Brewer’s BBQ At Duke’s
Posted on November 17, 2014
I was busy thinking up a new menu when word of a serious bit of catering down at Duke’s Brew & Que came in. The opportunity for an evening of food and beer at one of our favourite restaurants was too good to turn down. When the night rolled around we put on our nice shoes and headed out. The menu made us feel so decadent we even decided to take a taxi – we were getting fancy as fuck and didn’t care who knew it. When we arrived the place was vibing and the guys on the bar were enthusiastically decanting bottles of the first beer – 60 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head. We got ours and were quickly refreshed. The guys must’ve brought this in their luggage; it was fresher than a sailor on shore leave.
It was a bold start. A wildly drinkable 6% IPA that got us loosened up for the evening. We got acquainted with Beavertown artist Nick Dwyer, a long-time internet acquaintance I’ve never put a face to. It seems Nick’s one of the good guys, which is a reassuring sign. I’ve yet to come across a crook making great beer. I know of one making terrible beer but I suppose that’s a story most people in East London know well. Nick continued to circulate and we took to the outdoors. The IPA was getting at Penelope quick and she needed to smoke. Outside we met Jeremy, another member of team Beaver. When we took our seats it turned out we were sharing our table with Jeremy and some of London’s most esteemed beer writers.
We quickly met everyone around the table and put some voices to Twitter accounts. Turns out Will Hawkes is a true gentleman, adding more weight to the claim by the late Doctor that “good people drink good beer.” Penelope got acquainted with Will as I got acquainted with my neighbour, Bates. This was the first time I’d met a man with one name but he fully justified it. With a fine handlebar, a deep South Carolina drawl and a genuine affection for chewing tobacco this guy was a fine example of an American. Turned out he can butcher and brew, which just about made him the perfect man. My dick shriveled further when he ordered beers between the beers. There was another eight to be worked through.
Before the starter arrived we had talks from Mr. Beavertown Logan Plant and his counterpart from Dogfish Head, Sam Calagione. The guys were genuinely excited, perhaps as a result of day-drinking. Either way, it was good to see the people behind the beer having serious enthusiasm and taking pride in what they do. Sam is the kind of guy who could make you excited about syphilis; he’s all charm and hand gestures. Logan talked of first making beer in the kitchen of Duke’s and how the meal was the kind of thing he’d wanted to do from the start. It was good to see people doing what they want and enjoying it. Many people don’t even consider this an option.
Before the evening began I was certain I disliked both mac and cheese and crab. The starter turned my head whilst containing both. It’ll be the best mac and cheese I’ll ever eat because I’d never think to choose it. The ice tea sour, Earl Phantom, tore through my mouth and cleared out the richness, which made subsequent mouthfuls all that more entertaining as they got in there to cheese the place up again. I mulled over the Earl for a while after blasting the mac. It didn’t seem like long before we got hold of the DNA, a collaboration between Dogfish Head and Wells. I’d had this one before in a weird pub near Liverpool Street. It was raining and I was tired and dirty from catering. I’d walked from the Southbank after some festival or other. The DNA was best thing on cask and several pints brought me comfort as I watched football and enjoyed a Wigan Buffet. From a bottle this beer just couldn’t get at me but I enjoyed the stirred memories of those fine cask pints from a damp time past.
Our table had a good view of the kitchen. We were just in line with the pass so we could see the guys giving it a bit of push-push to get things out and the loitering floor staff primed to cater. It must be a frustrating catering situation: lots of waiting around and then having to go as fast as possible. It’s best to gently warm into being really busy then be busy for fucking ages and then it be suddenly over and time to drink. Periods of serious catering are good for the mind; it’s a meditative process. These boys’ main challenge of the evening was to keep quiet during the speeches. Elbows and eyebrows silently passed the news to a beavering KP who was just getting the job done and clattering about. They generally looked like they had it all under control and didn’t really miss a beat with the food. The only trouble was aiming your fork at the plate.
Next up we had the beer food befitting sloppy drunks; a Philly Cheese Steak slider with a tiny fried quails egg. It was cute and delicious and all of the other things I was meant to think, but something more serious was going on at this point. Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch. This affair was bold and strong and surprising. The 9% hit of a mead style beer really started to twist the evening about. This was an exceptional brew, if only because it brought to mind my current love affair with Scotch Ales. I like strong drink that tastes good and strong. The bar menu continued with a fine Scotch egg that found a good balance between being fun and genuinely delicious. Their plan was going smoothly. They were getting us pissed and sneaking pickled eggs into our food and making us think we liked them.
Big fruity beers came and went, Beavertown offered blackberries and Dogfish Head gave us peaches. It was all so refreshing. Bates and I were still getting to the heart of things. We discussed New York passionately, focusing on (vague) memories of Four Loko, the drink they called ‘black-out in a can’. I think of it as being a mad kind of liquid cocaine, but messier. These brewers could learn from this; what they need to make is a 12% ABV fruit beer that contains caffeine, taurine and guarana. It’d sell to chefs mainly I reckon. The guys on the night were keeping things smooth, thinking about timings and hot holding and staring at the clock during the brewer talks.
By the time we got down to the barbeque meat we’ve long loved this restaurant for we were moving slightly sideways, but very pleasantly. The beef rib was all I truly wanted to eat but I got about the meat plate with interest. The cask Smog Rocket was perfect mainly because it’s one of the most perfect beers in its class around. There was apparently an imperial stout with the dessert I can’t remember, but I must’ve enjoyed it. I ate half a dessert which was tasty and beautiful but I could only take so much. The final nail in the evening was a debut from Bone King a big IPA from our hosts Beavertown. It’s an incredible beer with serious properties. Class A booze. It dazzles. I don’t really recall the experience on the night as it became just a beer in my hand as we talked to all of the friendly faces involved – the people who brought us this beer and the people who love drinking it. Big swirls on an evening of great dining and serious boozing. These people spoke my language; they knew exactly how to drink.