April 8, 2012

Panama Brews Part 3: Una Noche de Cerveza

Last week, I teamed up with a couple other expats (Katie Garstin & Blayne Ladner) to present Una Noche de Cerveza. The mission: to jump-start craft beer culture in Panama City with an exclusive beer pairing dinner. Blayne generously opened up the Super Gourmet for the evening while Katie and I put together a menu consisting of four courses and five, 6-ounce beers to accompany each course:

First Course:
Baguette with Chevre & Pineapple­‐Mango Jam
Licher Hefeweizen (Germany)

Second Course:
Brewer’s Salad with Tropical Fruit, Feta Cheese, Almonds, Fresh Herbs
Canal Brew Panama Pilsner (Panama)

Third Course:
Corvina al horno with two sauces & Roasted Asparagus
La Rana Dorada Pale Ale (Panama)

Chocolates from the Caribbean Chocolate Company
Fuller’s London Porter (UK)
Leffe Brune (Belgium)

Photo credit: the talented Oliver Wolfe
We got off to a great start with the first course. Having just recently discovered Licher Hefeweizen, we found that rather than the classic banana and clove flavors, the Licher wheat beer has more tropical fruit notes, pairing perfectly with the all-natural St. Dalfour Piña-Mango jam. The earthy and sweet hints of fresh thyme pulled it all together.

We were thrilled to be able to serve not one, but two locally-made beers with the dinner. Canal Brew Panama features German-style cerveza casera crafted by Brew Manager Renate Jope. The microbrewery is run out of Al Dente restaurant on the Amador Causeway where Renate serves a Hefeweizen, a Dunkelweizen, and a Pilsner. The light-bodied Pilsner paired well with the tropical fruit in Katie's Brewer's Salad. We served the beer out of Renate's fancy, two-liter German growlers, which you can have filled with any of Renate's beers and take home for only $12 (plus a $10 deposit on the growler). At this time, Canal Brew Panama is the only place in Panama City offering take-home growlers. [Update: La Rana Dorada now offers growlers to go as well.]

The second locally-made beer we served was from La Rana Dorada (the Golden Frog), which recently opened their second location, a microbrewery, in the Casco Viejo neighborhood. Their Via Argentina pub also serves their cerveza artesanal and has been a popular watering hole for a few years now. We paired La Rana's Pale Ale with Corvina (sea bass), oven-baked and served with two awesome sauces -- one, lemon-caper, and the other, culantro-basil. Each sauce played with the Pale Ale slightly differently, prompting plenty of debate amongst our guests. Be sure to check out the entire craft-brewed line-up at La Rana if you haven't done so already. (They have a true brewmaster behind the scenes, but more about La Rana later.)

Sea bass coming out.
Photo: Oliver Wolfe
To finish strong, we paired two different imports with hand-made chocolates from Blayne's Caribbean Chocolate Company. We were thrilled to have an opportunity to support a local business. The bitter coffee and chocolate notes of Fuller's London Porter contrasted the sweeter Leffe Brune, but both played well with the truffles and fudge. It was fun to introduce people to a new concept -- chocolate and beer??? Why yes!

All in all the night was a great success. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and their company. Plus, we were able to donate a portion of the proceeds to a local initiative, Urban Gardening Panama. Una Noche de Cerveza was, however definitely a learning experience. We found that it takes a lot of hard work and preparation to pull off a meal for 50 people! I was reminded of a lesson I learned in my Siebel class: in the beer business, serving food as well as beer can get pretty complicated. We would have liked to spend less time preparing food and more time talking to everyone about the pairings, but I overheard a lot of those kinds of discussions happening on their own -- which was exactly what we were going for.

Stayed tuned for the latest from the Panama craft beer scene!

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