As The Dulcinea and I sped down I94 last night it had been a few years since I'd been to a crawfish boil. The last time was in May 2002 when my friend Pete and I drove down to Breaux Bride, Louisiana to their annual party. We ended up on the bayou at the home of an incredibly nice family for a birthday party which involved a ton of crawfish caught that morning. Those suckers were found in relatively deep water and they were big – 6" or 7" long. As Pete and I fielded questions about cheese, cranberries, and snow, we gorged ourselves on crawfish and drank more Natural Light than anyone should be allowed. In fact, we chowed down so many of tender, tasty creatures that we ended up getting hives. Recounting this tale to The Dulcinea ended up with me adding yet another item to my culinary wishlist for Madison – a gas station that sells boudin and fresh cracklin. I cut off two lanes of traffic outside Lafayette to get to an exit ramp which promised fresh cracklin so let that be a lesson. Never get between a man and his pork products.
Yesterday evening was a slightly different affair at the Tyranena Brewery
for the 5th Annual Patricia's Crawfish Boil and Hopluck Dinner.
The Dulcinea made some red beans while I stewed me some corn. And, just like the fancy cuisine at Sardine
, I started with pork fat.
A bit over half a pound of salt pork can make just about anything tasty. After adding the corn, tomatoes, and onion and letting it stew a while, I threw in bell pepper, green onion, parsley, and some Three Beaches Honey Blonde
We arrived to find a smattering of people out in the bier garten and the first batch of crawfish a-cookin'. They had been flown up from Louisiana and, except for being boiled in beer, I found the setup to be the same as it was down on the boyou.
It was still hot outside so we retired to the tasting room. If you bring a dish, the first beer is free. We both opted for the latest Brewers Gone Wild! – Stick It To the Man. SITtM is an Extra IPA with a deep reddish-brown color.
It's hoppy. Very hoppy. Imagine Rob's (Larson, the brewmaster) Bitter Woman IPA
but with even more hops. The hop combination of Bitter Woman tends to lend it a citrus-like taste but the SITtM had very prominent peach overtones. Needless to say, the brew was incredibly tasty.
More people piled in and the buffet tables outside got filled quickly. It wasn't too long before we received word that the first round of crawfish was done. People scrambled as Rob emptied the batch onto tables which he assured us were clean & sterile.
I grabbed a basket with some crawfish, corn, and potatoes. It was nearly the magic hour so even a doofus like myself could grab some decent photos.
The vegetables really soaked in all the flavors so even biting into a potato unleashed a torrent of spicy crawfish goodness. The Dulcinea was inexperienced in the ways of eating crawfish and I'm not sure she enjoyed ripping apart the carcass. I shall omit the photo of her contemplating sucking the head…
Soon it was off to the smorgasbord which had a long line most of the evening.
And here's what I managed to snag the first time 'round:
Lots of jambalaya, red beans & rice, plus a couple chicken strips which were perfect for dipping into this great hot sauce made with Bitter Woman. In addition, there were salads, dips, beer bread, and just about anything remotely Cajun infused with Tyranena beer. The etouffee was good but way too mild. The sauce was a light brownish-grey instead of a brilliant, glistening red. (This coming from a guy who wore a t-shirt with the chemical formula for capsaicin emblazoned on it.) Someone also made a jambalaya with mint which wasn't bad but it took some getting used to. Yet another version had just way too much thyme in it. Still, there were a couple other batches which were quite good. For her part, The Dulcinea's red beans were excellent. Others shared my assessment as her crock pot was empty by the end of the night. Whether it be red beans or Hoppin' John, she sure knows how to cook legumes.
Sometimes I wish I lived in Lake Mills because Tyranena is like a local tavern for many people. I could just ride my bike over there. Lots of folks there last night knew each other and I got the feeling many of them were neighbors who often see one another in the tasting room on a weekly basis. At our table were a few folks, mostly of retirement age. I chatted with one fellow about digital cameras while a couple women discussed their favorite brews. One preferred the hefeweizen while her interlocutor discussed her preference for porters.
With round 1 over, I headed back inside for more beer. This time is was the witbier which is available only on tap in the tasting room.
It was a nice hazy yellow in color and, while I wish I could wax poetic about the subtle hints of coriander and whatnot, my mouth was on fire so all I could taste was the cold, wheaty goodness. I personally don't care for putting citrus fruits in my bier, so I left the orange slice perched atop the rim where I could get a whiff of it as I took a sip.
Dessert came in many forms: brownies, red velvet cake, chocolate cream pies, and ice cream. Ice cream made with beer is such a grand idea! I shall have to figure out how to use my ice cream maker this summer.
Devil Made Me Do It is an Imperial Oatmeal Porter brewed with coffee beans and is, not only a great beer, but also in limited quantities. You may be able to find some lingering on store shelves, but hurry.
Before we left, I spied a little girl who is now no doubt permanently scarred after witnessing the primal canine scene.