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A Widmer beer dinner: 4 beers, 4 courses, $40

Four courses, four Widmer Brothers beers, $40.

Lobster hot dog

Buffalo chicken wing cakes

It was an irresistible deal: the latest monthly themed drinking and dining event at The Good Life gastro pub in Long Island’s Massapequa Park. The kitchen showed flair with the inventive fare served to an Aug. 14 sell-out crowd over 2 1/2 hours while Jeremy Kieffer, a brewery representative of the Portland, Ore.-based Craft Brew Alliance introduced each of the four unusual Widmer beers that were served on draft.

The Craft Brew Alliance is an amalgam of Widmer, Red Hook Ale Brewery, Kona Brewing and Goose Island that is publicly traded and almost a third owned by Anheuser-Busch Interbev. The beers are sold through Budweiser distributors.

Marionberry Hibiscus Gose

Shaddock IPA

Up next was the misnamed Widmer W’12 Dark Saison. More of an Abbey-style single with its amber hue, candy-sugar notes and fruity esters than a Belgian farmhouse ale, Kieffer suggested that marketers and brewers weren’t quite on the same page. Still, a nice beer. And a good foil for our next course, a meatloaf with added Gruyere cheese and wild mushrooms, a tomato-molasses glaze and crunchy deep-fried pearl onions.

W12 Dark Saison

Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout

For round two, we received Widmer Shaddock IPA, a limited release brew with a powerful grapefruit nose, the result of a blend of alchemy and citra hops as well as grapefruit peel. It’s named for the sea captain who introduce grapefruit to the West Indies. Big-time bitter and a sourish finish, it needed more malt for balance. Even so, it paired nicely with The Good Life’s reconstructed Buffalo chicken wings, in which wings were braised, the meat deboned and shredded, blended with hot sauce and served with blue cheese foam, watermelon, carrots and celery.  A delight.

Fried bread pudding


Alas, the grand finale was not so grand. Our beer, Widmer Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout 12 was alcoholic (9.3% abv) and as bitter as Turkish coffee so that whatever raspberry flavor might have been there was obscured. Alas, dessert, fried bread pudding, read better on the menu that it tasted. Crusted with crushed almonds and cornflake crumbs and served with thin slices of grilled peaches and a dash of chocolate ganache, it consisted of dry triangles resembling French toast. Not enough sweetness here, and certainly not enough to balance the bitterness of the beer.

Be that as it may, Good Life owners Peter Mangouranes and Paul and Anthony Oliva and their staff get an A for effort and their inventiveness.  I can’t wait till next month, when the Good Life dinner will feature the beers of Bavaria’s Weihenstephan, including some previously never available beers brewed by students at the nearby Weihenstephan Science Center at the Technical University of Munich. Hey Pete, please hold a seat for me!

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Inventive fare, Belgian brews at a beer dinner at Long Island’s The Good Life

I’ve been to many a beer dinner over the years, but never to one of the monthly soirees at Long Island’s The Good Life, which are well-regarded among beer aficionados on Long Island and typically sell out well in advance.

I was overjoyed at the opportunity to attend one recently. Though I’ve enjoyed many a fine beer and pimped up pub grub at The Good Life, a comfortable gastro pub in Massapequa Park with 24 taps and 65 bottled beers, but never before could I secure a seating at one of these monthly themed dinners.

The theme for this dinner was Belgian beer, specifically, four of the many imported by Middleton, MA-based Global Beer Network.

A near-sellout crowd filled the pub’s private dining room as The Good Life’s staff efficiently delivered trays of each beer and each of the four eclectic dinner courses.  The flat-panel TVs, ordinarily filled with sports, showed a video of our beers for the night and Dan Leeman, the importer’s Mid-Atlantic sales director, offered a commentary on each of the brews. Meanwhile, host Peter Mangouranes popped over to my table as each course was delivered to explain its makeup.

Moules pasta and Bavik Pilsner

The foods, complex and inventive, were mostly delicious and the beers quite good with one exception. The matches, however, didn’t always seem felicitous.

We started with what was called moules frites, but not the traditionally beer-stewed mollusks and fried taters. The mussels were incorporated into ribbons of pasta, sauced with a potato cream and garnished with corn kernels, chives and crispy potatoes. I found one whole mussel in the dish and the crispy spuds escaped me.  Though tasty, the potato cream turned the dish into a gloppy affair.  A resiny, unpasteurized Bavik Pilsner, better than most Euro-lagers, served as a fine palate cleanser.

Pressed duck sandwich and Cherish Kriek

Next up was the evening’s best dish, a pressed duck sandwich, essentially a grilled cheese sandwich made with duck confit, brie, truffle aioli, arugula and a accompaniment of sliced roasted potatoes. To wash it down, we were served Cherish Kriek, a cherry-flavored Lambic from Browerij Van Steenberger NV whose taste suggested a cherry Tootsie Roll lollypop and reminded me more of cherry soda. This rich sandwich cried out for a more acidic brew, but the Cherish had just a hint of sour in its finish.

Colorado lamb chop, French lentils and Guulden Drak 9000

The meat course, a juicy, rare, well-trimmed Colorado lamb chop, was accompanied by a mélange of French lentils, preserved lemon and charred tomato gastrique. Alas, the brew accompanying this — Gulden Draak 9000 with 10.7 percent alcohol — tasted better alone and turned amazingly complex as it warmed up, long after my last bite of lamb. This richly flavored, fruity beer, a deep-gold quadruple from Steenberger, Leeman explained, gets a dose of caramelized candy sugar in the fermenter.

To finish, a plate filled with sweets and an equally sweet brew, Petrus Dubbel Bruin, from Browerij Bavik. The beer, made in part with Petrus Ale aged in Calvados casks, was reddish brown, rich and

Dessert: chocolate cupcake, blackberry semifreddo and Petrus Dubbel Bruin.

brimming with chocolate notes. No other dessert was necessary, but Mangouranes was in overkill mode with a Belgian chocolate, raspberry filled cupcake topped with buttermilk frosting. Also on the plate, blackberry semifreddo, a cross between a pudding and ice cream.

Despite a few missteps, you have to give The Good Life credit for putting on an adventurous evening and offering its patrons quite a deal for just $40. I’m hoping Mangouranes has room for me at future dinners.



Filed under Taps - Beer