by William Needham Finley IV™

ITBonappetit: Inside the Best Beer Dinner In History

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Welcome to ITBonappetit, our series that goes inside the best culinary experiences across the globe. Past editions include the 3rd annual Tasty Beverage New Belgium and Bojangles’ beer dinner, as well as Instagram posts of French Toast that many have called “breathtaking.”

5 beltline chef and New Belgium Ranger Chris Allen and Tasty Beverage’s Johnny Belflower did it again. For the fourth consecutive year, the team put on a beer dinner unlike any other. Guests left amazed and inspired. Lives were changed. Records were broken. Here is the exclusive story and interview.

The Tasty Beverage New Belgium and Bojangles’ beer dinner was held on Monday night in a boutique vehicle storage parcel that was once home to a railway depot. The similarities between the culinary innovators behind the dinner and the railway titans who connected America using that same depot was lost on no one. A subtle nod to North Carolina’s rich tradition of tailgating, the location allowed guests to dine in an inspiring open world setting atop historic cobblestones laid by Sir Walter Raleigh himself.

Photo: Kyle Foreman

Allen and Belflower used sophisticated mouth science to come up with a series of never-before-seen Bojangles’ based courses paired with New Belgium’s finest offerings.

The sold-out crowd of 100 guests enjoyed the following:

Welcome Bite – A Trip to the Gravy Fountain with Fat Tire Amber Ale

First Course – Bojangles’ Poutine with Dayblazer Easy Going Ale

Second Course – Texas Pete Tossed Wings with Ranch with Fat Tire Belgian White

Third Course – The Supreme Supreme – with Citradelic Tangerine IPA

Fourth Course – Bojangles’ Cuban with Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA

Dessert – Bo-Berry Bread Pudding topped with Legendary Ice Tea Glaze with Wood Cellar Reserve Felix aged in Apple Whiskey Barrels

They even invented a Cheerwine based Sweet & Sour Sauce that left Gordon Ramsay speechless.

Guests left with an incredible gift box filled with an assortment of New Belgium beers, Bojangles’ accoutrements, and more. Stay tuned next week as we auction off one of these boxes AND two tickets to next year’s dinner for Hurricane Florence relief, once we ask Stacy Miller if we can legally auction off alcohol.

As you can see, this was the most innovative dining experience held in the history of Raleigh. Not only did we attend the event, but we got an exclusive interview with the creators.

ITBonappetit: The decision to depart from the archaic culinary tradition of dining indoors was a daring one that ultimately paid off. Was this a statement on the institution of dinner itself or was there another goal in mind?

Allen: A little of both. It’s 2016*, who wants to eat inside of four walls? Beyond that, we are right in the heart of Bo’gate season and everybody knows that you can’t do that inside. We also knew that Bonner would engage the Weather Dome if there was a threat of weather. So there was very little concern for this not being a perfect evening.

Note: 2016 is not a typo. Allen stopped recognizing the passage of time in 2016, “I live in the past and I’m pretty sure I peaked in 2016 with that trip to watch the Panthers play in the Super Bowl.”

ITBonappetit: Praise be to Bonner.

Allen: And also with you.

ITBonappetit: So what went into this dinner?

Allen: As you mentioned, we served 100 guests, which most likely makes this the largest beer dinner in the history of Raleigh, and perhaps North Carolina. To put up those kinds of numbers you’re going to need what equates to a boatload of fried chicken, around 120 Bo-Berry Biscuits, exactly 26 pounds of sugar for the dessert and Cheerwine Sweet & Sour sauce. I thought I would never see what 6 gallons of Sausage Gravy looked like, but that goal was knocked off the list by 6:00 pm. And of course we can’t forget the blood, sweat, and tears.

ITBonappetit: Talk about the Cheerwine Sweet & Sour sauce that you invented. How did that come about?

Allen: As I mentioned at the dinner, the Supreme is already the perfect serving of chicken. So what can we do to showcase that greatness? We tossed around a few ideas and one centered around Cheerwine. Considering that Cheerwine is up there with Julius Peppers, Bojangles’, and manned flight, as the great products to ever come from North Carolina, the choice was simple. It’s also been scientifically proven that the legendary Sweet & Sour Chicken from Red Dragon is the ultimate cure for the Sunday Scaries. From there it was just getting the flavor of the sauce dialed in and the chicken crispy enough to handle the viscosity of the sauce. The rest is history.

ITBonappetit: You’ve captured the hearts and minds of a nation. How does that feel?

Allen: I like to think it’s how Cam Newton feels right after he runs over a Falcons linebacker for a touchdown, drops a Superman, and then gives the football to a child in the stands. Or when Taylor Swift sells out 53 consecutive stadium shows on the same tour and knows she could do another 53 without breaking a sweat.

ITBonappetit: This year saw actual support from Bojangles’ representatives. While you were confident that the great Stacy Miller would be able to handle any potential legal issues, I’m sure it was nice to have their support for the first time.

Allen: One thing is for sure, we couldn’t have done this without our friends from TriArc. They own and operate all of the local Bojangles’ and were great to work with. I also have to give a shout out to first ballot Bojangles’ Hall of Famers – Melissa Chestnutt, Jim Ainsworth, and Tommy Haddock. There was no way that we could have done this without them and we are forever in debt to them.

ITBonappetit: Like a fine Cheerwine, this event has gotten better each year. What’s next?

Allen: That’s the million Chicken Supreme question. Over the last four years, we have had a lot of fun and have always tried to push the envelope. We have to up the stakes from the previous years, because that’s what’s expected from us. Maybe we go tropical, like sand from wall to wall. I know a great sand guy. But for now we are going to take a mental break and regroup after the Panthers beat the Chiefs 35-18 in Super Bowl 53.

Chef Allen shared the following message on Twitter:
I don’t know where to begin. Last night’s Bojangles’ Beer Dinner was so f’n awesome. It’s crazy to think that it started out with 20 people, a hot plate, and a microwave. Last night we had over 100 people and by all accounts a great time. The pics and love that y’all shared with Tasty Beverage and myself have been incredible. This is a labor of love for us and last night was truly gratifying for us all. Thank you! I have to give a huge shout out to my @roaringriot family. I mean, y’all started a #KeepPounding chant in between courses. So thanks for coming out and supporting us. We couldn’t do what we do without you guys. If I didn’t get to thank you in person last night, I’m sorry. I tried to get around the best I could, but there were 100 of you! It was all very overwhelming, as were the social media response.

Remember, it’s always #BoTime in your heart.
Hugs,
C

PS: #KeepPounding – at Tasty Beverage Co

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