Amazing beer dinner with Summit Brewing

March 13, 2011

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One of my favorite breweries, Summit, sponsored a fancy dinner at Bank Restaurant downtown last night. I’ve seen the notices about previous beer dinners. This time, the restaurant was along the linear mile and three quarters between my office and my home, and on a Friday. The announcement said that Summit founder Mark Stutrud would be there to host it. I eagerly anticipated adding to my collection of photos of me with the owners of my favorite breweries. What a perfect way to end the work week!

I made my reservation for one. When I arrived at the restaurant my worst suspicion was confirmed. I wouldn’t get to sit at a small, corner table by myself reveling in good beer and good food. No, I would have to join a large, round table with a bunch of people I didn’t know, which would undoubtedly involve talking to them. I sighed and accepted the first beer, Summit’s delicious India Pale Ale.

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At this point, participants were standing around on the fringes of the seating area and bar. I had ended up between two groups, people who were obviously associated with the brewery, and civilians. Thankfully, the first of the hors d’oeuvres came around, the smoked kielbasa, red beet horseradish, and onion jam, daintily served on a funny spoon, followed by an oyster shooter, and fancy popcorn.

At this time, I should probably disclaim my overuse of the word fancy in this report.

A Summit Maibock, as well as Mark Stutrud, also came around during the hors d’oeuvres, and I made what was probably a bit of a gaffe by asking for his thoughts on the Minnesota liquor law changes that Surly Brewing is advocating. I got an earful of a different perspective. What a way to make a first impression on a person whose beer you love! Well, I’ve never claimed to be good at small talk.

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Mark moved on, and I became aware that the brewery group was wondering about facts related to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. I spend half my workday listening to world news, so I felt compelled to interject what I knew. I was only trying to be helpful. I ended up talking for a few minutes to Sue and Carrie.

The restaurant guy who was managing things indicated that it was time to have a seat for dinner. Sue didn’t hesitate to invite me to join their table which I gratefully did, and that was the action that ensured my having the best time I’ve in a while.

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The delicious food arrived (as usual, my photographic documentation was thwarted by very low lighting). First was a fantastic scallop with bacon and some fancy, dribbled sauces. Mine was gigantic compared to the others which didn’t displease me, because I love scallops! It was served with Summit’s flagship Extra Pale Ale. That is hands down one of my favorite ever beers. Then came a fancy fried chicken puck (referring only to the shape, not the quality) with, among other things, Pop Rocks as part of the garnish, and served with cornbread and Maibock. The “main” course was a Red Ale braised lamb shank with barley and gravy, served with—you guessed it—Red Ale. For dessert, it was an oatmeal baking powder “coffee cake” served with ice cream made with Summit Porter and served with the same.

I so thank Sue and Carrie for being nice to me. You all know I would have been just fine lurking on the fringes keeping to myself. But it ended up being such a blast. Everyone around the table (clockwise from my left: Shawn (J.J. Taylor Distributing), Patty, Rollie, Mark, Sue, Carey, Katie, Tom (COO), and Dan) managed to engage me in conversation at least once. I think Shawn the distributor was getting annoyed with me because all the beers I was saying I liked weren’t ones he distributes, except for New Belgium Ranger IPA, one of my current favorites. I completely had a brain freeze about remembering how much I love Deschutes Hop Henge.

Anyway, I eventually figured out that Sue is Mark’s wife. I got my photo with Mark, and what I love about it is that we look like we’ve been friends forever. Well, I have been friends with his EPA for a long time. Oh! And Sue apparently went to highschool with Tony Magee, owner of Lagunitas and former sponser of my Monday bowling team. They were all engaging, but I could kind of check out when I needed to.

I think I will definitely try to go to the next Summit dinner, whenever that is.

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