Spring Beer Dinner at TAPS

Presented by Brewmaster Dave Huls & Executive Chef Manny Gonzalez

By Andrea Machuca

“Au Printemps” (in spring), a cherimoya saison is best – especially one brewed by the hands of great brewers. Funky farmhouse saisons are quickly becoming a choice style of beer, whether it be brewed with rose hips (Baudelaire by Jolly Pumpkin), Motueka hops (Standard Saison by Prairie Artisan Ales) or Rye (Jezebel by Cellarmaker). Saisons, a style which originated in the Wallonia region of southern Belgium in the 19th century, are unique in that classic saison yeast (Wallonia) gives off earthy, spicy and peppery notes. TAPS cherimoya saison (named as such for its use of the South American cherimoya fruit) is distinct in flavor, providing subtle farmhouse funk, but finishes with a pleasant succulent sweetness attributed by the aforementioned namesake cherimoya fruit.

TAPS Fish House & Brewery

Taps Brew Crew
Taps Brew Crew

I was fortunate to attend this special dinner thanks to hospitality of Kyle Manns. TAPS Fish House & Brewery (known for its cuisine and true-to-style European beers) has added two powerhouse brewers to their team. David Hulus (formerly of Barley Forge) has returned to TAPS to serve as the Director of Brewing Operations, while Kyle Manns (formerly of Bottle Logic) have taken the reigns as Brewery Operations Manager. Exciting things are already happening at TAPS, from a new in-house laboratory to contemporary packaging; from Mezcal barrel aging to expansion of beer styles and new barrel aged variants; from the tried-and-true regular house ales to an aim to produce more Cuvee de Pappy. Attention Beer geeks: are you getting the chills yet?

The Experience

I strolled into Taps eager to taste new beers brewed by Kyle Manns and his team. Kerri, General Manager, greeted me and ensured I was seated and cared for. The artfully crafted dinner which followed was a delicious ode to spring time; Chef Manny and his culinary team delighted the palates of the guests, expertly hitting every flavor point throughout each course. The cuisine was an exciting blend of old and new: classic ingredients and dishes revitalized with the novel vision of a creative culinary team, and punctuated with beer pairings that were always on-point.

The Food

Amuse-Bouche – Caviar & Oysters with Tropical Fruit Mignonette + Smoked Trout Roe

Oysters

The oceanic brine of the oysters highlighted the crisp flavors of the Prohibition Lager; refreshingly smooth, providing an ebb and flow akin to ocean waves on the palette. Ripe carambolas (star fruit) coupled with kiwi berries provided sweet, tart and sour undertones to dish. Smoked trout roe provided a pleasant delicate texture to this bright dish.

Paired with Prohibition Lager – A liquid ode to the Prohibition Era; this lager pours easy with a full head and luminous golden hue. This true-to-style beer finished with inviting crisp notes, a perfect balance of malt, and clean resonance. The pairing was spot on, intertwining clean flavors attributed by the lager and freshness from the oysters topped tropical fruit.

Second Course – Pesto Escargot with Basil, Garlic + Roasted Tomatoes

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Escargot is a tough dish present to some finicky diners, but this escargot was meaty and maintained a gentle balance of flavors – not an easy task (I’ve been on more than one misadventure where I would rather have had the “escar-no”). Carefully nestled into buttery pastry dough, this escargot was presented in a nontraditional way. The pesto complimented the classic french protein with soft herbaceous tones, while the garlic and roasted tomatoes provided depth to the dish.

Paired with Cherimoya Saison – This spice-garden-esque saison starts off with subtle herbaceous notes and malt flavor, all while the recurrent use of cherimoya provides a vegetal earthiness complimenting the pesto drizzled on the escargot.

Third Course – Sweetbreads, Parsnip, Thumbelina Carrots, Asparagus + Meyer Lemon

Sweetbreads

This was my second time indulging in plate of the rich fattiness that is offal. Chef Manny seared the sweetbreads beautifully with the perfect amount of seasoning. The texture was firm-yet-tender and provided a great contrast with its crispy outer layer. Meyer lemon sauce counteracted the fattiness of the sweetbreads by providing a balanced acidity to the dish.

Paired with Belgian Golden Ale – A robust golden ale with a fruity nose and dry finish. This ale not only cleansed the palate, but prepared you for the crisp spring veggies and the richness of the forthcoming rabbit dish.

Fourth Course – Smoked Rabbit, Spring Peas, Baby Artichokes + Charred Onions

Rabbit

Visually, my perception immediately jumped over to the charming bright spring veggies on this beautifully presented dish. However, the true star was the roulade of smoked rabbit. Juicy. Decadent. Umami. This zenith of flavor left nothing to be desired.

Paired with Hog-Tied Amber on Oak (Amber Ale brewed for Lillie’s Q in Brea) –
Sweet caramel notes attributed by caramel malt enhance the smokiness of the rabbit, while the citrusy aromas gently nudge you towards the veggies on the plate. This pairing moderated the experience, dancing your palate back-and-forth between the hearty, savory rabbit and the earthy vegetables.

Dessert – Strawberry Napoleon, Layered Meringue, Strawberry Mousse, Basil + Balsamic Reduction

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Sweet. Acidic. Bright. This Napoleon is nothing close to traditional, with fresh flavors provided by ripe strawberries picked off the vine. Lively flavors of basil dance with fruitiness of the berries picked on a spring day. The balsamic reduction provided a lingering acidity when introduced with sweet notes, tickling the tongue with acid and sugar.

Paired with Cuvee de Pappy – A robust Imperial Russian Stout that is gracefully aged in Pappy Van Winkle Barrels for years. This black beauty has low levels of carbonation, bold notes of espresso, dark chocolate and rich caramel malt flavors, and an oaked-bourbon richness thats irreplaceable. It’s viscosity and deep, complex flavors make you want to curl up by the fireplace and stay in for the night.

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