Since day one, Brass Union executive chef Jonathan Kopacz and beverage director Paulo Pereira wanted to incorporate food and beverage pairings at the food-focused concept they opened last year in place of Precinct Bar.
Early on, they settled on a regular dinner series: Brass Pair. The evening highlights a handful of beverages from the portfolio of one of their beverage representatives, or beers from a local brewery, along with an exclusive, four-plus-course menu from Kopacz. The sixth installment of Brass Pair is coming up this Wednesday, June 17 with Framingham lager brewery Jack's Abby.
The series "gives us a little time to show off what we can do, with much less restraint," Kopacz said. If that means highlighting a beer the connoisseurs have never tried before and building a tower of corn to go with it, so be it.
Kopacz is most excited about that pairing — Jack’s Abby Excess India pale lager alongside corn verrine, a stacked salad. The first course slated for Wednesday’s dinner is "corn in a bunch of different ways: corn puree; blistered, roasted corn; popcorn; and corn nuts. I think there will be little layers of pairing; you may notice different things about the beer," the chef said.
The IPL is a relatively new style, which adds IPA-like hops to a beer fermented with lager yeast, chilled and aged. The first IPL both Brass beer geeks tried was Jack’s Abby’s flagship Hoponious Union, a beer Pereira has offered on draft since Brass Union’s first day. (Which, incidentally, was exactly one year ago.) It’s been a consistent best-seller, he said.
Neither he nor Kopacz has tried the new, bigger brew, which adds Citra, Chinook, Equinox, Calypso, and Simcoe hops throughout the brewing and lagering process — and is "outrageously hoppy," according to the brewery.
"Super hoppy beers aren’t always easy to pair with, either, which is another reason this could be fun. If it works," Kopacz joked. He tested the dish with Hoponious Union, so "we’ll definitely know if this dish can stand up to hops."
Pereira, who admits to having a sweet tooth, is looking forward to the dessert course, which pairs raspberry and white chocolate flavors with Bride Maker, a 13% sipper Jack’s Abby categorizes as a "lager wine."
For both men, a dessert course was a standout during a previous Brass Pair beer dinner. When the restaurant hosted Connecticut-based Two Roads Brewing in April, Kopacz made a mango and plantain turron to go along with the brewery’s No Limits Hefeweizen. The deep-fried pastry, popular in the Philippines and Spain, conceals the ripe fruit inside a crispy lumpia wrapper. Kopacz garnished his with coconut caramel sauce and toasted coconut.
"The two textures in there worked so well," Pereira said, of the warm fruit and crunchy shell. "We chose the Hefe because it was very crisp and refreshing, which complemented the ripe plantain and mango in the turron. [The beer] does have a bit of a dry peppery note to it, as well, which brought another dynamic to the dessert course pairing," he added.
The dinner will be a casual affair on Wednesday night. Pereira acts as a host for the evening, introducing the chef and, in this case, Jack’s Abby sales rep Ben Warner, at the beginning of the meal. He'll describe the courses as they arrive, but otherwise, he plans to hang back and allow guests to enjoy the meal. But if an attendee wants to know more about what they’re eating or drinking, he’s happy to chat.
There is a convivial moment mid-way through the meal, though, which will bring the chef back out: The intermezzo course is "a tradition we all participate in," Pereira said. The "shooter" cleanses the palate for the last, savory course, pairing a beverage with a flavor "puck" Kopacz makes using a technique called reverse spherification.
The idea is to set this "flavored explosion" directly into the beer or spirit, and literally pop it in your mouth to chase the flavor. "If the first liquid is sweet, we try to make the second one dry or herbal or something, so you get the difference of these two flavors in your mouth at the same time," Kopacz explained. "We warn everyone to keep their mouth shut. They really pop," he added.
Wednesday’s "explosion" will be a grassy, herbal concoction of bergamot, lemon verbena, and sorrel, with about two ounces of the dry, sour Jack’s Abby Berliner Style Lager.
Intrigued? Tickets are $40, and Pereira said "as long as we have enough product to build the plates," they will welcome attendees up until the 7 p.m. seating time.