Whether I am meeting new people or spending time with family and friends whom I have known for years, I often talk (or boast, if I am being honest) about my home state, Texas. The Lone Star State produces some of the best music, food, sports, scenic views, etc., yet I thoroughly have enjoyed living in the Tar Heel State for the past four years. While I adore the beautiful trees and the presence of four distinct seasons, my favorite part of living in North Carolina is probably the thriving craft beer scene. Since starting a PhD program in 2013, I have developed a passion for local brews, and I spend a significant amount of free time exploring breweries in the Triangle area.
Located in Hillsborough near the Eno River, Mystery Brewing has served as one of my favorite spots to frequent with friends in my program and those who visit from out of town. Mystery provides the area with unique brews that do not conform to Reinheitsgebot, the German beer purity law that states beers must contain only three ingredients. The four seasons of North Carolina not only produce awesome natural landscapes, but they also give way to a variety of ingredients that Mystery incorporates into their rotating tap list. Recently, Mystery expanded their horizons both literally and figuratively, as they doubled the size of the pub and added a new food menu that features dishes centered on local ingredients that pair nicely with their vast array of beers.
I had the pleasure to attend a recent Sunday beer and brunch pairing at Mystery, and I can now confirm that their food menu is as impressive as their beer list. Erik Lars Myers, the founder and CEO of Mystery Brewing, along with many other cheerful employees, greeted the brunch crowd with smiles and a sample pour of beer, the ideal combination that resulted in a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Erik preceded each of the five courses with an introduction of the components of the dish and the associated beer.
The friendly servers first placed deviled eggs and samples of the Beatrix Spring Saison on our tables. These deviled eggs quickly disappeared in seconds, as Mystery’s spin on this classic appetizer pleased all of the foodies in the house. The spicy yolks contained a mix of poblano peppers and prosciutto, but the finishing touch of toasted grain from the brewing process took this dish over the top. The second course featured short rib tacos topped with chimichurri sauce and a sample of the Jack Thorne London style porter. The meat in these tacos was excellent, but if Mystery were to amplify the seasoning of the corn tortillas, or perhaps consider making them from scratch, this dish could be even more noteworthy.
While I enjoyed each course immensely, I consider the third and fourth courses as my favorites. I could not narrow down the list to a single choice, so this tie will have to suffice. The third course provided the first taste of Mystery’s brunch options that are available only on Sundays. We tasted a sample of their pimento cheese benedict with a pour of Locksley ordinary bitter. Erik and the servers could not have been more accommodating, and their consideration of my lactose intolerance during this course truly made this experience one for the books. Erik kindly sent out a taste of this course sans pimento cheese, and while I am sure the North Carolina staple would enhance the flavors of this brunch classic, I did not miss out on anything. The perfect poached egg sat atop half of a biscuit that contained the most wonderful herb blend. The fourth course, a pickled shrimp, grit cake, and collard greens returned back to the appetizer portion of the menu. The beer gravy nicely complemented the flavors of this dish. Mystery also earns major “southern points” for their superb collards.
I have attended many a beer festival since turning 21, and I occasionally leave these events feeling unsatisfied. Mystery’s event produced no such experience, as the six sample beers and generous tasting portions created a brunch that left me feeling full and eager to return. The final course featured a fourth of a beer sandwich cookie from a local bakery and a taste of St. Stephen’s Green Dry Irish Stout. The two cookies contain beer and sit between a thick layer of beer buttercream, which is sure to put Little Debbie’s oatmeal sandwich cookies to shame. I was not hungry for dessert after the first four courses, but I am glad I ate part of this whimsical dish, as it was the perfect conclusion to a wonderful afternoon.
Amy Sentementes is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at UNC Chapel Hill, where she studies political psychology and public opinion. She has managed to cope with the stress of graduate school by developing a love of cooking and “procrastibaking” for her friends and students. Additionally, Amy enjoys visiting local restaurants and breweries, and she hopes her research regarding group identities and stereotypes can help her evaluate cuisines from a unique perspective. A native Texan, she also loves visiting friends and family in the Lone Star State and cheering on her TCU Horned Frogs and Dallas Cowboys. You can follow her on Instagram @gradschoolfoodie.