Last Saturday, we welcomed 50 guests to our Outpost location on the Davidson College campus for the latest edition of the Summit Coffee Beer Dinner Series: this time featuring Great Lakes Brewing Company from Cleveland, Ohio. Each dinner features a seasonal and locally-inspired tasting menu, prepared by Chef Betsey Verhey and Summit’s very own Director of Food, Courtney Spear. This pair never fail to amaze, pairing a unique dish to each of the six beers crafted by the chosen brewery.
I have attended all five of the Summit Beer dinners, working the first two with Sierra Nevada and Appalachian Mountain Brewery, while getting the chance to enjoy as a customer the next couple with Founders and Bell’s. I have seen and tasted some amazing food pairings while sampling some of the best beer I’ve ever had. I’ve eaten local food that had been harvested the day before at Barbee Farms in Concord, and drank limited release beers that hadn’t yet and often won’t hit shelves in stores. The Great Lakes dinner had four tough acts to follow, but it did not disappoint. What makes Saturday’s dinner stand out to me, though, wasn’t the food or the beer. Don’t get me wrong, they were both excellent, maybe our best yet. But I will leave that to the 50 in attendance to decide. No, this time I wasn’t as impressed by the food or drink as I was by the Summit employees who made it happen.
Our ragtag assembly included a former sports writer turned husband, father and entrepreneur. An Ohioan who’s flown south, bringing with her a relentless taste for quality and an eye for detail to boot. An army veteran with one dog and a whole lot of tattoos. A member of a theater company making time for Summit between rehearsals. A recent Davidson graduate working his very first shift for Summit Coffee, and two high schoolers who chose to spend their Saturday night doing dishes instead of hanging out with friends. Not to mention their mom, a mother of three and expert life-juggler with the outfits to match. Our restaurant and fine dining background is unabashedly limited, but what we lack in experience, we make up for in resilience and tenacity. Our commitment to quality and desire to improve is tangible across the organization, and on this night, everything seemed to come together. From place settings and candles to keeping water glasses full and bussing dishes, this group worked together to do what, on our own, no one would have been able to or even known how to do. We were able to draw on individual talents and skill sets to create a whole much greater than just the sum of its parts, and we had fun doing it. I didn’t get to try all of the beers and I didn’t get to enjoy each course as it was plated, but on this night, it was just as enjoyable to be a part of this team.
The Summit Outpost opened just over two years ago, in November 2013. In that time, we have thrown a lot of, ahem, stuff on the wall trying to find out what sticks. Sometimes we nail it, and other times it bounces off the wall and hits us in the face. For a then 15 year-old local coffee shop to triple in size and learn how to operate a restaurant seemingly overnight, there were bound to be some bumps in the road, and the occasional pothole. But sometimes we strike gold, and the beer dinner series just might be one of those. The next beer dinner, featuring Boulevard Brewing Company on March 5, will be my turn to have a night off and experience it again as a customer. I can sit back, enjoy each neatly plated course, and definitely not to dishes. But, after my experience working the last one, I’m not sure I don’t want to work this one, too.