Those of us living in Philly are so lucky to have Philly Beer Week – an entire week-plus of events celebrating and sharing awesome beer.  I’ve been to several great events this week, having had the chance to try such rare gems as Mikkeller I Beat U, Hill Farmstead Double Citra IPA, several from Lost Abbey (Framboise de Amorosa, Cuvee de Tomme, Red Poppy, Amazing Grace, Veritas 008 & 009, Duck Duck Gooze & Its Pineapple-Guava variant), Russian River Supplication, North Coast Rasputin XII… this list could go on and on.  But the best Beer Week event I attended thus far was the Vegan Beer Dinner at Memphis Taproom.

I’ve been a huge fan of Memphis ever since it opened.  From day 1 they’ve made sure to include a plethora of vegan options on their menu – clearly marked.  I love when restaurants do this – it makes it feel so much more inviting to us vegans, and it avoids the awkward barrage of questions every visit.  Currently their dinner menu (it changes every few months) includes such delightfully awesome dishes as the smoked coconut club & seitan shepherds pie, but in the past I’ve had things like jackfruit “crab cakes” and smoked avocado lettuce & tomato sandwiches. Yums all around.  My only complaint about Memphis is that it is not in my neighborhood – so I usually have to run there (about 6 miles from my house, a good pre-brunch warmup) or take the subway.

Dan Shelton Rambling

Truffled Beluga Lentils: Green Apple, Pickled Beet, Blood Orange, paired with Jolly Pumpkin La Roja

This might have been my favorite course of the night.  We learned during Dan Shelton’s long-winded “introduction speech” (he is the infamous Shelton Brothers beer importer/distributor) that Jolly Pumpkin owner & head brewer Ron Jeffries is himself also vegan.  I’ve always been a fan of JP’s offerings and La Roja, a flanders style amber, is one of my favorites.  Tart, a little sweet, some nice tannins and not too much burning acetic character going on.  I’ve only had beluga lentils before at Horizons but I sure will pick some up in the future.  The sourness from the pickled beet & the sweetness from the apple & blood orange really made the flavors of both the lentils and the beer really pop.  Plus, anything served “truffled” makes me happy. (Do yourself a favor and pick up some black truffle salt; you’ll thank me later.)

Braised Carrot; Beer Battered Miso Tofu, Pea Shoots, Red Wine Chocolate Jus paired with De Ranke XX Bitter

Memphis used to have beer battered miso tofu (“fish & chips” style) on the menu, but its been ages since I’ve seen it.  This was an excellent opportunity to remind me of what I was missing.  Personally, I wasn’t in love with the red wine chocolate jus (I tend to not like combining chocolate with savory foods), but I devoured everything else you see on this plate.  Really enjoyed the XX Bitter as well – very aggressive hop-wise with a little more than a hint of classic (barnyard-y) brettanomyces.  Dan Shelton described the brett character as “what Orval used to be like.”

Shitake and Leek Dumpling; Mushroom tea, ginger, black pepper oil, charred scallion paired with Mikkeller 10

I could eat this soupy dish every day for the rest of my life and I don’t think I’d get sick of it.  All of the flavors here blended quite nicely.  Mikkeller 10 is a followup to their single hop ipa series; in this instance they added 10 different varieties throughout the boil.  Very fruity, a tad bit herbal, all around tasty.

Dessert: Peche Mortel Poached Calimyrn Fig, Toasted Almond, Coffee Caramel, Popcorn Milk, paired with Du Ciel Peche Mortel

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of figs.  I don’t dislike figgy flavors in various dishes, or even in some big, complex beers like Belgian strong dark ales, but I don’t love biting into giant fig chunks.  Nonetheless, I licked this plate clean.  I do wish I asked how exactly “popcorn milk” is made, because I certainly want to try it again.  Peche Mortel was a great pairing here; it is one of the best coffee beers in the world (they use fair trade coffee in it, as well.)

Cheers for Chef Jesse Kimball (Phillies hat) & his crew!

Cheese Course: Aged Macadamia Cheese, Cashew & Crystal Algae Blue Cheese, pickled blueberries, Smoked Coconut Marmalade paired with Spezial Rauchbier

Even back before I was vegan, I was never a “cheese person” – the type of person to go to a wine party with various fancy cheeses that smell funny.  Semi-recently, though, I ordered Dr Cow nut cheese from pangea; it seemed interesting enough to try.  I’m not sure what happened – maybe it did not survive the trip from Maryland well, or maybe it sat in my fridge for too long, but it was dreadful.  This sampling (which was from Dr. Cow), on the other hand, was wonderful.  I enjoyed the texture and the taste, and the toasted bread sticks provided for spreading on were perfect.  The smoked coconut marmalade was great… But we already know Chef Jesse is the master at smoked coconut (see him on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.)

And finally, no trip to Memphis is complete without using the rest room, and drying your hands with an xlerator – the only worthy hand dryer in the world.  I’m trying to figure out how to integrate one of these into my house.

In closing, this event was awesome.  The beer pairings were pretty spot on and the portions were just right. Our table of 5 left very satisfied!  Leigh from Memphis hinted that they will do it again next beer week – I can’t wait!