In Jacksonville, Kickback’s is synonymous with great beer. With 84 taps an owner and staff passionate about beer and crowds of fans, how could it be anything else? So, when you are looking for a great beer dinner Kickback’s is the place to go. The most recent dinner hosted at this northeast Florida beer mecca was last Monday and featured the beers of the granddaddy of all craft breweries, Sierra Nevada.
As the crowd filtered in, it was apparent that this would be a dinner to remember. The place mats listed the eight food courses to be served as well as the 27 – yes, you read the right – beers to be featured throughout the evening. Among the beers to be tasted were several that have never before been available in Jacksonville along with brews created by budding brewers at Sierra Nevada’s beer education program called Beer Camp.
In between courses Sierra Nevada brewery representatives Dave Kemper and Tom Blanch spoke regarding the beers and the brewery. Kickback’s owner Steve Flores also entertained the crowd with information on his expansion plans. The project, set to break-ground in May of 2012, is to include a new restaurant next door to the existing one, a Belgian beer cellar, storage catacombs, another 100 plus taps and a new menu.
As always, the beer dinner started out with an interesting Reception offering. This time it was Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale. But, while the brew is always special, the offering at the dinner was even more exciting since it was a cask ale. In the tasting glass the brew is an orange-gold in color with a nose that is full of pine and a touch of citrus. Being a cask, the carbonation was low but the flavor still stood tall with a solid malt backbone to greet the bright and herbaceous fresh hop notes. This is a delicious and wonderful winter seasonal that would be perfect for sipping on a cold winter evening curled up in front of a fireplace full of crackling logs.
The first course, parsnip puree presented in a hollowed out Granny Smith apple bowl with prosciutto and spiced pumpkin seeds, was served with Celebration 2011 and 2009. The contrasts between the beers and the dish really brought out the difference in the brews as the older version of Celebration was considerably more mellow, but still with a well-rounded, classic flavor.
Between courses, the first Intermezzo offering was one of my favorites; Kellerweis Hefeweizen. Back in April, I wrote about this beer after tasting it at a different beer dinner. I said:
“Kellerweis is unique in that it is brewed in the traditional Bavarian style of open fermentation – meaning that instead of being sealed the fermentation tanks are open at the top. This technique imparts depth and flavor in the beer not found in many American wheats. The brew pours a hazy yellow with a good frothy head and smells of clove and banana. The taste is citrusy, as are most wheats, but this one also had a touch of apple to me.”
My assessment still holds true. This is a refreshing brew that I would merrily drink all day long or until I could no longer see straight. A truly wonderful brew.
The second course consisted of beer braised pork belly with chestnut parmentier, roasted brussels sprout salad and blood orange sections. This amazing dish was served with the equally amazing Northern Hemisphere Harvest Wet Hop Ale and Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale. Both beers were wonderful and tasty as a wet hop beer normally is, but these two brews are special in several ways. Northern Hemisphere is the beer that started the annual wet hop craze in North America. It is brewed with Cascade and Centennial hops from the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington. These hops are harvested and shipped as “wet,” un-dried hops—the same day they are picked—to the brewery in Chico where brewers eagerly wait to get them into the brew kettle while their oils and resins are still at their peak. The Estate Homegrown Ale is created with hops grown in Sierra Nevada’s own lands.
The next Intermezzo offering consisted of two brews created in conjunction with Cistercian Abbey of New Clairvaux, to benefit the monks’ efforts to rebuild a 12th century, early-gothic Cistercian chapter house a few miles north of Sierra Nevada’s home in Chico. Ovila Abbey Saison and Ovila Abbey Dubbel are excellent Belgian-style brews that never fail to delight me. I can hardly wait to taste the Quad which should be arriving on shelves anytime now.
The next course was roasted lamb croustades with Cyprus Grove Humbolt Fog and finished with cranberry-red onion marmalade over fresh greens tossed with Imperial Porter reduction. This amazing dish – one of my favorites of the evening – was served with a beer from Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp program that was created in part by Steve Flores called Brewer’s Blackbird IPA and 2009 Imperial Smoked Porter.
As is the case at all beer dinners at Kickback’s, the beer and dishes kept coming. In the interest of space, I am going to list the remaining beers and dishes with a minimum of comment.
Draught Style Pale Ale and Torpedo Extra IPA
Turduken lasagna, featuring layers of roast turkey breast with a blend of mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan cheeses; roast duck breast with boursin, and roast chicken breast with three chees blend all separated by layers of sweet potatoes.
30th Anniversary Jack & Ken’s Ale
Best of Beer Camp: Double IPA, Beer Camp #29
Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale
Flap steak marinated in Sierra Nevada’s 2009 Imperial Smoked Porter married with grilled pears and gorgonzola atop a bed of mixed greens dressed with strawberry balsamic.
Best of Beer Camp: California Common, Beer Camp #8
Best of Beer Camp: Juniper Black Ale, Beer Camp #16
Hellraiser Chocolate Chili Imperial Stout
A quick note here, this beer was one of my favorites. The chocolate was upfront and creamy while the chili heat waited for a few seconds to tingle your tongue.
Dark meat chicken drumette stuffed with roasted pumpkin, served with Andouille sausage, served with fresh herbed green beans and topped with apple-cranberry relish.
30th Anniversary Charlie, Fren and Ken’s Bock
Best of Beer Camp: Weizenbock, Beer Camp #37
Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale
30th Anniversary Our Brewer’s Reserve Grand Cru
Chocolate Stout cupcakes with chocolate ganache and topped with Irish cream frosting.
30th Anniversary Fritz and Ken’s Ale
Snowed-In Imperial Oatmeal Stout , Beer Camp #45
The final beer of the evening is the second iteration of collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head. Life and Limb 2 is a wonderful mix of yeast strains from both breweries, maple syrup, and birch syrup. The result is a beer that defies style categorization, but plays well on your palate.
During one of his speeches, Steve mentioned that the Sierra Nevada dinner would be the last beer dinner at Kickback’s until the expansion project is completed. This was met with some disappointment. But, in my estimation, if this had to be the last, the beer dinner program at Kickback’s goes into hiatus in grand style.
Sierra Nevada has been producing quality beers for over 30 years. They have been and remain at the forefront of the craft brew revolution and constantly surprise with brews that challenge and please beer lovers everywhere. It was fitting that they played the starring role in Kickbacks’ final dinner. I look forward to the next time I run into the great folks at Sierra Nevada – perhaps at Beer Camp.
Until next time,
Long Live the Brewers!
- Sierra Nevada: Hops vs Malt (winecompass.blogspot.com)
- Here’s to Beer! Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (seattlest.com)