Brewer Dinners at Evergreen restaurant offer elevated experience

Wendy Lautner/Sierra Sun Beer braised Berkshire pork belly, wild mushroom barley risotto served with the Belgian Blonde.

An elevated, lively mood characterizes the Evergreen Brewer Dinner. Groups of nicely dressed guys, couples, families and co-workers mingle as hosts, hostesses and servers scurry around the room passing plates of appetizers. Guests take a seat at their tables before dinner begins. From almost the beginning of the night to the end, the entire experience is a delicious blur of never-ending food, beverage and conversation.

Evergreen, a casual dining restaurant in Tahoe City, hosted its inaugural Brewer Dinner Friday, Jan. 30. The popular event nearly sold out the first time around. “I think Brewer Dinners are just starting to catch on,” said Evergreen Owner/Chef David Lutz. “They’re a lot of fun. Wines have pairings that classically work with them, but pairing food with beer you’ll often get more surprises.”

As a rule, expect to eat and drink more at a Brewer Dinner. Expect to see more guys than girls at a Brewer Dinner, to learn something andto have a lot of fun (and, if you’re not careful, a hangover).

The charm of the Brewer Dinner is the brewmaster and chef make multiple guest appearances and “mini-lectures” throughout the evening. This not only keeps the party progressing further, it’s also quite interesting. Derek Smith, Black Diamond Brewmaster introduced himself as a man who takes his beer seriously and as a result, so everyone else took the beer seriously too ” it was seriously good!

He served a Hefeweizen, brewed with two different yeast strains, and the Belgian Blond, the brewery’s most popular beer and one that Evergreen keeps on tap yearround, to start the evening. Next came the interesting Fresh Hop IPA, which boasted a fresh, piney sweetness and organically grown ingredients. The Winter Ale was served with the beef and the Saison, a refreshing brew conceived in the West Belgian region, paired with dessert.

The fun part about going to a pairing dinner is that certain foods actually do taste better with certain brews. Lutz stepped up to the challenge and knocked the evening out of the park with every single one of the four courses, plus the appetizers. With the Fresh Hop IPA, Lutz served seared lightly smoked Chinook salmon, cucumber and radish with grain mustard creme fraiche. The salmon, which Lutz said he selected to compliment the Chinook hops used to brew the IPA, was perfectly prepared. The slightly pickled cucumber and radish salad beautifully offset the strong hoppy taste of the brew.

For the third course, Lutz once again took a bold step with something different. With the winter ale, he served herb roasted Angus beef New York strip, broccoli and roasted peanut puree. The roasted peanut puree certainly seemed a wild card (what happened to the mashed potatoes?), but Lutz defended the pairing by saying he was “playing off the beer and peanuts” that people eat at baseball games. Well, it was a home run for Lutz and everyone at dinner. The peanut puree matched the beer perfectly and actually (to my palate anyway) gave the beer a certain Root Beer sweetness. I lapped it up like it was soda and ordered another.

But certainly the grand slam of the evening was the dessert pairing. Beer with cheesecake? Have you ever? The diners were timid, but with one bite of citrus cheesecake and a swig of the refreshing Saison brew, everyone was sold. In fact, when writing this story I found notes written in a different penmanship than my own on the notebook. The scrawl said, “Beer with dessert is crazy! Crazy like a fox! Crazy good!” And I think that actually says it all.

$60 per person without tax and tip. That’s at least five pints of beer, nearly unlimited appetizers and four courses for $60.

Daily 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Dinner Tuesdays-Sunday 5 to 9 p.m.

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