With a backdrop of unbeatable late spring weather, the evening began at 6 p.m. in Sunny Point’s adjoining garden with a selection of four appetizers, each paired with a different Wedge beer. The plate of soft pretzel bread and organic blue masa cheesy cakes — topped with queso fresco, garnished with bruleed avocado and jalapeño pepper jelly — made for a quick but fun first course, as did small pours of Julian Price pilsner (suggested for the cakes), a peat-smoked Scottish ale and Wedge’s witbier.
My carnivore companions raved about the Puppy Dogs (mini Hickory Nut Gap all-beef franks dipped in Iron Rail IPA beer batter, fried to a golden brown and served with Lusty Monk mustard) and the pork belly skewers (Duroc naturally raised pork belly braised in sriracha and Scottish ale, grilled and garnished with house-made kimchi), unable to choose a favorite between the two.
Our spirits already up, we moved to the open-air dining area of the café and were served a noticeably fresh salad plate, which involved hemp seed and Sunny Point flowers herb-crusted Looking Glass Farm goat cheese and maple-candied baby beets served over local greens and shaved fresh fennel, garnished with crisp bacon — which I swapped for a friend’s beets — and drizzled with an orange hemp ale vinaigrette. This course came with a full pour of Derailed hemp ale and a short talk by Wedge brewmaster Carl Melissas on the beer’s creation.
The entree of teriyaki-glazed cauliflower steak — soy, sesame marinated cauliflower seared and topped with succotash of sweet corn, edamame, and Vidalia onions infused with a ginger-sage-chili butter and served with Carolina Gold rice — was one of the main reasons I was drawn to the beer dinner, and it did not disappoint. Few local beer dinners are crafted with vegetarians in mind, so to have this option as well as other delicious non-meat dishes throughout the evening was greatly appreciated.
My plate was paired with a quasi-rare saison that Melissas makes every other year, a brew that made my four table mates playfully envious. Two of them went with the Beulah Farms lamb — a spring leg of lamb slow-braised in Community porter, fresh rosemary, lemon herbs and spices served with garden peas, baby carrots, Vidalia onions and fluffy parsley dumplings — that came with the Community Porter. The other two chose the wild salmon — pan-sautéed and deglazed with ramp butter and Payne’s pale ale and served with sautéed garden greens and parsley new potatoes and a glass of Payne’s Pale Ale.
All of us were quite satisfied with our selections, but as dessert was served it was clear that both Wedge and Sunny Point had saved the best for last. Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present “beerimisu”: tender lady fingers soaked in Wedge XII Belgian quad syrup and layered with sweetened mascarpone cheese and bittersweet French Broad Chocolate shavings and garnished with local strawberries. The accompanying serving of the Wedge XII — arguably Melissas’ finest offering — was likewise worthy of applause and a wonderful way to close a wonderful evening.