On Saturday, October 18, I had the pleasure of going to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for its very first annual Oktoberfest Beer Brunch, held at the Robins Tea House. The Robins Tea House and Center of the Universe Brewing Company teamed up to create a four-course brunch menu, each paired with a beer perfectly chosen to compliment and bring out the flavors of each dish.
On Saturday, October 18, I had the pleasure of going to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for its very first annual Oktoberfest Beer Brunch, held at the Robins Tea House. The Robins Tea House and Center of the Universe Brewing Company teamed up to create a four-course brunch menu, each paired with a beer perfectly chosen to compliment and bring out the flavors of each dish. If you haven’t yet been to the Ginter Gardens, I strongly recommend going. The grounds are absolutely beautiful, with over forty acres to wander through; you can explore the gardens, fountains, a giant tree house overlooking the lake, and a bamboo forest.
The brunch was held at the Robins Tea House, which gave my date and I the chance to wander through some of the gardens and explore the bridge walkways that hovered over beautiful streams that snaked their way through the property. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, a perfect day for such magnificent scenery. We heard the brunch before we spotted it; local musician Chad Mosson was performing on the deck of the Tea House, singing beautiful acoustic covers on his guitar.
My guest and I were seated outside, and from there the real treat began. Our first dish was a snack of boiled peanuts and toasted pumpkin seeds, which were seasoned fantastically. This was paired with a beer that was a bit too heavy for my tastes, the Main. St. Virginia Ale. The ale was a dark and rich beer, with a 5% alcohol content.
For our appetizers, my date and I both chose the beer brats with caramelized onion rings and a mustard sauce, topped with a quail egg. This dish was paired with the Slingshot Kolsch, which has a 4.5% alcohol content. The beer brats were cooked perfectly; the outside was just crispy enough and the egg complimented the meat really well, but the beer was the clear star of the course. It was light, refreshing and really went well with the crisp weather. I would have had no complaints if I had been given a pitcher of Kolsch and was able to walk freely around the gardens, enjoying both.
For our entrées I ordered the pork pie, which was slow roasted pork infused with local vegetables and surrounded by a pork rind crust. My date ordered the short rib sandwich, which was braised in a brew from COTU. The rib was topped with fontina cheese, caramelized onion rings, and a fried egg all on a brioche bun. Is your mouth watering yet? Both meals were served with a salad and the Oktoberfest, a beer with a 6.5% alcohol content. Once again, perfect pairings all around. I enjoyed the pork pie, but I have to admit I was a little envious of my date’s short rib sandwich–it was warm, delicious and I kept stealing bites. The beer though, we didn’t share… we both enjoyed it too much.
Once we finished our entrees and were given time to finish our beers, a beer fudge and pumpkin brownie made with COTU’s Shut Up Imperial Stout, smothered in a chocolate sauce and then topped with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh berries was set in front of me. To accompany it this heavenly dessert, the Chin Music Amber Ale (with a 5% alc. content) was chosen. It’s at this point in the meal that I think I swooned. I was previously unaware of how well beer can go with a dessert, but now my eyes have been opened and lives have been changed. It was absolutely delicious, and was a great way to end an even better meal.
Chris Ray, the co-founder of COTU, walked around throughout brunch and introduced himself to the tables enjoying his beer pairings. He explained that he and his family had been a member at the gardens for a couple years, and he reached out to see if Ginter Gardens would be interested in serving his beer. From there he was put in touch with Heather Finch, the in-house caterer for Lewis Ginter. The two collaborated and decided to do the Oktoberfest brunch, and Ray says he believes that based off the success of the first event, they’ll be doing more collaborations in the future. Keep an eye out for these events; if it’s anything like the first you won’t want to miss it.