A nine-course meal, twelve beers from three breweries and circus performers were on the bill for the Three Ring Circus Beer Dinner & Sideshow at the Elks Lodge in San Francisco on February 15th. The event was a collaborative effort organized by the Home Brew Chef Sean Paxton, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, Shmaltz and Ninkasi Brewing. It was by far the most ambitious and elaborate festivity taking place during SF Beer Week and lived up to the $120 price tag.
Every detail of the event paid homage to the circus, including the food. Paxton put his spin on a variety of carnival treats using local ingredients and gave each course a playful name, such as The Mermaid, The Drumstick and The Sword Swallower. Nearly every component of the food incorporated beer from the three breweries. The most highly anticipated course was the Hopped Cotton Candy wrapped around a cube of Sonoma foie gras terrine mixed with He’Brew Geneisis from Shmaltz. The sugar laden candy instantly melted around the fatty goose liver. It was delightfully decadent.
As the dinner progressed circus acts and sideshow performers entertained the crowd. Most of them fell into the freak show genre. Classic acts like sword swallowing, walking on glass and mind reading took the stage along with a few acrobatic performances that mesmerized the dinner party, including Spiral, the pioneer of contemporary hoop dance.
The grand finale of the dinner was the unveiling of the collaboration beer, appropriately called Three Ring Circus Ale, that was created by the evening’s organizers. Brewed at Speakeasy, the very unconventional nut-brown ale was made with dulce de leche, popped corn and peanuts. Other noteworthy beer selections included Ninkasi’s Conventionale Imperial Stout (2010), He’Brew Genesis 15:15 by Shmaltz, and Speakeasy’s Massacre Black Wheat Wine. A complete food and beer menu can be found below with photos.
Although the evening extended well into the night due to slow food service (a minor flaw) the event was a great success. The historic Elks Lodge provided a wonderful backdrop, the entertainment was exceptional and the whimsical food paired nicely with the beer in almost every instance. Hopefully the organizers will bring this event back next year. SF Beer Week needs more quality events like this one.
Pre-Dinner Reception Nibbles: Gourmet Popcorn
Bacon fat popped organic popcorn seasoned with tomato powder, roasted garlic, hop salt and smoked in bourbon barrel wood
Black Truffle Oil Scented Popcorn with cooked in vegetable oil with roasted garlic salt flakes
Thyme Infused duck fat popcorn with Sonoma Vella Dry Jack shavings, green peppercorns
First Course: The Mermaid
Lobster and prawn mousse infused with Ninkasi Believer Double Red Ale, wrapped around petrale sole filets, Speakeasy White Lightning Ale “Tide Sauce”, Ninkasi Little One Beer Foam, Speakeasy Prohibition Ale quinoa “sand”
Paired with Ninkasi Sterling Pils
Second Course: The Drumstick
Willie Bird Smoked Turkey legs rillettes layered with He’Brew Genesis 15:15, shallots, dried figs and thyme, Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk cheese, malt pickled heirloom pumpkin, assorted crackers, breads and spiced nuts
Paired with Speakeasy Massacre Black Wheat Wine and Coney Island Geektoberfest
Third Course: The Sword Swallower
“Haute” Dogs infused with 4-H style Lamb, Speakeasy Scarface Imperial Stout, caramelized onions and rosemary Ninkasi Renewale Porter Beer mustard, fennel carrot slaw, sweet roll
Paired with He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA
Fourth Course: Hopped Cotton Candy
Centennial hop scented sugar, wrapped around a cube of Sonoma foie gras terrine mixed with He’Brew Genesis
Paired with Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA
Fifth Course: Slider
Ground elk and duck heart patty, rendered dry aged beef fat, Brioche bun, house made He’Brew Genesis 15:15 beer ketchup, baby arugula, Speak Easy Payback Porter braised red onions
Paired with Ninkasi Conventionale (2010 Imperial Stout), Speakeasy Scarface Imperial Stout and He’Brew Genesis 15:15
Sixth Course: Churro
Point Reyes Blue cheese mixed into a Speakeasy Double Daddy savory churro, roasted garlic powder
Paired with Ninkasi Total Domination IPA
Seventh Course: Three Ring Circus
Roasted red, gold and white baby beets, Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog crumbles, carbonated citrus segments, malt candied hazelnuts, micro greens drizzled with a Three Ring Circus Collaboration vinaigrette
Paired with Speakeasy Prohibition Ale
Eighth Course: Funnel Cake
He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA infused batter with bergamot zest, Three Ring Circus Wort Honey Drizzle, Malted Powdered Sugar Dust, Ninkasi Sleigh’r Beer Caramel
Paired with Coney Island Albino Python
Ninth Course: The Non-Fried Non-Twinkie Cupcake
Ninkasi Conventionale Imperial Stout Chocolate Cake, filled with a He’brew Jewbelation 15 mousse filling, Speak Easy Prohibition Frosting, THCO Cocoa Nibs, Caramel Malt
Paired with the Speakeasy, Ninkasi, Shmaltz, Home Brew Chef Collaboration beer: Three Ring Circus