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Kickback’s Says Farewell to Beer Dinners for a While with Sierra Nevada

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.

Intermezzo Three

Draught Style Pale Ale and Torpedo Extra IPA

Course Four

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

Intermezzo Four

Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale

Course Five

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

FOAM Pilsner

Intermezzo Five

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.

Course Six

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

Intermezzo Six

Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale

30th Anniversary Our Brewer’s Reserve Grand Cru

Course Seven

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!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Beer, Beer Dinner, Restaurant

 

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Kickback’s Throws a Dinner Party with Cigar City & St. Somewhere

The word “epic” gets tossed around a lot these days. It has
become par to of the popular vernacular especially among the younger
generation. It suggests something that is very imposing or impressive,
something that surpasses the ordinary. With this in mind, it is safe to say
that the Beer Dinners held periodically at Kickback’s Gastropub in
Riverside/Avondale are epic.

The most recent culinary and zymological wonder took place
Monday, August 29, starting at 6:30. The beer pairings for that night were 38
beers from both Cigar City Brewing in Tampa and St. Somewhere Brewing Company
in Tarpon Springs. Both are legendary breweries in their own rights, each with
their own style and flair. Cigar City is known for their superb Jai Alai IPA
with its over-the-top hoppiness, attained through the use of six different
types of hops, and its upright malt backbone that balances the hops to create a
remarkable – and highly awarded – IPA. St. Somewhere, on the other hand, is an
acolyte of the Belgian style of brewing, producing exceptional saisons and
Belgian-style ales with aroma and taste profiles that keep their groupies
coming back for more.

The beers were paired with an eight course meal created
especially for the beers presented. This included several courses prepared by
guest chefs who are just as passionate about beer as they are about food.
Several items were finished with sauces by local Jacksonville sauce producer
Bander’s Butt Sauce.

As the evening began, the heat outside made the cool, dark
environs of Kickback’s even more appealing than normal. Steve Flores, the
wizard behind these magical dinners and owner of Kickback’s, did his best to
control the sweating, excited crowds filing in, he and his seasoned staff
herding guests to their assigned seats. The tables were set with three tasting
glasses per setting along with a placemat that detailed the night’s offerings.

A virtual Who’s Who of the Jacksonville beer Preferiti were in attendance in addition to
luminary guests from further lands. An intrepid table even trekked down from
Athens, GA to enjoy the beer and food. Folks like Steve Rushe of BeerJunto.com,
Scott Hall, one of the owners of Tallahassee’s Fermentation Lounge, David Rigdon
from Team Hopheads, Eric Luman owner of Green Room Brewing, and Carolyn Graham
from Brown Distributers (and one of the masterminds behind the dinner) gathered
to drink, eat, laugh and learn about the dizzying number of brews offered.

And, of course, the
most honored of guest were the brewers and representatives from Cigar City and
St. Somewhere. Throughout the evening the brewers took turns talking about
their beer offerings and providing interesting insights into the processes that
went into making them. Joey Redner is the man behind Cigar City. As a Tampa
native Joey is passionate about beer, he has owned a bar and sold beer at a
number of levels. Bob Sylvester is the owner and brewer for St. Somewhere
Brewery, and is dedicated to brewing beers in the Belgian style using authentic
ingredients and traditional open-fermentation methods.

Speaking of beer,
there were so many it was difficult to keep notes on them all, however I did
manage to jot a few things down.

The reception beer
was the Cigar City flagship Jai Alai IPA a very hops forward beer that has set
a high standard for American IPAs. The second reception beer was Cigar City
Xenu Honey Cream Ale. For those of you unfamiliar with the teachings of L. Ron
Hubbard, founder of Scientology, Xenu is sort of the Scientology devil. And,
since Scientology is based near the Tampa area, Xenu Honey Cream Ale is a sly
nod to Scientologists everywhere.

The first food
course to arrive was beef tenderloins sliced then and wrapped around cucumber,
sweet red pepper, carrots, and garnished with light horseradish, served on a
bed of lettuce. With the appetizer, Cigar City El Lector – named for the men,
lectors, who read to the Tampa area cigar rollers before the days of radio.
Also served were Cigar City Minaret ESB and Cigar City Florida Cracker White
Ale.

Between courses two
beers were typically served. Between courses one and two were two exceptional
saisons from St. Somewhere. Saison Athene was the first pour with wonderful
funk and spice flavors just as a good saison should have. But, it was the
second saison to be poured that really caught my attention. It was a twist on
the same beer but this time the Saison Athene was dry hopped with whole cone
Citra hops. The hops lent an herbaceous aroma and flavor to the already complex
saison and really amped up the flavor profile. This was one of my favorite
beers of the night.

Course two arrived
and for a few moments had me perplexed. I had never heard of anything called
tempeh. I n research for this article, I learned that it is a traditional soy product originally from
Indonesia employing a controlled fermentation process that binds
soybeans into a cake form. The patty was a bit dry for me, but had an
interesting texture and pleasant, spicy, nutty flavor that was accented by Jai
Alai vinaigrette. The beers paired with this dish were Cigar City Tocobaga Red,
named for the first inhabitants of the Tampa area, Cigar City Jai Alai Cedar
Aged IPA – Humidor Series, and Cigar City Jai Alai IPA – White Oak. Both the
cedar aged and white oak aged versions of the Jai Alai IPA lent new dimension
to the beer opening characteristics that go unnoticed in the pure version.

Intermezzo number
two offered a vertical tasting of Cigar City Bolita Brown Double Nut Brown Ale,
edition 2009 and 2010. The “bolita” – Spanish for little ball – referred to in
the name of these brews is a reference to a lottery-like game of chance that
was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
within the Cuban and Hispanic communities of Florida. Essentially it was a scam
and became synonymous with a cheat. But, the beers that bear the name are
anything but cheats. Both displayed considerable character and richness, with
the older version truly opening to thick, rich, malty flavors.

Pork loin with
smoky cumin rub and stuffed with granny smith apple chutney and smoked gouda
served atop grilled asparagus spears and drizzled with Mama’s Southern Mustard
Sauce from Bander’s Butt Sauce came as the third course. This decadent dish was
served with the Cigar City/St. Somewhere colaborative brew Vuja De a sour
American Wild Ale with a pronounced tart character. It was also paired with Cigar
City Sea Bass – affectionately named for former Cigar City employee, Sebastian
– a refreshing saison and St. Somewhere Pay Du Soliel another stellar saison
from the Belgian-minded brewery.

The next between
courses pair pitted two Cigar City collaborations with Hill Farmstead of Vermont and Grassroots Brewing of Denmark, Either and Or against each other
with the winners being the drinkers. Both brews are dark, thick, chewy black
IPA brews that really play the hops up, but cut the bitterness with Thai Thai honey.

The next course
was prepared by Chef Michelle Ugarte of the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island’s
Salt Restaurant. Michelle has become something of a “resident guest chef” in
that she often prepares at least one dish for Kickbacks’ beer dinners. This
dinner saw her dish shine and was easily the favorite of everyone. The dish was
a preparation of seven pepper braised short rib spring rolls with salt-roasted
peach-harissa sauce and pickled red onion. This outstanding dish was served
with Cigar City Hillsborough River Irish Dry Stout, Cigar City Jose Marti India
Porter, and Cigar City Puppy’s Breath Porter.

After this things
began to get fuzzy and run together. But, one of the highlights was St.
Somewhere owner Bob Sylvester jumping on stage and giving a beatnik-poet diatribe about beers and yeasts to
the smooth sounds of the evening’s house band.

Towards the end of the night Chef Paul Crump presented
dessert, chocolate cheesecake with Grand Marnier biscotti crust and Chantilly
cream. This rich dessert was paired with Cigar City Tiramisu Sweet Stout, Cigar
City Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale – Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, and Cigar City Good
gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale.

In the end many attendees just couldn’t hang with the
aggressive number of beers. But, for those of us who stuck it out to the end,
we were rewarded with an evening of lasting memories and wonderful food and
beers.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Beer, Beer Dinner, Restaurant

 

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American Craft Beer Week — Tonight’s Event

To kick off American Craft Beer Week, what better place could there be than Kickback’s in Avondale. Steve Flores owner of the neighborhood watering hole has amassed an amazing number of taps that are always attached to kegs of amazing beers.

Kickback’s Gastropub
910 King Street
Jacksonville, FL 32204

5:00 PM until Whenever

Sample beers from Jacksonville’s largest selection of draught brews – 84 to be exact. If you are looking for something good to drink and can’t find it here, you just aren’t trying. The available beers are constantly changing, so there is always something new to try. Come by for prizes and fun with Team Hopheads and the gang at Kickback’s.

First two people who find me will be showered with fabulous prizes — OK, more like t-shirts and assorted other beer schwag! But, that’s still good, right?

And don’t forget to get your tickets for and attend the Jacksonville Craft & Import Beer Festival this Friday at the Jacksonville Memorial Arena. There will be food, entertainment, and LOTS of beer tasting. Tickets are $45 for VIP admission at 6:00 PM or $30 for General admission at 7:00.

 

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American Craft Beer Week is Almost Upon Us!

The excitement is building. The town is abuzz. Next week is American Craft Beer Week and there is a plethora of events that will keep you busy tasting great beers all week. Here’s the list I have so far:

Monday, May 16

Kickback’s Gastropub

5:00 PM until Whenever

Sample beers from Jacksonville’s largest selection of draught brews – 84 to be exact. If you are looking for something good to drink and can’t find it here, you just aren’t trying. The available beers are constantly changing, so there is always something new to try. Come by for prizes and fun!

European Street – Riverside

6:00 PM to Whenever

An epic selection of beers both on draught and bottles with a concentration of really great imports. Prizes and surprises all night!

Tuesday, May 17

Publix Apron’s Cooking School

6:30 PM

Join Chef Patrick and his team to celebrate the new craft beer movement in honor of the American Craft Beer Week. Watch as the team prepares dishes specifically matched to the great artisanal beers they will be pouring. They will also be giving away free passes, donated by Team Hop Heads, to the Jacksonville Craft & Import Beer Festival!

The menu includes: Arugula Salad & Seared Scallops with a Warm Orange Vinaigrette & Spicy Candied Macadamia Nuts; Biscuit Topped Bacon Mac & Cheese; Andy Gator Braised Bratwurst with Potatoes, Sauerkraut & Sweet Mustard; Pan Roasted Duck Breast, Lentil Dahl & Roasted Corn & Tomato Chutney; Chocolate Stout Laced Tiramisu.

This is an event that you will not want to miss!

For details and registration click the link below:

http://www.publix.com/aprons/schools/Jacksonville/ClassDetailReservations.do?childId=14543

Wednesday, May 18

Mellow Mushroom Tinseltown

5:30 PM to Whenever

Challenge your taste buds as you sample your way through a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot vertical tasting. Enjoy the subtle variations in flavors that come from aging this legendary brew from year to year.

Thursday, May 19

Intuition Ale Works Tap Room

Come in and sample a wide variety of locally brewed craft beers from our very own local boy – Ben Davis Brewmaster and Founder of Intuition. Brush up on your beer trivia before you arrive, there will be prizes and lots of fun!

Friday, May 20

The Jacksonville Craft & Import Beer Festival

Jacksonville Memorial Arena

6:00 PM to 10:00 V.I.P. / 7:00 PM to 10:00 General Admission

This is it! The main event! Join the Springfield Brew Crew at Jacksonville’s premier event to celebrate beer in all its glory. With one of the largest collection of breweries ever at a beer festival in Jacksonville, this event will be one to remember.

Over 20 local restaurants will come out with some of their finest fare for patrons to taste. Purveyors include: European Street, Carrabba’s, Publix Apron’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Lynch’s and North Beach Bistro, and many more, serving up delicious cuisine to pair with the beer samples.

VIP tickets are available for $45.00 to the event. VIP ticket members will receive an extra hour – doors open at 6:00 PM for VIP ticketholder — of admission and a private selection of beers not available to general admission including special firkins you won’t find anywhere else.

General admission tickets are $30.00. Doors open at 7pm to General Admission ticketholders.

During the event there will be a silent auction and other prize giveaways open to all patrons. Entertainment will be provided throughout the evening by various local bands and DJs.

A portion of the proceeds are going to the charities of the Southside Businessmen’s Club, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, First Coast No More Homeless Pets, and the Greater Jacksonville USO.

So, if you are a beer lover and who isn’t, next week is the week to explore the scene here in Jacksonville. Look for the Springfield Brew Crew at many of the events and join our merry band to keep the beer adventure going all year!

 

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Kickback’s and Schmaltz Brewing Co. Beer Dinner Goodness

The owner of Schmaltz Brewing Company, Jeremy Cowan, is the kind of guy you’d want to have a few beers with. Last night, at the Kickback’s beer dinner, all 165 attendees of the sold out sitting, had more than a few. There were 27 delicious beeers from both the He’Brew and Coney Island brands.

That’s right, 27 beers. That’s the largest number of Schmaltz beers that have ever been in one place on tap at any one time!

Paired with such culinary delights as grilled gouda cheese sandwiches on rye with carmelized onions and apple spread, bratwurst muffins — bratwurst, swiss cheese, peppers, onion and mustard inside a puff pastry. And a creation by “resident guest chef” Michelle Ugart of the Ritz-Carlton’s Salt resaurant — mock funnel cake of breaded and fried sweet breads with powdered sugar.

Cowan, who was a literature major, described the philosophy of his brewery as a desire to make, “Totally whacked out and irresponsible beer.” And it shows in his beers, full of unusual flavors and deep complexity. Beers such as the Jewbalation series and Rejewvenator which push the limits of brewing and truly make you sit up and take notice.

Some of my favorites of the evening were:

1. Coney Island Lager
2. He’Brew Jewbelation #11
3. Coney Island Sword Swallower
4. He’Brew Rejewvenator 2008 (Year of the Fig)
5. He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. on Rye

The staff at Kickback’s was awesome in keeping the beer flowing and the food moving. And Steve Flores, owner of the much-lauded King Street watering hole was a gracious and attentive host.

I have herad inklings of future beer dinners with some other legendary brewers coming down the pike. Keep checking the Springfield Brew Crew website and Blog for details. The next on tap is December 13th with Swamphead Brewing out of Gainesville. Based on the turn-out at last night’s dinner, you had better buy your tickets soon!

 

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