Several weeks ago, my wife and I went to a beer dinner at a small, upscale market in Decatur called Fifth Earl Market. I’ve been meaning to write a post detailing the evening for several weeks now, but I’ve only just downloaded and touched up all of the photos from Malin’s phone. (Note that the quality of the photos is lower than usual because they were all taken with a cell phone instead of with one of Malin’s professional-grade DSLRs.)

Arriving Early

As is frequently our nature, Malin and I showed up early. We looked at some of the small shops adjacent to our destination, and then decided to go on in. The doors were locked. We were in the process of heading around to the back door when someone poked their head out telling us that the market was closed for a private dinner. Once we told them that we were there for the dinner, they happily let us in.

The place is small and quaint – smaller than both Muss and Turner’s and Alon’s. They have a smaller selection of gourmet food products (artisanal beers, sodas, cheeses, condiments, simple prepared foods like various salads, and the like) than Alon’s, but they are better known for their gourmet sandwiches, served during lunchtime. We’ve never gotten a chance to try their normal food fare, but we’re hoping to go and see how it stacks up against the other two (which also both have a nice selection of gourmet sandwiches).

In addition to reputable lunch fare, the place also serves dinner and specials in the evening, and there is a bar in the rear left of the place.

A half pint of Left Hand to start the eveningWe arrived early, so I figured we would ask for beverages before the dinner began. There was a man standing at the bar who happily served me a half pint of Left Hand Chainsaw (a double-strength batch of Sawtooth Ale) and poured a glass of red wine for Malin. I later learned it was the rep from Savannah Distributing, and he gave me the drinks at no cost. There was one woman who worked at Fifth Earl who thought it was odd, perhaps even inappropriate, that I was trying a Left Hand beer at a St. Bernardus event, but we were early and just wanted to whet our palates prior to the feast. They served the Chainsaw in a Tommyknocker glass (pictured at right).

The Reception

Me, getting a good sniff of the fragrant and wonderfully refreshing St. Bernardus BlancheThe reception included a lovely glass of St. Bernardus Blanche along with a delicious, hearty soup consisting of garbanzo beans (aka chick peas), roasted tomatoes, fresh lamb sausage, and topped off with a mustard dressing.

This was an awesome way to start the evening. The subtle Moroccan spices in the soup and the sausage were a great pair with the exotic and refreshing contributions of coriander and orange peel in the witbier.

Though this was not the fanciest course of the evening, it was one of the highlights, due to the great marriage of food and beer.

Malin was quite taken with how the color of the beer so closely matched the color of the shoes she wore that night:

Witbier and Yellowfoot

This is the only beer that photographed well (due to the inability to get truly high quality pics from Malin’s phone), so here is yet another image of it:

Wondrous Witbier

1st Course: Tuna

The next course featured the Watou Tripel paired with seafood: rare, sushi-grade tuna served over a bed of plantain salsa and topped with a dash of citrus aioli.

The food was really, really good. The beer was also really, really good. However, this would be the weakest pair of the evening. The chef described the pair as being tied together by citrus flavors – hops in the beer and the aioli in the food dish. But my palate detects much more grassy, earthy impressions from the hops rather than citrus, and the fruitiness in the beer is more banana and pear (due to esters, not hops). The two were great on their own, but didn’t bring the other to new heights when combined.

2nd Course: Lobster

The next course featured another Belgian Tripel and another seafood dish.

This time the beer was St. Bernardus Tripel. The difference is that the Watou beers are actually brewed on the premise of the abbey, whereas the St. Bernardus beers are all brewed offsite. The Watou Tripel is a little lighter in alcohol and, overall, more deftly made – subtly and sublimely better than its non-Abbey counterpart.

The seafood this time was a duo of lobster. The first half of the dish was a grilled lobster tail. It certainly tasted good, but the preparation was far from inventive. The second half was a lobster salad “club” sandwich. This was much tastier. The bread it was served on was nice, the lobster salad was light and lobster-y, and there were also lettuce, tomato, and bacon (everyone’s favorite!) making an appearance in there.

The dish was certainly the most light-hearted and bucolic dish of the evening. The beer went well with it. But better food was still to come…

3rd Course: Duck and Foie Gras

The next dish was the richest and most decadent: duck breast and foie gras served over a bed of TĂȘte de Moine spaetzle. TĂȘte de Moine is an amazing, specialty, cow’s milk, Swiss cheese. Spaetzle is a type of Eastern European noodle, very similar to a small dumpling.

The dish was paired with St. Bernardus Prior 8: a delectable, Belgian brown ale that is like a Belgian Dubbel, but stronger.

This course was phenomenal. The beer pairing worked very well, too.

4th Course: The Cheese Plate

The Cheese Plate

Between the main course and the dessert comes the cheese plate. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the cheeses featured here, but I do recall that they were spectacular. One was a semi-hard cheese that was quite flavorful. The other was a very soft, creamy, buttery cheese that was supremely decadent. The cheese was served with crostini, two types of preserves, and St. Bernardus Pater 6.

5th Course: Dessert

The dessert was a rich bread pudding with a beer-infused ice cream (it was made using the same beer with which it was paired) and banana. The beer was the flagship of the St. Bernardus line-up: St. Bernardus Abt 12.

The bread pudding was very well-made, and this course was a nice end to the evening.

Wrapping Up

Throughout the meal, the cast of folks running the place talked to the attendees, describing the dishes they were about to eat and the beers they were about to drink. They recruited the brewer at Twain’s Brewpub, just down the road, to come and talk about the beers and the brewing process behind them. He was the least lively of the bunch (perhaps he had a long night at his brewpub before coming over, or maybe he had tied on one too many of his own brews).

The folks responsible for our wonderful evening

There are four people standing in the center of the picture above. They are, from left to right, the owner of Fifth Earl Market, the pastry chef for the evening, the Chef de Cuisine for the evening, and the Fifth Earl Market’s usual Chef de Cuisine. I apologize that I do not recall any of their names – a travesty for sure since a nameless acknowledgement is lame indeed (sorry guys and gal).

As we were leaving, the servers picked up our glasses, washed them, and returned them to us, as gifts for the evening. There were supposed to be two such gifts but the other, also a piece of glassware, was ruined – all broken during shipping. The ones we took home, though, are very nice, high quality goblets:

A Goblet of Ale! In this pic, the contents are Hump's Fiftieth Brew, not actually St. Bernardus beer

Even though the samples of beer with each course were small, since some of them were rather strong, the total amount of beer was equivalent to about two and a half glasses of wine. I made sure to drink plenty of water in between courses, and we walked around Decatur for a little bit before getting in the car for the ride home.

The wonderful evening gave us a lot to talk about for the ride home. A good time was had by all.

There are now a number of restaurants in the Atlanta area who frequently host beer dinners: The Lindbergh Station location of Taco Mac, The Brick Store Pub, Twain’s Brewpub, Five Seasons Brewing, Muss and Turner’s, and Fifth Earl Market. Hopefully we’ll get to go out and do something like this again.