If there's a better way to spend an evening than eating superb food and drinking Stone beer, I really don't want to know about it.
On April 7, Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro at Palazzo hosted a beer pairing dinner, with each course accompanied by a different Stone product. For those of you who have never tried Stone, I must admonish you: Hie thee to the nearest Total Wine now. These beers are practically food groups in and of themselves; No light beers in this group. But if you are a light-beer drinker, you probably aren't reading this anyway.
A few Stone products—Russian Imperial Stout and Ruination Ale—are among the best beers I've ever had in my 30-some years of imbibing. I didn't know it was possible for a drink to give taste buds impure thoughts, but I was mistaken. So you can imagine my expectations going into this dinner.
Turns out the great expectations were well deserved. This is a must experience for a beer lover, a food lover ... hell, even just lovers.
I had the pleasure of being seated with two of Stone's bigwigs—head brewer and production manager Mitch Steele and Southwest regional regional brewery representative Ed Gebler—as well as Big Dog Brewery's brewmaster Dave Otto, Bonanza Beverage Company's on premise supervisor Greg Breedlove and Michael Pfohl, director of the Nevada Brewer's Guild. I shudder to think of the magnitude of collective beer knowledge at that table.
Our first course was a hydroponic bibb lettuce salad with dungeness crab and orange tarragon dressing, served with Stone's Levitation Ale. It was a pleasant start to the evening, the sweetness of the salad balancing well with Levitation's always-smooth aftertaste.
I was raised to believe you should have cheese with wine, but after having the second course—cave-aged Marisa from La Valle, Wisconsin, accompanied by Stone IPA—I'm seriously rethinking that ideology. For starters, the Marisa was an ambitious, complex cheese that demanded your attention, easily one of the most flavorful cheeses I've ever tasted. But the IPA's crispness put it over the top. Can I go back to cheddar? We'll see.
Our "intermezzo," or the break in the meal, was actually a highlight of its own—Arrogant Bastard Ale paired with pretzel balls and spicy dijon mustard. The pretzels were warm and extremely chewy, and despite the abundance of carbs in this section of the meal, I couldn't stop eating them. I pleaded with our waiter for just one more helping, and he obliged. Yeah, they disappeared too, as did the Arrogant Bastard.
Our third course was a flat iron steak with housemade french fries, foie gras buttered haricot vert sachet and maitre d' butter. The pairing was Oaked Arrogant Bastard, a slightly darker version of Stone's classic. As this was the heart of the meal, Stone's OAB was the perfect complement. It actually has the feel of a spirit. I almost felt like I was enjoying a scotch with my steak. As my knife cut through my steak like scissors through silk, the OAB was creating a nice, warm feeling in my gut. I suddenly felt like I was sitting in my living room, comfy on the couch. I didn't want this course to end.
Luckily, the best pairing was yet to come. Stone had originally planned to pair dessert with its Imperial Russian Stout—almost a dessert in itself—but supply problems led to the Smoked Porter being used instead. As much as I love Stone's Russian Stout, I can scarcely imagine it being better than the Porter with this particular dessert, an espresso and dark chocolate torte with raspberry coulis. If you have an opportunity to pair these, it's highly recommended. After taking a significant bite of the torte, my first sip of Porter had me looking the table, nodding and smiling. It's as if the Porter creates an extension of the torte's immense chocolate flavor. The best way I can put it? The torte is the main section of the book; the Porter is the last page with the surprise ending.
Just an incredible experience. If you want to follow Stone's upcoming beer pairings in this area, start following Gebler on Twitter @hophead_ed_sbc, or join Stone's Facebook page. Trust me, this is an experience you want to have. Soon.