What a wonderful time of year to enjoy the rolling hills and beautiful country side in southern PA where everything is transitioning from full blown hot summer days to cool, crisp autumn breezes. The tree leaves are turning from bright green to vibrant shades of red, orange, yellow and purple. While the farm fields are morphing from lush vegetation to beautifully dried works of art. Wonderful eats are being harvested like butternut squash, pumpkin, apples and pears. My drinking preferences also start to shift this time of year to craving saisons, brown ales and oktoberfest-style brews.
So what couldn’t be more fun, tasty and enjoyable than an outdoor Farm to Table Belgian Beer Pairing Dinner at South County Brewing Company located in rural Fawn Grove, PA just shy of the Maryland border!
The tables were dressed with white linens and colorful fresh flower arrangements. And, lights were strung above our dining space to provide a soft glow once the sun started to set. It made for both a fancy and casual vibe. Everyone felt at home and conversation filled the air as folks started to arrive for the feast that was about to be served.
Although I had previewed the menu to see what each course would be, I had no idea that the dinner was going to be this tasty and this beautiful. Everything was artfully plated and utilized local ingredients where possible. I had to keep telling myself “it is OK to eat the food art” and to “put my camera down, now.”
The crisp endive made for the perfect wrap to hold tart apples, crunchy walnuts and creamy goat cheese. The beer with its classic Belgian yeast had notes of banana, peppercorn, toast and just a touch of tart lemon. Table beers are lower in alcohol content so I appreciated that we started on the mild side for our first course. After all, I had 3 more full pours to go plus the pre-game beer I had in the brewery. What? I couldn’t just NOT try the FestiFall beer that was on tap earlier.
I especially enjoyed listening to the introduction of each course. Owner J.R. Heaps walked us through the beer style, what his brewer was setting out to achieve with the recipe and why he chose to pair it with the food that Jen Schaefer had meticulously crafted. Jen then shared her inspiration for each Belgian dish and where the local ingredients had been sourced.
As we dined, we all shared our thoughts on the beer and food. J.R. was available to answer additional questions about the brew prepared exclusively for this event.
Josh Oliver of Deer Creek Malt and Adam Dellinger of Sunny Brae Hops, both of Pennsylvania, were in attendance and sharing their farming expertise. It was interesting to hear how their businesses are growing as more and more brewers make the decision to source ingredients locally.
The Belgian finger food had crispy fried panko breading on the outside and a creamy center filling made of pureed shrimp, onion, milk, cheeses and spices. A savory dipping sauce and fresh squeezed lemon juice added to the complexity of this dish.
The witbier was darker in color than I’m used to but it had a most excellent creamy mouthfeel that I couldn’t get enough of. More caramel notes than orange or coriander but still quite delicious.
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. My plate was prepared with slow roasted pork as opposed to the beef version of this dish that everyone else dined on. Jen was kind enough to whip up something special to accommodate an allergy I have to beef (I alerted her prior the event). It was fantastic. I will some way, some how get this recipe from her! My husband who did have the Flemish beef also couldn’t stop raving about his entree. And, who doesn’t love creamy whipped potatoes? With boursin cheese incorporated none-the-less.
The dark saison had all the flavor characteristics of a barley wine and it had the high alcohol content to boot. A boozy tart brew to accompany the Flemish style stew we were all enjoying. For me, it really helped set off the touch of apple cider vinegar and spices in the gravy. P/S – Did I mention there was bacon in the gravy? This course was over-the-top delish.
By now, the sun was starting to set and a chill in the air could be felt. The lights strung above us were turned on to softly illuminate our outdoor dining room as the sky gave way to moon and stars. It was time for something decadent and rich for our fourth and final course.
Chocolate Ganache Tart topped with fresh whipped cream, raspberries and strawberries. The chocolates used, of course, were high-quality Belgian varieties making for a perfectly smooth mouthfeel. Rich. Not at all bitter or dry. A fine example of dark chocolate.
I enjoyed several bites before even a taste of beer was to be had. “Hello. My name is Chelsie. And, I’m a chocoholic.” I simply couldn’t help myself. After all, Biére de Garde, is a beer for storage. So. You know. It can wait. (wink. wink.)
The beer was similar in flavor profile to the previous dark saison. Caramel, raisin and molasses notes were present in this sweet, boozy beer that I was going to sip and enjoy the remainder of our evening.
I grabbed a blanket from the car to wrap up in and rejoined the group around the fire just in time for a discussion about the water crisis in California and how the various breweries are coping.
Topics bounced around from hop farming to party hosting to you name it. We all enjoyed the time and filled it with laughter and conversation.
Shout out to Amber DeGrace, beer and food writer for Lancaster Newspapers, who I finally got to meet in person during our evening. It was good to see a fellow female craft beer advocate and writer in our midst.
MORE PHOTOS FROM OUR EVENING
A SPECIAL ‘THANK YOU’ TO OUR HOSTS
Everyone in attendance raved about the Belgian Beer Dinner experience. It was the first of its kind at South County Brewing Company. Here’s to hoping more events like this are in the works. Nice job, guys. The night was fabulous!
ABOUT SOUTH COUNTY BREWING COMPANY
Last year, the brewery added $250,000 in new equipment to expand production. The brewery now has the capacity to produce 1,000 barrels a year.
At the brewery, you’ll find a small tasting room where you can purchase their beer fresh from the source in pints, growlers or bottles. Please note, that there is no food for purchase at this time but there is a nearby restaurant where takeout is available to bring into the tasting room.
Hours of Operation
- Wed, Thur, Fri: 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm
- Sat: 11:00 am – 4:30 pm
- Sun, Mon, Tues: Closed
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