When I heard that there would be a beer dinner at the Corson Building featuring all Belgian-style beers made by Washington breweries to go along with Belgianfest, I didn’t hesitate. I think I might have pulled a hammy running for the phone so that I could call to be one of the lucky 36 to snag a reservation for the first beer dinner ever to be held at this well-regarded restaurant. Jeanne and I had long talked about going to a dinner since the restaurant opened in 2008, and a Belgian beer themed night was just too good of an opportunity for us to pass up.
The Corson Building is the product of a partnership between well-known local chef Matt Dillon (also chef/owner of Sitka & Spruce) and Wylie Bush (also owner of Joe Bar). The restaurant is “dedicated to food and its direct connection to celebration, community, and culture”. The communal seating and cozy atmosphere is meant to create the vibe of having a relaxed dinner at a friend’s house. Food is served family style and shared by all at the table, and like it or not, you will find yourself having conversations with the strangers at your table.
The dinner sold out easily and was attended by several of us who would qualify as certified beer geeks (not to be confused with snobs, mind you), but also a fair amount of people that just love good food and drink and in at least a few cases were attending their first organized beer dinner. We were also graced with the presence of several people from the brewing industry, including Charles & Rose Ann Finkel of Pike Brewing, Drew Cluley of Pike Brewing, and Dick Cantwell of Elysian Brewing. Both Dick and Drew talked to the group about some of the individual beers being poured, and then Charles told us about some of his adventures of being one of the first to import Belgian beers into the United States; as always, it was a pleasure to hear his stories.
Overall, this was a great four hour dining experience with some stellar food and beers, plus enjoyable company. It was a pleasure to meet everyone at our table (we knew no one else at the table) and we had some good conversations. But, after spending $119 per person on the dinner including tax and a well-deserved 20% tip, it was easily the most expensive beer dinner I’ve ever attended..
Following is the full menu with a few notes on each course.
Elliott Bay Hop Von Boorian
Thoughts: The warm french cheese puffs were a nice start, and Elliott Bay’s take on a Belgian IPA was tasting great. These were both sampled as everyone came in and mingled a bit.
Pheasant and liver pate
Kushi oysters with pickled watermelon
Crab and artichoke salad
Elysian Brewing Red Queen Saison
Thoughts: I loved the perfectly-put-together pate and this take on a raw oyster. The Red Queen Saison is the collaboration beer that Elysian brewed with Green Flash, and it was one of our favorites of the night. Brewed with rose hips, pink peppercorns, and two types of apples, this saison was unique and refreshing.
Mussels from the hearth with parsnip & sunchoke chips
Big Time Malaprop 8
Thoughts: This was my favorite course of the night. The mussels were cooked outside on a brick hearth, and the smoke taste imparted to them was just amazing. I’d never had shellfish taste like that, and it left me wanting more; much more. The sunchoke chips were good on their own, but it seemed like an odd combo to serve them with the mussels (especially after they got soaked with mussel juice on your plate). The homemade brown bread they served to soak up the juice was more than enough of an accompaniment.
Sausages with our sauerkraut and our mustard
Pike Monk’s Uncle Trippel
Thoughts: This was probably Jeanne’s favorite pairing of the night. The homemade sausages were about as good as we’ve had anywhere, and the combo of sweet malt and spicy yeast from the Monk’s Uncle went along perfectly with the dish.
Beer braised short ribs with toasted horseradish, pearl onions, potatoes, celery & warm morbier cheese.
Hale’s 25th Anniversary Dubbel
Thoughts: The short ribs were decadent. The meat was falling off the bone and just full of flavor, and I think this was the favorite dish for many diners on this evening. The intention for the cheese was to dip the vegetables into the warm cheese on your plate (similar to raclette), but the cheese was hard & rubbery within a minute or so of being on the plate, so that didn’t quite work out. Maybe I missed out on some instructions from the server? Maybe since I was the last to receive the communal hot cast iron pan with the cheese at our table I missed out? Either way, the veggies were pretty plain by themselves. I’m not sure if the dubbel was the beer used to braise the ribs, but whatever they used worked fantastically. The ribs are something I’d like to try to recreate at home.
Dark beer spice cake with creme fraiche sorbet
Dick’s Grand Cru Ale
Thoughts: The spice cake was well-made but it just not my favorite choice for dessert. My feelings on this one are just personal preference, and others seemed to enjoy it. The beer may have added some spice to the cake, but it was hard to tell. On the other hand, the Dick’s Grand Cru was probably my favorite beer of the night. This 11% ABV Belgian-style strong ale has complex fruit and spice and was the perfect choice to end the evening.
Like I said at the beginning of the review, this was a great experience with several highlights. But, I would have felt a lot better about the experience if I had spent $40 to $20 less. The event was a big success and it sounds like Corson will plan on doing additional beer dinners in the future, but I likely will not return at that same price.
Another thing that would have made the night better was if our car would have started afterward and we didn’t have to have our friends give us a jump (thanks again)….