Make Time For Memphis Mae's Barbecue Beer Pairings In Croton

Memphis Mae’s BBQ Bistro’s smokin’ hot beer pairing dinners are worth the trip.

A friend and I recently drove to Croton for a beer pairing dinner at Memphis Mae’s BBQ Bistro. If you missed it, don’t worry—they have them about every 6 weeks. New Executive Chef and Partner Greg Gilbert, who was at the helm of Crabtree’s Kittle House for 6 years, is happy to be working near home again after stints in the city.

“These people are almost all regulars,” he said. “That guy over there? He hasn’t missed one yet.”

Gilbert joins CIA-trained Chef Andreas Nowara in bringing us authentic Southern barbecue smoked on the premises with hickory, oak, pecan, and fruitwoods.

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“People often come here with a fixed idea of what they want—’I want pulled pork, I want ribs,’” Gilbert noted. The restaurant won a Best of Westchester award for ribs after opening in 2009. “These dinners give us a chance to cook out of the box.”

Memphis Mae’s BBQ Bistro in Croton is holding regular beer pairing dinners—check out their website for the schedule.

Ribs weren’t among the five courses paired that night with beer from Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, NY, perhaps best known for its Pumking Imperial Ale, the first beer to kick off this year’s controversially early pumpkin beer season in July. (“Southern Tier” has nothing to do with the American South, but rather to the southern counties of New York west of the Catskills, bordering Pennsylvania.)

The crowd simmered down before each course for some introductory words from Gilbert, in-house beer guru Gregg Graham, and a rep from Southern Tier’s distributor regarding cooking methods, tasting notes, and pairing rationales. Then it was back to revelry as usual among the booths and at the bar.

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A first-course seafood salad of house-smoked mussels, shrimp, and crab paired with PMX American pale ale would be a hard act to follow. We hadn’t expected seafood to shine at a barbecue joint.

Photo (left) courtesy of Southern Tier Brewing Company

Next up, roasted turkey potpie, like a large empanada. “Roasted” meant smoked for seven hours with garlic and herbs; the inside of the flaky crust was a bit gooey in a way essential to us, our expectations having been shaped in childhood by the frozen ones our mothers used to serve. Its mate, Old Man Winter Ale, complemented the dish with smoky, nutty notes.

“This is the biggest course you’re going to get,” Gilbert said. “We can send some home with you—there are still three more courses.” Um, sorry. No way. My friend, who had long since finished his, happily consumed my remainder.

Photo (left) courtesy of Southern Tier Brewing Company

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So maybe we’re hicks. But I hadn’t had quail in some time and it was the first time for my friend, who found the small-boned creature a little odd. The diminutive delicacy, cold smoked over applewood with a cider glaze and served with corn salad, was paired with Unearthly Imperial IPA. “If you find a bigger IPA that’s more balanced, let me know,” Graham told the crowd.

Love at first sip! Mokah chocolate and coffee stout accompanied hog shank smoked with pecan wood and flash-fried, with spicy peanut sauce. The satay sauce blasted through the stout’s sweetness; coleslaw served as creamy contrast and vinegary palate cleanser. “We don’t want to go sweet on sweet. We want to go spice on sweet,” Graham explained. “Also, peanut and chocolate is classic—think Reese’s.”

Photo (left) courtesy of Southern Tier Brewing Company

Could this get any better? Dessert—gingerbread pudding with vanilla ice cream—was paired with Crème Brûlée imperial milk stout, which simply blew me away. Oh, and we each got a Southern Tier pint glass to take home.

Memphis Mae’s BBQ Bistro
173 S Riverside Ave
(914) 271-0125;

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