Sea Dog’s Porter & Shipyard’s Battleground and Thumper ales

Carolina’s Beer Dinner Series

Classic ales with a variety of bold dishes

Over the winter, Carolina’s announced an out-of-the-ordinary series of monthly beer dinners in which their chefs would prepare dishes with different beers as ingredients and serve them paired with the same beers — a take on the familiar wine tasting with the beer connoisseur in mind.

Last week, new executive chef Jeremiah Bacon — a Charleston native — cooked with five classic and specialty ales from the Maine-based Shipyard Brewing and Sea Dog Brewing companies.

Chavón Distribution owner Jayne Pardus and sales manager Chris Hills were on hand to present each beer with each course. Chavón is best known in town as a locally-based wine and beverage distributor with an impressive catalog of boutique wines from all over the world. The company embraces a handful of domestic and UK breweries specializing mostly in British-style ales.

First up was Shipyard’s golden-colored, clean-tasting Battleground Ale — a beer first brewed in 2003 in remembrance of the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg — which accompanied a light starter of beer-braised jumbo shrimp (chilled), garnished with tiny crispy garlic chips and lightly-cooked greens. Often, a darker ale, like a porter or stout, is served with shrimp or oysters, but the medium body and clean flavor of this drinkable pale ale went well with the dish.

They served the copper-colored, estery Thumper Extra Special Ale with the next course, braised pork belly with vegetables and carrot puree. Caramel and toasted malt pushed the flavor, which blended with the light taste of the pork (marinated with the same beer).

While Thumper clocked in with big malt flavor and aroma, the Export Ale — Shipyard’s flagship — swung toward the other end of the spectrum with a flowery, spicy hop aroma. Hills mentioned that the Export has “a bit of sweetness in the front,” but I tasted hops all the way (English Fuggles and Goldings hop varieties, perhaps?). Duck served over cavatelli pasta and wild mushrooms was braised with the beer, creating an enjoyable blend of deep flavors and textures. The Export stood out as a highlight among the evening’s five ales.

The fourth course featured a thick and tender venison chop with nutty/chewy spaetzle and tender swiss chard served with Sea Dog Hazelnut Porter. Sea Dog Brewing Co. is a sister brewery of Shipyard (overseen by Shipyard brewer Alan Pugsley). Served in oversized wine glasses, the porter was deep brown in color with a chocolate/malty aroma and a sweet, creamy flavor. A drier porter may have paired better with the venison at the table, but this variety did wonders as a perfect marinade for the chop.

Following a hefty vension/porter course with a light dessert and fruit-flavored wheat beer was a nice move. The Sea Dog Apricot Wheat Beer, a champagne-colored light ale bursting with fruit aroma, accompanied Bacon’s piping-hot upside-down apricot cake, concluding the dinner on a high, confident note. —T. Ballard Lesemann

Carolina’s Beer Dinners are $65 per person, including beer and exclusive of tax and gratuity. Reservations are required, as seating is limited to 40 persons. Upcoming dates include April 25 and May 30. For reservations, call 724-3800. See www.crewcarolina.com for more info.