EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the popularity of the Feb. 7 dinner, Varanese is adding a second beer dinner on Feb. 6

When contemplating the menu for an upcoming beer dinner at Varanese, chef-owner John Varanese took an unconventional approach by tasting the beer first and then crafting a menu around it.

And while that approach would make Homer Simpson proud, he said it just made the most sense.

John Varanese, chef and owner of Varanese.

“Beer’s food friendly anyway, so I knew that was a good place to start,” Varanese said.

New Albanian Brewing Co. co-owner, Roger Baylor, came to the restaurant packing bottles and some handy food suggestions. Once the sipping began, the ideas flowed easily between them.

He was especially fond of NABC’s Solidarity, a Baltic porter “which had really good sweetness and fruit tones, I knew we could do a lot with that,” said Varanese, who received the Kentucky Restaurant Association’s Restaurateur of the Year Award last week. “We’re doing another dish with barley in it to go with (NABC’s) Hoptimus. It was fun coming up with those dishes.”

The Feb. 7 event (which begins at 6:30 p.m.) is the restaurant’s first beer dinner. Well known for its first rate wine dinners, Varanese branched out recently and hosted a bourbon-centered dinner. Adding a beer feast, the chef said, seemed like a natural extension to the restaurant’s lineup of paired, prix fixe dinners.

“When we first thought about doing beer, we didn’t think it fit our market,” Varanese said. “But we stepped back and remembered that Varanese tries to appeal to everybody … so we created what I call a menu of tavern food with an upscale twist.”

Without the upscale price. The four-course, six-pour meal costs $49 (plus tax and gratuity) and includes some of NABC’s best known beers. Five of the six beers will be poured at the table from 22 ounce bottles, but Elector, an imperial red ale, will come on tap.

Baylor, an entertaining and personable beer wonk, will talk about his company’s creations and answer questions during the meal. (The former teacher loves questions, so have ‘em handy.)

The already positive response to the meal has Varanese considering an every other month Thursday night cycle of future beer dinners.

“The tradition for our wine dinners is Tuesday nights, so we’ll keep that where it is,” said Varanese, who is expecting to host former Maker’s Mark president Bill Samuels for an upcoming bourbon dinner. “But since it’s obvious that people like these kinds of dinners, we thought we should make it more regular.”

To reserve your seat for the meal, call 502-899-9904 or email [email protected].

The evening’s menu includes:

  • Reception: Hoosier Daddy (cream ale)
  • First course: Black and Blue Grass (farmhouse ale) paired with crispy fried chipotle BBQ quail legs served with beer-battered onion rings and a horseradish cream sauce
  • Second course: Elector (an imperial red ale) paired with arugula and frisée salad topped with bacon lardons, toasted sunflower seeds and croutons with a lemon-cracked pepper vinaigrette topped with poached egg
  • Third course: Hoptimus (imperial India pale ale) paired with beer-braised short ribs and house-made sausage served with toasted barley and carrot risotto, buttered cabbage and caraway finished with a porter beer sauce
  • Fourth course: Solidarity (Baltic porter) paired with chocolate-orange cheese cake with pretzel crust, topped with caramel and marshmallow sauce
  • Closing: Tunnel Vision (Belgian rye wit)