Last Saturday, the Common Table recreated the experience of Starkbierfest, a less-familiar celebration of strong beer that takes place every spring. The staff dressed in lederhose & dirndls for the celebration, and they offered a special German menu for the day, prepared by their new chef, Mike Smith
Monks typically fast and refrain from solid foods during lent. An observant monk named Salavator figured that since drinking was not verboten, he thought he could sustain himself by brewing up some strong beer as “liquid food”. The moniker starkbier literally translates to “strong beer”, describing the intensity and thickness of the beer’s “wort”, which is liquid containing the sugars and starches to be fermented. Although “starkbier” does not refer to alcohol content, these beers will usually have higher alcohol content. The Common Table provided guests with ceramic steins of Paulaner Salvator, a 7.5% ABV doppelbock (“double bock”) that is one of the most famous starkbiers in the world. This particular beer style is also noted for beer names typically ending with the “-ator” appendix (e.g. Optimator, Celebrator, Maximator, and many more).
Chef Smith’s experience includes training under careful watch of German cooks. Since I’m not a monk, I sampled a couple dishes from The Common Table’s special Starkbierfest German menu, featuring four dishes: a jumbo pretzel, Pork schnitzel with kraut and German potato salad, a Reuben sandwich, and for dessert, an apple strudel drizzled with a Salvator-based syrup.
The beer paired perfectly with the massive pretzel, which had a remarkable dark golden- brown crispy outer crust and crumbs that were soft and chewy. A fondue made with Salvator accompanied the pretzel as a dipping sauce. Though the schnitzel looked tempting, I knew that ordering that would mean I’d waste the rest of the day in a food coma, so I went with the reuben.
The toasted rye bread was filled with melted Swiss cheese, tangy mustard, as well as corned beef and sauerkraut which were both made in house. I really enjoyed the effervescent, vivacious kraut as I prefer mine to not be aggressively briny or vinegary. And I do admit that I was quite jealous of the more attentive patrons who opted to substitute the side of fries for house-made German potato salad.
The event had quite an impressive turnout and a festive atmosphere. Their patio was bustling with activity, with happy patrons quaffing beer and dancing to the German tunes played live by the AlpenMusikanten band.
Be sure to stop back later today, Steven Doyle has an interview with the new chef.