Local restaurants host beer dinners regularly, pairing their cuisine with the beers from a craft brewery. But for the East Austin restaurant the Hightower, the upcoming Austin Beerworks feast will be different — a personal project a couple of years in the making. The two local businesses took their collaboration to the next level by making one of the featured brews together.
The Hightower’s co-owner Chad Dolezal and Austin Beerworks co-owner Will Golden are friends with kids the same age, and “we end up in a lot of backyards drinking beer together,” Golden said. The idea to collaborate on a beer sprouted from one of those backyard hangouts; building an entire dinner around the beer developed later.
True to the Hightower’s seasonally focused style, the Oct. 18 beer dinner will feature fresh American fare with Mexican and Eastern European flavors, such as mussels with spent grain orecchiette, green tomato salsa verde, smoked sausage and grilled mushrooms. The dish is being paired with the beer of the hour: the perfectly named Garde Tower, a bière de garde. (And that spent grain orecchiette? The grain in the pasta was left over from the beer.)
Golden chose the little-known bière de garde style, a French invention, partially because it gets so little attention in the U.S. but has the sort of simple, malt-forward recipe that makes it easy to combine with cuisine like the Hightower’s.
“I wanted to be a little rustic with it,” he said. “We used older grains to give it a field-and-hay, heavy bread malt character and back it up with a cool yeast with fruity esters. Nothing over the top. It’ll pair with simple, well-done foods.”
Both he and Dolezal hope the Hightower’s customers agree. In addition to making its big debut at the dinner, it’ll be on tap there, at Austin Beerworks and at a couple of other beer-centric bars around town. But the Hightower will be the only place where people can try it with the mussels dish, which will stick around on the menu, and experience how the bright flavors of the meal play with the bière de garde’s graham cracker-like finish.
“It tastes like it’d be a Beerworks beer, but it doesn’t taste like any Beerworks beer I’ve had before,” Dolezal said about the amber-hued beer after trying the finished product for the first time. “It’s beautiful, simple and so understated in some ways.”
Other dishes — special to the family-style dinner and not on the regular menu — include a salmon crudo with prickly pear gazpacho, spicy cucumber, avocado and pasilla paired with Austin Beerworks’ limited Saccharification, a tart saison. There will also be a cocktail made with Austin Beerworks’ prized Sputnik, a Russian Imperial Stout that has become a bit of a wintertime must for local beer lovers.
The must this time, of course, will be the Garde Tower.
To help make the Garde Tower with Austin Beerworks, Dolezal accompanied the Hightower’s other co-owner Victor Farnsworth and sous chef Peter Brutofsky to the large North Austin facility. Though the trio is at home in a kitchen, a production brewery is another story.
“It was Peter’s first time in a brewery, and he was just blown away,” Dolezal said. “There were pictures we took during brew day, and you can tell the three people who don’t belong. But the beer is good, we promise!”