Our trusty beer expert T. Ballard Lesemann went to Carolina’s on Wednesday for a beer dinner. Here’s what he had to say:
At the Beer Dinner at Carolina’s (10 Exchange St.) on Wed. Oct. 29, the featured beverages were authentically Bavarian, but the eclectic menu veered far from the typical beer hall fare most Germans may have munched on during this year’s Oktoberfest. Chef Jeremiah Bacon and local distributor Carolina Craft[image-1] presented a fine, five-course feast paired with five selections from the acclaimed Weihenstephan brewery in southern Bavaria.
Carolina Craft representative Jason Younce was on hand alongside the local proprietors of the soon-to-be-open Charleston Beer Exchange shop (located around the corner from Carolina’s). Younce explained the long history of the brewery (Weihenstephan claims to be the oldest brewery in the world, as they’ve been making ales and lagers continually since the year 1040).
While most Weihenstephaner beers are made and served very much in the Munich-styled tradition (from helles and bocks to weizenbier and seasonal specialties), their annual Festbier lager was surprisingly pale in color and body with a crisp graininess in the aroma. Bacon served it with the first course of homemade bratwurst, which featured a small sausage, grilled and seasoned gently, with tiny cubed beets, leeks, and a creamy whole-grain mustard sauce on the side. This paring was a remarkably light variation of a dish that’s usually so heavy.
Course two featured a single pan seared scallop over steamed spinach, both seasoned with small amount of vanilla and saffron sauce. The banana and clove note on the aroma of the Weihenstephaner Kristallweiss (a filtered, golden-colored wheat bear) blended nicely with the fragrant scallop. “Paired with the brewery’s celebrated Hefeweiss (a non-filtered, pale wheat beer), the grilled tuna pavé (a small “brick” of tuna steak) came next, served over “Shanghai bok choy” and a zingy carrot-orange gastrique made with sweet vinegar. Alongside two clean, fruity, and tart wheat bears, both seafood dishes detoured the Oktoberfest vibe from Deutschland to the Lowcountry.
Bacon and his staff are well-known for their delicate meat-grilling skills, the fourth course’s “lacquered” pork tenderloin was as tender and flavorful as anything we’ve tried from these guys. Deliciously roasted and served with a single fingerling “potato rosti” and a sweet potato puree, the pork stood up to the strongest (7.4 % alcohol by volume) and sweetest beer of the night — the Weihenstephaner Korbinian, a hefty, dark drown doppelbock with a deep maltiness and hints of burnt caramel and pumpernickel.
The robust Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel (a dark, unfiltered wheat beer) accompanied the final course, a savory “dessert” which could easily have worked as the appetizer as well. Bacon made the crispy tarte flambe with well-caramelized onions and house cured guanciale (a light Italian bacon made from pig cheeks). On a more manageable crust or softer bread — and with a bit more saltiness and spice — this unusual dessert course could have worked better alongside the big flavors and full-bodied feel of the Dunkel, which was a favorite among many in attendance. Prost!