One of L.A.’s saddest culinary moments from 2013 involved the untimely closure of The Spice Table, the awesome Singaporean and Vietnamese restaurant from chef Bryant Ng and wife Kim Luu-Ng. L.A.’s Metro Transportation Authority claimed the building for a supplemental subway station. However, some good did come of the closing, including a blowout New Year’s Eve finale that allowed the couple to celebrate with friends and family. The other highlight was a collaborative beer with Craftsman Brewing Co. founder Mark Jilg, a dark ale brewed with “warm spices” that carried the tongue in cheek name Death By Train.
Jilg was kind enough to share insights into his collaboration with The Spice Table, and into this special beer. “Bryant has been one of the few people in the L.A. scene that has gone out of his way to champion what we do,” says Jilg. “He had an appreciation for our beer before The Spice Table opened, and we spent quite a bit of time talking about beer, hospitality and food pairings.” Jilg had plenty of opportunities to eat The Spice Table’s food and hang out with Bryant Ng and sous chef Bonnie Jiang, and when the “end was defined,” he expressed an interest in producing a beer to honor their relationship that included “spices that fit with the beer palate and played a big role in the cuisine.” The result was Death By Train, a blend of three Craftsman beers produced in the past few months, plus spice infusions.
“Originally we wanted to have smoke as part of the beer because the grill plays such a role in the food there,” says Jilg. “We used smoked black lager to get a little bit of smokiness in the background. We used Edgar’s Ale [named for Edgar Allan Poe], because Ed has death in it, conceptually. And then we ended up adding some Poppyfields [Pale Ale] because the beer was getting too heavy and didn’t have the liveliness the beer needed the to carry the spices.” Spices included star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, coriander, and cardamom seed.
When Ng received the keg, he took to Instagram and called the collaboration “#thecoolestthingtohappenasaresultofMetrotearingdownourrestaurant.” Death By Train was indeed a cool beer, which will hopefully live on in some form when the Ngs open a Southeast Asian restaurant in Santa Monica with Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan in 2014.