For the past few years, my wife and I have donated a bourbon tasting dinner to the St. Ann Catholic School Sponsor’s Dinner Dance & Auction. The annual auction raises money to support the parish school where our kids attend. Roughly 250 people attend and through a combination of raffle tickets, silent auction items, cash bar and an oral auction the event raises upwards of $70,000. It is the singular most important fundraiser for the school.
We donated our first bourbon dinner in 2014, and as a new auction item, people weren’t exactly sure what to expect. But based on my wife’s reputation for making tasty bread and what people knew about my bourbon obsession and blog, a group of eight chipped in and won the high bid during the live auction taking home the bourbon tasting dinner for $600. I know, right? We couldn’t believe it either. We thrilled that we were able to raise $600.
The following year things started heating up. The winners of the first bourbon tasting had a grand time, and our reputation for throwing a great whiskey party began to grow. As a result, a bidding war broke out, and by the time the dust settled our tasting dinner had raised $1,600 for the school. Year’s one winners once again came out on top and would soon be joining us for another tasting event.
As excited as we were at year two’s winning bid of $1,600, nothing could have prepared us for what happen when we opened live bidding for year three’s tasting dinner.
The bidding began at $250, and in less than 60 seconds the bidding surpassed year one’s winning bid of $600 and showed no signs of stopping. Over the next several minutes we watched in amazement as the bidding went higher and higher – the result of a three-way bidding war. When the bidding passed $1,600, one bidder dropped out, and things began to slow down. Within minutes our tasting dinner was announced as “Sold for $1,800!”
“Holy crap!” was all we could think as the smoke began to clear. Someone just paid $1,800 to have dinner at our house and drink whiskey. As it started to sink in, I quickly glanced at my wife and held up two fingers. She knew immediately I was asking her permission to offer up a second dinner to the bidder that lost out at the last minute. She agreed without hesitation, and I signaled to the auctioneer that we would offer a second dinner at the $1,800 price if the losing bidder were interested. After announcing our offer publicly for the entire room to hear it was quickly accepted and the entire room went wild. In less than five minutes we had raised $3,200 for the school. We couldn’t have been happier.
After the auction was over, we realized that the same group of friends had once again come out on top as one of the winning bids. This year’s win meant that this would be their third bourbon tasting dinner at our house. That said we would need to up our game once again to make sure that they felt that their investment was worth it. (As a point of reference, their year two dinner involved a six-course meal, each course paired with a different whiskey and a mini-cocktail made using that course’s whiskey. And yes, it was fantastic. I give my wife all the credit though as her food was divine making my whiskey pairing much easier than expected.)
As we approach the date for this group’s third tasting at our home, we began formulating a plan to take our tasting dinner game to the next level. The first dinner was a straight forward tasting affair with a selection bourbons and heavy appetizers. Formal tasting instructions, bourbon history overview, and a robust Q&A were involved as they were all relatively new to the world of bourbon. Year two evolved with an expanded dinner menu and a focus on whiskey and cocktails to make those not interested in drinking bourbon neat feel more involved in the evening’s activities. But what about this year?
In one of our brainstorming sessions, my wife expressed her interested in sticking to a food menu that would allow her to get as much of it prepared in advance as possible. (The previous year’s six-courses was a little too intense regarding preparation.) She started offering up ideas and eventually suggested German food. As you can imagine, I quickly dismissed it since bourbon has little to do with German food traditionally and I couldn’t see how to bring them together easily. But luckily for us, the seed of an idea had been planted, and we didn’t even know it.
After subconsciously chewing on her German food recommendation I found myself thinking about pairing the evening’s whiskeys with beer – much like I had paired whiskey with cocktails the previous year. I’ve long been a fan of a whiskey neat with a beer back, so I knew the idea held promise. As an extra bonus, I also remembered that several members of the winning group were big beer fans. They would love the fact that we were melding two of their favorite drinks together for the event. And just like that, my wife’s German food recommendation led to our theme for the tasting dinner – Bourbon, Beer & Bavaria.
The evening started with a delicious and refreshing beer cocktail called the Southern 75. (If you haven’t explored the world of beer and whiskey combos I can’t recommend getting started soon enough.)
- 6 oz. India Pale Ale (Proof & Provision uses SweetWater)
- 2 oz. Four Roses bourbon
- ¾ oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ½ oz. demerara syrup (or simple syrup)
Pour the beer into a chilled collins glass. In a cocktail shaker, combine the bourbon, lemon juice, and demerara syrup with ice, and shake vigorously. Strain the bourbon mixture into the beer and garnish with a lemon twist.
Cocktail recipe from Nate Shuman formerly of Proof & Provision in Atlanta, Georgia
After mingling with our cocktails dinner began following the dinner menu created by my wife, each course paired with a different whiskey and beer combo.
Each and every dinner course tasted delicious but my favorite was the Sauer Braten and Spaetzle. In regards to the beer and whiskey pairings, I thought that the Four Roses Single Barrel together with the Urban Chestnut Stammtisch was the best liquor pairing of the evening. I enjoyed the Russell’s Reserve with the dessert course but the addition of the Uncle Jacob’s Bourbon Barrel Age Stout was over the top. Tasty, but too sweet after all of the food and drink we had consumed.
ANOTHER AUCTION, ANOTHER RECORD…
A few weeks after the Bourbon, Beer & Bavaria tasting dinner we attended the St. Ann Catholic School Dinner Dance & Auction where we once again donated a bourbon tasting dinner. But this year, to help build hype around the dinner raise more money than ever, we pulled together the following video:
And we’re thrilled to share that after the live bidding was done, we successfully sold a total of three bourbon tasting dinners resulting in $5,000 for the school’s auction fund. Thank you to everyone who attended and played a part in the success of our auction donation. We look forward to hosting the winners in our home and continuing our efforts to help others #drinkcurious.