s just start out by saying that the gang at Red Eye absolutely exceeded all of our wildest expectations for this experience. You know how when you first meet someone who has a high level of excitement and enthusiasm for their work? You can tell within just a few minutes or so that the person has great passion for what they do. Passion is definitely a good word that describes what is going on at Red Eye.
One of our greatest desires with our “Microbrews & Other Tastes of Wisconsin Tour” was to have a special beer and food pairing experience. After our first visit to check out Red Eye, we knew we found the perfect place for this. Chefs David Lorio and Beth Hinner (pictured at right with Pat Cherek) embraced our idea for the pairings for our group. Based on feedback from everyone, they created a truly memorable dining experience.
The chefs designed a 5 course menu that paired up a unique hand crafted beer with complementary artisanal food. Red Eye focuses on the freshest ingredients, locally sourced whenever possible. The world class beers are brewed by award winning brewmaster Kevin Eichelberger. For each course the food was described by either David or Beth and the beer description was given by Pat.
So let’s take a look at the pairings! While we are not food critics, we’ll do our best to describe in words what is really better off being tasted.
First up we have Bloom, a Belgian wheat beer paired with Fresh Catch Ceviche in a shot glass. It was a perfect compliment of the refreshing citrus flavors in the beer with the bracing acidity of the ceviche – it very quickly disappeared from everyone’s plate. What a great start!
For our second course, Chef Beth prepared a Goat Cheese and Raisin Compote on Filo. The raisins were lovingly bathed overnight in Scarlet 7, a Belgian Dubbel that was also the beer we tasted with this dish. We will never look at a raisin the same way again, they were beautifully transformed and taken to a whole new level. The simplicity of this creation really hides the subtle complexity of the flavors that came through. Absolutely delicious.
Now it was time for some soup. How about Shrimp Bisque and Thrust, an American style Pale Ale? The soup had tremendous depth of flavor and a pleasant biting edge to it. The hoppy bitterness of the beer, softened up a bit as it not only complimented the soup, but had to compete with the soup for the attention of your tongue. It was a good competition and both the soup and the beer won!
Now it is time for the main course. A couple of weeks before our visit, Red Eye had just released Smolder a Marzen Rauchbier . Once upon a time, all beer malt probably had a smoky quality from the wood that would have been used to fire the kiln, but eventually they found ways to dry malt in a smoke free manner and called it progress. In the northern Bavarian town of Bamberg there is still a pocket of old styled Rauchbier being brewed, but for this beer experience we don’t have to go to Germany, as brewmaster Kevin created the flavors for us right here in Wausau. What could possibly pair better with Smolder beer, than smoked pork ribs? Really only one thing, Smolder with David’s Red Eye smoked pork ribs with jalapeno corn bread on the side. Now you would certainly not describe Red Eye as a rib joint, but here is a typical comment from folks on the tour – “Best ribs I’ve ever had”. The meat was moist, flavorful and oh so wonderfully tender, and yes they actually were the best ribs we ever had.
Still hungry? It’s time for dessert! Now beer is not often thought of as the perfect drink to go with dessert. It may be true that not every beer pairs well with dessert, but if you happen to have a great stout handy, bring on the chocolate! This is exactly what Chef Beth did for our group, she created a chocolate cupped coffee mousse and paired it with Veruca Milk Stout. There are great coffee notes in this stout. Milk Stouts are created by adding lactose which is an unfermentable sugar derived from milk. In the hands of a great brewmaster the addition provides wonderfully mild sweetness and a fuller body to the beer. The chocolate mousse was creamy, sweet and oh so divine. Several of the guests asked Beth if they could get her recipe.
It was a great meal, great beers and gourmet food, transformed into a really unique experience by eating it with a view of the brew tanks on one side and the open concept kitchen on the other. Everything was seamlessly woven together by beer descriptions from Pat and Food descriptions from David and Beth. We weren’t done yet, but the group broke into applause to show their enthusiastic appreciation.
The food was all gone, but it was time for a tour of the brewing area, and then afterwards some time to relax at the bar before we have to head out.
Pat explains the brewing process and what makes Red Eye and their craft beers unique.
We will need to make a return trip for when these barrel aged brews are released! I know I saw an Imperial Stout there.
OK I think by now you get the idea that we really loved our beer and food pairing at Red Eye – just amazing. For our 3 day tour, it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for everyone. We have not scheduled the next tour yet, but if you want to get on the list to be notified you can sign-up at www.getawaybeer.com and if you like us on Facebook, you’ll also be one of the first to know – www.facebook.com/getawaybeer.
We’d like to reveal one secret about Red Eye, that you may not know. If you are in Wausau with us on a beer/food experience or go to visit on your own, about 5 minutes away from Red Eye is Bull Falls Brewery. In a future blog, we’ll let you know why they are also worth a visit.