Beer dinners have been growing in prevalence and popularity in the area as the number of beer-inspired restaurants and bars continue to build. Pizzeria Paradiso, Birch and Barley, and Meridian Pint have all played host to beer-pairing dinners, and you may now add Lyon Hall of Clarendon to the mix.
Tuesday saw their first beer dinner since opening just under a year ago, and I was lucky to attend as a guest of the restaurant’s beer director, David McGregor. He’s long planned to do the pairings, which will occur on the first Tuesday of every month, and finally had the opportunity to start this week. Talk with David and you’ll sense his sincere passion towards all things malt and mash, and a genuine excitement to share in his explorations of their interplay with deftly prepared dishes.
For the inaugural dinner, David invited in Brewery Ommegang’s local director, Steve Cardello, and together with Lyon Hall’s chef de cuisine, Andy Bennett, put on a four-course meal catered to and built around the flavors and textures of Ommegang’s classic and unique offerings.
David and Steve walked the beer enthusiasts through four courses: a scallop ceviche, grilled pork belly over house-made kimchi, roasted duck breast with crispy leg, and soft chocolate covered with whipped Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence.
Steve introduced the scallop ceviche with Hennepin, a 7.7% golden farmhouse saison ale and one of Ommegang’s staple brews. The ceviche was prepared with a citrus salad which comprised of blood oranges, fennel, and poppy seed, which collectively accented the Hennepin’s notes of orange peel, coriander, and ginger, while also adding a bit of coarse texture with the seeds. The scallops were wonderfully fresh and light and pressed into a flat, round shape that played host to the salad. A fine start to the meal, and all those dining were in full agreement.
The second course, the grilled pork belly with house-made kimchi topped with a fried oyster, was served in conjunction with Rare Vos, a spicy Belgian amber ale (and appropriately so). The spice of the kimchi beautifully complimented the peppercorn and Grains of Paradise with which the Rare Vos is brewed; each built on the spice of one another, and together with the fatty pork belly (which was also braised in Rare Vos) that fell apart when met with a fork and the cool relief of celery leaf, this pairing was my favorite of the evening. That said, I was a little dismayed by the kimchi as an example of the dish. On its own, it wasn’t as spicy or fleshy as the authentic Korean preparation, and the vinegar from the pickling was a bit overpowering. Lyon Hall models itself after a French brasserie with German influences, so while it was still delicious, preparing kimchi was a bit of an experiment for Bennett.
The main dish of the evening was a roasted duck breast, prepared exquisitely medium rare, with crispy leg, cabbage, turnips, and a Three Philosopher’s cherry gingerbread jus. As a surprise, Steve brought out a tiny sampler of Three Philosopher’s, a 9.8% Belgian quadruple brewed with 2% Liefmans Kriekbier, a beer wildly fermented with cherries. The quad has strong notes of toffee and caramel paired with a subtler taste of tart cherries and fruit from the kriek. This sampler appropriately complimented the cherries served as part of the full dish, but otherwise felt a bit misplaced. The primary beer for this course was the classic Ommegang Abbey Ale, a Belgian-style dubbel brewed with star anise, cumin, and licorice root. This, this was the beer to go with the duck, and it did so wonderfully. The tissue of the crispy leg, crunch of the cabbage, sweet peels of turnips accented the dark but approachable Abbey and together formed a very satisfying conclusion to the savory portion of the dinner.
The final preparation of the evening piqued the curiosity of those in attendance as plates of what appeared to be the fanciest Hostess cake you’d ever seen topped with a delicate caramel-colored foam was placed at everyone’s setting. This dessert was nothing near anything from Hostess though. It comprised of a smooth but reasonably firm chocolate base—imagine a thick pudding that could hold its shape—that tasted of the perfect cup of hot chocolate, coated on top with a hard chocolate shell, a dollop of mocha ice cream and finished with foamy, whipped Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence, which not coincidentally was the beer to top off the night. This seemed like the least difficult of pairings with so many shared flavors—Chocolate Indulgence is a 7% Belgian dark ale brewed with chocolate nibs, a sort of unprocessed form of cocoa beans, and cocoa powder—but was expertly executed.
By the end of the night, it seemed as though everyone in attendance was quite content, convivial, a wee bit tipsy, and would soon be ready for the next month’s dinner — and you can count me among them. While Lyon Hall may not be the first place on your list of beer venues (especially if you consider Virginia a separate continent), I’d caution you not to write off it, or its very promising future. It’s worth the trip over the river.
Lyon Hall’s next beer dinner will focus on lighter spring beers including saisons, and should land on April 8. Watch on Twitter and Facebook for announcements.
All photos by the author.
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