Watching the Minnesota brewery scene go off the rails is fascinating, wonderful, and a little sad. Fascinating because ever since Minnesota passed the law allowing breweries to open tap rooms onsite, craft beers have been multiplying like mad and PBR’s stranglehold over Minneapolis has become more of a light hug. Wonderful because beer is great. And sad because once the craft brew hysteria dies down even a little bit, a lot of businesses will go with it. Not Surly, however. Surly is a juggernaut. Surly invented craft beer in Minnesota. They shoved the tap room law down state legislators’ throats. They waited patiently as dozens opened their own tap rooms via The Law Surly Built before opening their own $30 million behemoth that regularly has two hour waits for a table. And now Surly has created an FDC-worthy restaurant within the taproom because they’re Surly and they do as they goddamn please. We wasted little time in booking a spot at Brewer’s Table, said FDC-worthy restaurant, for our July meeting.
Brewer’s Table is set in second floor of the brewery, over-looking the taproom inside and the beer-garden outside. Even though I was wearing my typical FDC outfit of an ill-fitting undershirt, shorts, and flip flops, I still felt like I was in. We were part of the club.
Unfortunately, one of us couldn’t make it to this overly anticipated event. Chris had a rough day. First, his 1871 Toyota Camry and probably the 4th car ever made bit the bucket. Yes, almost 10 years after it lost power steering, the Methuselah of cars was sadly put out to pasture. Then to top it all off, Chris forgot to mark this FDC meeting down in the calendar, and had booked a dinner with the in-laws instead (talk about a raw deal). Luckily we were at a brewery and there were plenty of things to pour out for our homie. Taking advantage of Chris’ Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was former FDC guest star, Andrew “The J” Saville.
We started off the meal with a few lamb tongue tacos and some rabbit rillettes (and beer. Just assume there is constantly beer). The tacos were delicious and had a lot of flavors and textures to sort through. We ordered two to share and found that we all problem solve in different ways. J, being the engineer he is, used a precision cut to halve the soft shell taco. I, on the other hand, just took a half-a-taco sized bite and presented the rest to a speechless Matt (and that’s not easy to do). The rabbit rillettes were a happy accident. We actually wanted the rabbit pasta of the two rabbit dishes on the menu, but the rabbit, toast, and jam concoction we got instead was a really light and refreshing way to kick off the meal (and we still got the pasta anyways).
Next up, we got our rabbit pasta and, as tradition dictates, the cauliflower. One thing we noticed as the second course came out was Brewer’s Table likes two things: rich, flavorful sauces and plating things off to the side of the dish. The former made for a really enjoyable overall meal. The sauce on the rabbit pasta was spicy and mixed really well with the garlic and mint (rabbits really killed it this meal), and the Thai vinaigrette was just further proof that if you slap a solid sauce on cauliflower, you’re gonna have a good time. As far as the plating things off to the side goes, everything looked and tasted delicious, so keep going with what works, Brewer’s Table.
Next we ventured into seafood world with the octopus and the hamachi collar. The octopus could end up causing a crosstown rivalry with Borough, which claimed at a previous FDC that they had “the best ‘pus is town.” Sorry, Borough, you may have been dethroned. The red pepper/chorizo sauce was unreal, and the octopus was perfectly tender. 10/10 would eat again. The hamachi collar was not as straight forward. I mean let’s just start with the name. That could be literally anything. Given how well the meal was going at that point, Brewer’s Table might have been cooking up an actual shirt collar and I still would have loved it. I am still not entirely sure what part of the fish it was. There was a lot of cartilage and it was an adventure finding edible fish. Once we did find it, it was pretty tasty (especially with the barbeque sauce and mustard seeds), but it was still basically the human version of putting dog treats inside of a toy. Turns out hamachi is just the Japanese word for yellowtail, but I am not quite convinced.
Last came our two meat entrees, the pork jowel and short rib. I’ll keep it simple here:
- Texture: check
- Flavor: check
- Sauce: still a lot and still great
- Tummies: very happy
We also got one of the kitchen’s “misfires,” the guinea hen, on the house. I’m not sure what was wrong with it. Maybe the carrots were a little charred? But I liked them that way, so it’s still basically a mystery, especially since my own personal cooking misfires usually look something like this:
As opposed to this:
Finally we reach the dessert round. We ordered the chocolate peanut butter sphere (because duh) and the strawberry rhubarb mousse. Although the beer pairings were on point all night (the server brought out samples of his recommendations along the way and was basically always right), this is where they really nailed it. The pairing with the mousse was insane. When I took a sip of the beer after a bite of the dessert, I had a serious Ratatouille moment. That beer belonged with that dessert. Then Brad pointed out to me that the dessert was called “Surly Cynic Mousse” and the beer pairing was “Surly Cynic.” Okay, wise guy.
Probably obvious at this point, but Brewer’s Table far exceeded expectations. Maybe it was because both the manager and head chef came to check on our table to acknowledge that we were “some kind of dinner club” (the power of Twitter!). The quality of the food certainly helped. But most likely it was because we left kinda drunk. So well done, Brewer’s Table, and thank you for showing us that fancy food and lots of beer most definitely go together. And don’t worry, Chris, we’ll definitely bring you for Round Two.