We kicked off the evening savouring Jaipur (or 'Jaips', as I have been led to believe is the correct name for it 'on the street'). Smoked Nidderdale Trout and Chive Mousse, nestled on a small pastry case, provided some light snackage, giving a little more sweetness to Jaipur's (5.8%abv) wonderfully rounded, soft bitterness. I always find smoked fish a bit tricky to match beer with, and it certainly provided a little inspiration.
Tender-as-you-like-it Asparagus with a Mint Hollandaise and a Poached Egg arrived at our table next, and again the accompanying Wild Swan (3.5%) proved a simple yet effective bedfellow; lower in complexity and strength than Jaipur and working well with the subtle mint notes of the Hollandaise. I'm a fan of Wild Swan; a great quaffer when the weather gets a little warmer.
Chilled Cucumber Soup didn't hit the mark for me; it was over-seasoned and nowhere near cold enough. Luckily, Chiron (5%abv) provided an ample distraction. Again, one of those simple-yet-perfectly-balanced Pale Ales that Thornbridge do so well, it was on excellent form; a slight Orange Zest coming in late to provide a bit of a different angle to the bitterness.
The ace in the pack was undoubtedly the Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Crushed Peas. Served with a scattering of perfectly crisp Skin, sitting on a bed of Mashed Potato and slathered in Honey and Mustard Sauce, it cried out for an excellent beer to go with it. The pork was meltingly tender, and the salty crackling and sweet-yet-piquant sauce worked wonders. Colorado Red (5.9%abv) proved to be the perfect partner for it.
This is a great, great beer. Brewed with Doug Odell, it does a Trans-Atlantic feel about it; Rich Red colour, that trademark US sweetness in the body; all toffee, hard candy and brown sugar, but finished with a really peppery, almost noble hop aroma as opposed to the citrus hop attack you almost expect. The body's not as rich in mouthfeel as you think, and it's incredibly easy to drink. I do feel that Odell's beers - although generally excellent - are moderately 'safe' and a little 'straight down the middle' - and CR is a great little twist on their style, something a little different. Colorado Red and the Pork were made for each other, and it truly hit the spot. I almost don't want to say it; but I'd really like to try CR on Keg, too.
After all that sweetness, a little Lemon Tart freshened things up; only to serve as prelude for the main dessert: Bitter Chocolate Mousse served with a Honey Biscuit, and washed down with Bracia (9%abv). I say 'washed down' but that's not entirely accurate; one doesn't 'wash down' Bracia. The chocolate mousse served only to enhance the rich, bitter chocolate notes of the beer, and the Honey Biscuit just put a sweet edge to that slightly smoked, slightly phenolic note that it carries. Glass-coatingly thick, Bracia put a rich, decadent end on the evening. I certainly slept well last night, and that's high praise indeed.
Thanks to all involved for a great evening.