The best Valentine’s Day plans always seem to arise from you and the one you love, doing something you both love, not what others tell you you should be doing to commemorate the day. Why shell out for roses if the only time your lady likes them is when they’re floating in a Randall? Then something like Avery Sour Valentine dinner at Blue Palms Brewhouse comes across your radar, and you know a couple of beer geeks like my husband and I suddenly have got plans. So what if it was a day early?
The entire six-course dinner and beer pairing was tailor-made for geeks of various stripes. While Blue Palms has always had great pub food and one of the best tap lists in Los Angeles, I had no idea what a food geek proprietor Brian Lenzo was until he unveiled this amazing menu.
Between each course he went into great detail about all of the care that went into each element and how he chose to pair the food with Avery’s sours. Hand-cranking vanilla ice cream while slowing adding the discontinued Avery sour Immitis into the mix, finding the perfect cut of venison for the carpaccio, exposing cucumbers to lactobacillus for pickles…. Brian and his team really went for the gold on this, his first food and beer pairing dinner. It’s always delightful to see a sweet guy like Brian beaming and totally in his element, you can really feel the love.
Southern California’s Avery Brewing rep Katie Barnes brought some major beer geek chops to this meal as well. She described each course of Avery’s absolutely transcendent sours with the felicity of a master brewer. “The beer world is definitely a man’s world,” Katie said, “To be a girl infiltrating the craft beer world today you really have to know your shit.” And judging from her meticulous, enticing descriptions of each beer, Katie clearly knows her shit.
The prelude beer was Avery’s Joe’s Pils randalled with rose petals. A full pint of this vegetal, creamy pilsner was the perfect palate cleanser between courses of rich food and bracing sours. Next up was the Muscat d’Amour, a sour blonde made with Muscat Blanc grapes (usually used in dessert wine) and aged in Chardonnay barrels. I found myself feeling sorry for anyone who wasn’t there drinking this beer at that precise moment. It was sour perfection with a surprisingly grassy finish. An unforgettable beer, sadly only 175 cases of the stuff was made; while there are still a few bottles for drinking at Blue Palms, you can’t take it home or I certainly would have. It was my surprise favorite of the evening.
O, Oud Floris, you green apple caramel siren, you. It was randomly drinking a bottle of this treasure at Blue Palms a few weeks ago that drew us to this dinner. A magical Frankenstein of a beer, the geniuses at Avery blended 4 barrel-aged beers (a strong dark ale, a red, a sour pale, and a sour rye) and came out with something akin to a Flemish red.
There’s a clarity to the sour components of the Avery sours that is truly remarkable, like the way a squeeze of lemon will cut through disparate elements of a dish and bring a brightness to the whole endeavor, enhancing everything. The raspberries of the Odio Equum read as straight-up Snapple on the nose, but the taste was perhaps the sourest beer I’ve ever had, with the raspberry so perfectly realized I could almost feel the berry roll around in my mouth.
Last was the sexily-named Recolte Sauvage (Wild Harvest en français), whose sourness took a backseat to its cherry, oak, and chocolate notes. This big boy, topping out at more than 11% ABV, stood its ground against the beef cheeks course, and reminded me a little bit of Avery’s Samael.
At this point in the meal, I started to lose steam, my head spinning from all the onslaught of huge flavors on my palate. I wrote, “Send assistance” in my notebook, which at this point had devolved into a stream of rapturous expletives like “Holy fuck this heirloom tomato Oud Floris ketchup,” and “Whew, this Odio Equum is sour as fuck!” Did I mention I used to be a professional writer? The things that a series of mind-blowing food and rare sour beers will do to me. The last scribbling in my notebook was a sort of plea to Brian, “Please do these forever.”
Now it’s actually Valentine’s Day, and I’m still full. Full from the decadent dinner and beers, full of admiration for the folks who put together such an elevated beer experience, and full of love of my new husband with whom I got to share this ultimate beer geeky experience.
Megan Rosenbloom is a librarian, photographer, and craft beer lover living in Los Angeles.