The first beer Sasha Raj ever had was Four Peaks Brewing Co.’s Peach Ale. When she was a student at Arizona State University, the Tempe taproom was a frequent hangout spot for her.
So, the chef and owner of restaurant 24 Carrots is especially excited to be collaborating with Four Peaks on the brewery’s first-ever Vegan Pumpkin Porter Beer Dinner on Thursday, September 23.
“It’s touching for me,” Raj says. “It feels like quite the blow-up to go from being a customer to a professional partner.”
Four Peaks communication manager Zach Fowle, a certified cicerone and former Phoenix New Times contributor, says the event was planned after the brewery hosted a cocktail-pairing dinner in July and people reached out asking if the menu could be adjusted with vegan or vegetarian dishes.
“We weren’t able to make that whole dinner vegan-friendly, so we promised them we’d put together a dinner that was,” Fowle says.
Sasha Raj was the perfect partner for it, he adds. “When we decided to do a dinner based on vegan dishes, we knew we had to bring in some expert help. Chef Raj has been designing vegan dishes at 24 Carrots for more than a decade, and she has an uncanny ability to mimic the flavors of comfort food using unconventional ingredients.”
The five-course meal menu includes One Big Bite (a variation on an Indian street food classic) paired with citrus-spiked WOW Wheat Ale; All Kale Caesar salad with Raj IPA; Southwest Pumpkin Mac paired with Pumpkin Porter; Chikun & Waffles washed down with Chai-PA; and Heckin’ Vegan Cake with Double Pumpkin Porter.
Raj says she tried to incorporate some amount of beer into each of the dishes, with the exception of the All Kale Caesar.
“That first dish, One Big Bite, is inspired in large part by a very popular Indian street food dish called pani puri," she says. "Normally, it’s with this very spicy and herb-rich broth that is chilled, and you dump the little crispy wheat puffs stuffed with vegetables into this very spicy water, and you put the whole thing in your mouth. This is done within seconds, so it’s still crunchy and it explodes in your mouth and there’s this giant medley of flavors, but you’re also kind of flooded by this broth.”
For the Four Peaks dinner, that dish will have a deluge of beer broth made with WOW Wheat, the brewery’s beer that benefits local nonprofit meal delivery service The Joy Bus, also a partner of 24 Carrots.
Raj is especially excited about the pairing of Chikun & Waffles with the Four Peaks Chai-PA, which is brewed with 24 Carrots’ chai. “The Chai-PA is a new beer for us: an IPA infused with ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, and other spices found in chai tea,” Fowle says.
Other notable food-brew couplings include the All Kale Caesar with Raj IPA and the dessert finale of Heckin’ Vegan Cake with Double Pumpkin Porter.
“Raj is an English-style IPA with floral, citrusy, somewhat woody hop flavors and yeast notes that lean toward apricot,” Fowle explains. “We felt those flavors would meld perfectly with the roasted beets, pears, oranges, cranberries, and kale found in this elevated Caesar salad.”
But the big finish – Raj’s chocolate cake, which she says she’d “bet my career on,” and the Double Pumpkin Porter – is perhaps the best pairing, Fowle says.
“The first rule of pairing beer and food is that the intensity of the food and the beer have to match; otherwise, one will overpower the other. There’s no chance of that happening in this pairing, which pits a rich chocolate cake with pecan buttercream and candied pecans against an amped-up, 8.5-percent ABV version of Pumpkin Porter,” he says. “Bonus: Double Pumpkin Porter is actually infused into the caramel that’s drizzled over the entire dish.”
The Vegan Pumpkin Porter Beer Dinner will be served at 6 p.m. Thursday, September 23, at Four Peaks Brewing Co., 1340 East 8th Street, #104, Tempe. Tickets cost $65 per person. Visit fourpeaks.com for more information.