Few venues possess the beauty of a modern menu contrasted against the traditional elegance of an English pub such as The White Horse on Parsons Green. Just a stone’s throw from the tube station, one may be deceived by the appearance of this gastropub and it’s classy clientele. Truth be told, The White Horse has been at the forefront of real ale and craft beer for many years as well as good locally sourced food and quality wines.
I first visited The White Horse over a year ago, as it seemed like a good place for a pre-football match drink. I was in awe at the beauty of the center square-shaped bar and the beautiful Victorian interiors, and beyond this I was pleasantly surprised to see a fine selection of real ales and craft beers. The pub even had Sierra Nevada, Rogue and Odell on tap! After a rare pint of draught American craft beer in such a gorgeous setting, I had a lapse in memory as I thought to myself, “Which football match was it that I was going to attend?”
The White Horse has stuck out in my mind ever since that first unexpected visit. Since moving to the UK, I had been longing to return to Fulham for a pint. What better opportunity to visit the pub on Parsons Green than for a 5-course dinner paired with 6 Sierra Nevada beers hosted by Ken Grossman’s brother Steve? Having visited the magnificent brewery in Chico with Ryan, I was ready to hear more about Sierra Nevada straight from the source.
Now I know the neck beards are coming out and thinking, “Sierra Nevada? They’re too massive.” But that’s the point. Sierra Nevada was one of the first “Craft Breweries” along with Anchor and the now defunct New Albion Brewing. (Apparently New Albion Ale has a second life.) This past year, the brewery put out just under a million barrels. That’s quite a feat for one of the “little guys.” They have come a long way since 1980.
So what did Steve Grossman say? He told a story of 15 year-old kids drinking an older friend’s homebrew so often, that he decided to teach his younger friends how to brew so they could stop pinching his beer. The story of Sierra Nevada is one of hard work and determination that involved cutting many corners such as modifying dairy and agriculture equipment for brewing. Ken and Paul Camusi’s third brew, their Pale Ale, would quickly become their flagship beer. Here in the UK, you can actually find Sierra Nevada in places such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose as well at several non “beer” pubs.
Digression aside, let me get back to last Tuesday in London. The dinner was to take place in the upstairs dining room of the White Horse. We were first greeted with the flagship Pale Ale as a starter beer when we entered the elegant dining room. We quickly met other beer geeks as we chatted during our wait for Steve’s presentation and met a nice mix of beer enthusiasts and locals.
Besides reviewing the history of Sierra Nevada with dinner guests, Steve also emphasized the mission of the brewery to run completely on sustainable energy. In fact, the EPA awarded Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. as “Green Business of the Year” in 2010. The sheer spectacle of Sierra Nevada’s environment-friendly practices must be seen in person. If you have not visited the brewery I highly recommend it as you will have a great experience tasting wort from hand-pounded coppers, nosing fresh whole flower hops and having a fresh pint in the brewery restaurant.
with ponzu mayo&
Kellerweis Hefewiezen 4.8%
Sierra Nevada’s take on the Hefe has always been a fine example but tonight, it was tickling the papillae with refreshment. I was very excited about the Mac and Cheese Balls, but I feel this pairing was a case of like and like. I could see why the pairing was attempted, but felt the lightness of the beer felt too similar to the entrée and the cheese seemed to eliminate the banana and clove from the yeast. I talked with Steve and another industry professional and they seemed to agree. In my opinion, this was the weakest pairing in the meal.
Pan seared Tuna & Celebration Beer Jellywith avocado puree and a lime and white radish dressing &
Celebration Ale- IPA 6.8%
Okay, so first I need to get this off my chest. Until a few weeks ago, I did not realize all of these years that Celebration was an IPA. I blame it on the fact that it is a winter seasonal which I normally associate with malty dark winter-warmers. Pan seared Tuna is one of my favorite things in the world. The beer jelly, avocado puree and white radish dressing each added individual complexity to the dish – a little fat, sweet, and citrus attributes with the tuna. The Celebration had enough bitterness to cut through the sweet and the carbonation delicately sliced through the oils in the avocado puree. The hotness of the alcohol seemed to mellow out with the sweetness of the entrée. I really enjoyed this tasty pairing.
Course Cascade Hope Smoked Wood Pigeonwith cobnuts, fondant potato and carrot puree
Northern Hemisphere Harvest- IPA 6.7%
Northern Hemisphere is one variant of Sierra Nevada’s wet hop beers. These hops were flown in from Yakima valley and thrown in to the kettle in less than 24 hours. The fresh hops have more lupulin oils creating more intensity. The wood pigeon was intensely smokey and rich. Again the IBUs in this IPA cut through the heavy red meat of the pigeon and the beautiful citrus, black currant/ resin of the hops fought through the smokiness of the dish. This was another great pairing that made me want to seek out a smoked IPA to drink later.
British Cheese Boardwith membrillo & crackers
Brux “Domesticated Wild Ale” – Belgian Strong Ale 8.3%
This is a beer that I had been waiting to try with much anticipation. Ryan and I almost died and went to heaven when we first visited Russian River. Vinnie Cilurzo is at the top of my list of Brewmasters I would like to meet.
To be honest, not being a hipster foodie, I am not 100 percent sure which cheese we were given. My guess was mature white cheddar, a smoked red cheddar and the classic stilton. The Brux instantly took me back to Santa Rosa and the Russian River Brewpub. Sour fruit, vinegar, citrus and a crisp dry finish all masking the alcohol’s heat. The white cheddar brought out the fruity notes in the beer making it seem sweeter. The smoked cheddar added more contrast but seemed to mask some of the earthiness and funk flavors. My favorite pairing of the night, well, seemed like an obvious pairing. Fruit, earth, and barnyard funk in perfect synergy. Funky cheese and Brux was like Brettanomyces on steroids!
Dark Chocolate Mousse and Poached Pruneswith chocolate and prune cake, imperial stout ice-cream
Paired with Narwhal- Imperial Stout 10.2%
The Narwhal is a relatively new beer from Sierra Nevada. Apparently, the Narwhal is some sort of deep arctic whale with a tooth like a unicorn’s horn sticking out of its face. One can only wonder if the narwhal was used solely because Sierra Nevada liked the image but I would like to think the beer was fermented with freshly harvested Narwhal horns.
Prunes normally make me think of old people and Fibercon, however I do love dark chocolate so I was still excited for dessert. I feel that on paper this dessert pairing looked like a solid match and in reality it was. The dessert was very rich but not too sweet, the prunes brought a spicy raisin and earthiness while the Narwhal cut across the palate with sweetness, hints of vanilla, coffee and then dark chocolate bitterness to match the dark chocolate mouse and barely sweet imperial stout ice cream. This was a great pairing of desserts balancing sweet and bitter.
Overall, it was a lovely evening and I shall be back again to visit the White Horse. I highly recommend you pay a visit if you are in London, whether for a tasting dinner or a few pints, you will not be disappointed.