Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Of Weddings and Beer Dinners

By Kurt Epps—The PubScout


Beer dinners are a lot like wedding receptions. To be memorable, you need good people on the floor, good people in the kitchen, good people at the bar and guests who want to have a good time. Add some good entertainment, and the house is ready to rock.

The house at Hailey's Harp and Pub had all the ingredients in abundance and the result was another beer dinner success. Hailey's first shot came last January and for a rookie pub, it performed very solidly. Last night's dinner showed that Chris Flynn, Jerry Windos, Johnny La Barbera and crew can now run with the big dogs.

It's worth noting, too, that many pubs and brewpubs hold their dinners on "off" nights like Mondays or Tuesdays, when the customer level is usually lower than on the weekends. Hailey's pulled theirs off on a Friday night, and despite a packed house outside, the gals on the floor in the back room, Dawn and Colleen, stayed on top of every course—both food and beer.

You can view the menu for the night in the post below this one, so there's no sense re-running it. But writing what the menu will be and tasting at when it appears are two different things. The salad was fresh and tasty and well complemented by the Blue Moon. The salmon puffs caused my seat neighbor Pete to wax poetic, although it may have been the Harp Lager that ignited his muse. The Reuben rolls, accompanied by Climax Oktoberfest produced a series of "mmmmm's" and "oooohh's."

I confess to my love for this beer, and it's going so fast, Dave had to brew more just to make it through October. That consumption is not all my doing, mind you, but "Braxator" (Latin for brewmaster) makes one helluva beer. More than one of the ladies at the table—a particularly good-looking batch this night, too-- described the Johnny's Butternut Squash soup in terms usually relegated to a Kinsey sex study. The Hennepin that I paired with it was an avant-garde move on my part. I liked it, as did most. The Lamb Shanks, presented vertically in a bed of mashed, spiced potatoes were so tender the meat fell away from the bone with just the touch of a fork. And the sauce into which we dunked said meat was out-of-this-world. Matched with Hailey's Ale (Climax Nut Brown), it was heaven. Chef Johnny even threw in a special dish of Pickled Squash that piqued many a palate.

And of course, the finale, Johnny's Black and Tan Guinness pudding (check out the pictures) was as remarkable to look at as it was to eat, and it was paired with Guinness—natch.

Big Dave Burnejko walked away with the grand raffle prize of the night—a huge and heavy Leinenkugel's cooler, but everyone went home with a gift courtesy of Chris Flynn and Hailey's Harp and Pub—two classic Guinness Pub Glasses each.

So you had pros on the floor, pros in the bar, pros in the kitchen and a group of guests who were primed for a good time.

There are, however, differences between a good wedding reception and a good beer dinner. Apart from the ones those cynical about marriage can come up with, one is the cost. Weddings can cost $200 a plate.

Hailey's was just $45, and if you went as a couple, like Megan and Mike, Harriet and Clay, Jason and Erin, Jonathan and Tracy and Moshe and Lynn it was just $75. And I'd bet those couples had just as much fun after the beer dinner as they would have after a wedding.

As I said, it's a steal. Hope to see you at the next one!

©Kurt Epps 2010 All rights reserved

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