Over the last couple years, I’ve watched many chefs and restaurant owners quickly transform into craft beer enthusiasts, embracing the micro-culture (now, seemingly macro) of fine-tuned hopped beverages, enamored by the individual beauty that lies within. With any celebration of craft beer in-house comes pairing dinners, with breweries teaming up with kitchens, pinpointing the pours that pair perfectly with their fare.

Dennis Glick’s (General Manager of Glen Mills’ Pescatore’s Restaurant) microbrewery support is contagious. In his personal mission to reinvent the Italian restaurant’s bar, previously lacking in the craft beer department, to now pleasing the palates of beer-lovers galore, he’s developed a following. First, it was the owner, Andy Varialle, who is a self-proclaimed “wine guy” but confesses he is becoming more and more fond of craft beers — and Dennis is to blame. Next came the wide-aged spectrum of clientele — all of which has shown so much support that now, for beer dinners, the entire restaurant is sold-out and open only exclusively to those attending the brew-infused affair.

The Town Dish team (myself, founder Mary Bigham and photographer Nina Cazille) decided to see what Glick’s craft beer magic was all about, cozying up to our seats on Thursday night, to attend Pescatore’s Autumn Craft Beer Dinner. The featured fall beer menu was fierce too, highlighting seasonal releases from Goose Island, Long Trail, Prism, Magic Hat, Finch’s, Troegs and Uinta.

As the first round of seasonals’ bottle caps were popping at the bar (our choice of either Long Trail’s Pumpkin Ale and Magic Hat’s Hex), guests trickled into their chairs, schmoozing with like-minded beer lovers as they sipped and socialized — a perfect start to any evening. Since the entire 150-seat restaurant was booked and finally seated for the dinner, Dennis tapped into a microphone to welcome all his night’s attendees. The dinner was anticipated to be the biggest beer dinner to unfold at any local (and not-so-local) restaurant at any time, and with one peek at the jam-packed house, we were not ones to disagree.

While Italian fare may not be on the pulse as the most sought-after featured food of beer pairing dinners, it’s fair to say that Pescatore’s fresh, authentic cuisine proved it should be. With the courses seamlessly executed and each pairing presented with spot-on timing, the evening was a perfect illustration of the fact that the craft beer movement isn’t just about beer — it’s also about its partnership with food and the ever-expanding community that continues to build around it.

So, as we sampled our dishes and our beers, in a setting that felt satisfyingly like a private dinner party — even with 150 guests — we understood why Glick’s recurring beer dinners sell-out each and every time.

Course One: Mango Salad with Finch’s Golden Wing Blonde Ale

The progression of a fine-tuned beer dinner starts out subtle, with a welcoming, light show-starter that tantalizes taste buds and leaves you ready for more. Pescatore’s sweet-laced salad debut, speckled with a fresh abundance of mangos, cherry tomatoes, red onions and feta cheese, was incredibly addicting, pushing us to savor each and every nibble on our plate — even if we had four more courses to go.

The contrasting bitter finish of the course’s featured beer, Finch’s Golden Wing, worked particularly well in cutting the candied sweetness of the salad’s raspberry vinaigrette. As a fan of polarized pairings, the Blonde Ale from the Chicago-based Finch’s Beer Company was the perfect counterpart; an approachable, yet bold blonde, with a lingering, sharp aftertaste. Another plus on the Finch front? They’re part of the craft beer can revolution, slinging their notable releases in a snappy, canned format.

Course Two: Stuffed Calamari with Goose Island’s Harvest Ale

As the kitchen continued to boldly unveil their acclaimed Italian cooking skill sets — plate-by-plate, Pescatore’s friendly wait staff latest reveal was a hearty dose of crabmeat and spinach-stuffed calamari, as accented with their house-made Puttanesca sauce.

The simple, flavorful dish came accompanied with Goose Island’s Harvest Ale, another delightful release from the Chicago-based brewery. Rocking a rich malt profile and packing a strong Cascade hops’ finish, this fall-themed ESB is a beauty — and, was even considered the top beer of the night for Dish’s photographer Nina. Pairing the complex, full-of-character seasonal with a classic dish allowed the beer to stand tall on its own, without being overshadowed by the flavors of the vibrant second course.

Course Three: Pumpkin Ravioli with Uinta’s Punk’n

As the momentum of the meal continued to build, so did the intensity per each pairing and course. Gorgeous plates bearing pumpkin ravioli were introduced to the masses, as prepared in a wealth of mushroom cream sauce. The dough pockets were pumped with cinnamon-laden pumpkin, almost as if they were savory, petite pumpkin pies in disguise. My dining partner Mary actually had a love affair with this seasonal selection, so much so that she requested a second serving make its way to our table.

Course three followed the complementary pairing route, deciding to stick to the all-things-pumpkin mentality with Uinta Brewing’s Punk’n. As a spice-forward pumpkin ale release, the Utah-based brewery seasonal works exceptionally well as a complement to fall foods. Mingling nutmeg, cinnamon and clove without overshining the prominent roasted pumpkin components, the balance of the beer is attractive and the spice is light without lingering — both qualities appealing, especially when paired with a dish that puts forth similar stances.

Course Four: Veal Short Ribs with Prism’s Red Zone

The decision to follow a carb-heavy course with one boasting colossal bundles of veal short ribs fared well with my carnivorous self. The juicy, well-prepared ribs with maple and cinnamon-glazed carrots and garlic mashed potatoes was a plate of pure bliss — an entree that is able to stay distinguished, especially at an autumn-themed tasting.

Prism’s mahogany Red Zone attractively-matched the light accents of the meat’s veggie accompaniments, concocted as a fall-infused sea of spice, from cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice, with the cinnamon mingling and lingering with maple syrup through the finish.

 

Course Five: Pumpkin Cheesecake with Troegs’ Java Head Stout

There’s something special about a craft beer release that is able to replace your post-dinner/dessert cup of Joe. Troegs’ JavaHead Stout is bold, trotting a rich, roasted coffee mouthfeel and lightly-accented with chocolate and malts. The beauty of this beer is that in order to concoct this stout, Troegs teamed up with St. Thomas Roasters to create a special blend of espresso beans — that means, the blend of beans are exclusive to this beer.

Of course, you didn’t expect Pescatores to fall short on their last-course. Their house-made Pumpkin Cheesecake was darling and decadent — an ideal counteracting dessert when paired with the evening’s final bottle, the bitter java stout.

Since everyone loves a little entertainment with their beer dinner, we were delighted to see our West Chester Dish winner, Seth Palagyi, was given the opportunity to recite his beer-savvy poem — his creative entry to our beer dinner giveaway that nabbed him two complimentary seats at the feast. (Click here to read the full poem, found in the comments.)

Whether you tackled this autumn-themed event and you’re dying to attend the next, or you’re regretting missing the above’s incredible craft beer pairings, stay on the pulse of Pescatore’s beer-infused events by clicking here. With the owner’s passion for Italian cuisine and Glick’s commendable support of the craft beer movement, Pescatores Italian Restaurant is becoming the ultimate beer dinner hot spot.

Find Pescatore’s Italian Restaurant at 1810 Wilmington Pike in Glen Mills, or online at pescatoresrestaurant.com. Every week, Pescatores hosts Craft Beer Wednesdays, introducing a new craft beer to their impressive arsenal, and offering a free beer sample as part of the occasion. Also, as part of the mid-week special, all craft beer drafts and bottles are $3.75 — an offer up for grabs only in the lounge.

All photographs credited to Nina Lea Photography. View more photos by clicking here.