pairings: beer and food at the table
beer belongs at the dinner table as much, if not more so, than wine.
in the minds of many restaurant chefs and patrons, craft beer is like
the boisterous kid brother of the beverage world - fun, but not grown
up enough to be taken seriously.
year, the craft brewing industry turns 21 at the Great American Beer
Festival. So, it's time for professional chefs and brewers to promote
beer's place at the table.
beer appreciation, think about flavor progressions in pairing beer
no one map to making a mouthwatering match, but in designing a menu,
"build beers in weight and intensity to one or two peaks of flavor,"
says real ale expert Mark Dorber of London.
want to start with a big, bold strong ale, and wend down the flavor
wheel to a light, fruity finish? Or start with something spritzy and
refreshing, and build the progression of flavors to a crescendo of
chocolate and stout?
of the Oregon Brewers Guild faced such a quandary when designing beer
pairings for a dinner with Chef Noah Bekofsky of the Salishan Lodge
for a corporate event with Nike. "Sometimes, it's more interesting
to start strong, with a beer that gets everyone's attention," Parker
says. One such example is the pairing of Hair of the Dog Fred with
a savory onion tart in a barley malt glaze.
pairing beer with appetizers is a simple way for a restaurateur or
chef to help customers make the transition from drinking beer at the
bar, to pairing beer with dinner dishes. In Walnut Creek, California,
the new Pyramid Alehouse features a roster of appetizers designed
to be tasted with the house brews. Head chef Bob Allison says, "Beer
and food is so popular here, because the climate is warmer and people
like to eat and drink outdoors. We send lots of starters out to the
patio, especially the House Tapas."
in a nest of shoestring potatoes, the Pyramid's take on Scotch eggs
(pictured at right) features Thai lemongrass and chili sausage, rolled
thin and wrapped around a hard-cooked egg. It's deep fried and served
with dipping sauces, "to make it a good finger food." Allison also
serves lots of the Publican's Plate, a selection of California-made
goat's milk brie and chevre, with sugar-glazed grapes.
it best with the Pyramid Apricot Ale," he adds.
easier to make a good pairing with you start by tasting the beer,
and design the dish to match its flavors," explains brewer Darron
Welch, head brewer and food enthusiast at the Pelican Pub and Brewery,
Oregon. "When you're locked into brewing 450 gallons at a time, it's
more cost-effective to design the flavors of each dish to match your
of preparation make a huge difference, too. It can be misleading to
give blanket guidelines on beer and food pairings, such as "serve
fish with light golden ales." A broiled whole salmon tastes milder,
and less challenging, than a smoked salmon with a garnish of Meyer
lemon and capers. "I'd recommend something richer, and maltier, such
as an American brown ale with the smoked salmon," says Welch, "and
a crisper, hoppier IPA to contrast with broiled salmon."
Alaskan Brewing Co., president Geoff Larson loves to cook, and his
beer and food pairings have been in demand at events such as the Aspen
Food & Wine Fest, American Culinary Federation, and regional food
festivals. Kristi Monroe, who works in marketing at Alaskan Brewing
Co., mentions the influence of both seasonal ingredients and preparation
we grill steak plain, we serve Alaskan Amber," says Monroe. "If we
use a Cajun rub, then we serve ESB. Grilled halibut or prawns call
for Alaskan Pale or Summer Ale. So much depends on the spices, accompaniments
we all have something different and have a couple of different glasses
for different beers, so we can share tastes and compare notes."
styles of beer, as well as seasonal ingredients, can influence the
drinker's tastebuds, too. This summer, Welch looks forward to pairing
foods with a new summer ale at the Pelican, modeled after an English
to brew a beer that's not so high in alcohol, something less heavy
for the summer heat, with some wheat malt for a lighter body, and
more of an orange-marmalade hop aroma." His model for this new brew
is the Summer Lightning from England's Hopback Brewery. "I think it
will be delicious with seafood," Welch predicts.
Helser, general manager of the Portland Brewing Company's Tap Room,
recalls a very different seasonal progression. "Last November, we
hosted a dinner with guest chef Phillippe Boulot of the Heathman Hotel,"
says Helser of the event, mostly set up as a media tasting and promotion.
Boulot prepared a progression of richly flavored foods, paired with
complementary, malty ales. "The favorite pairings were the entrée
of pork braised in Black Watch Cream Porter, with MacTarnahan whisky-glazed
acorn squash, served with the porter; and the dessert of Winter Spice
Cake with Cinnamon Mascarpone and Cranberry Sauce with the Bobby Dazzler
winter ale," says Helser.
chefs take a lighter approach to beer and food pairings.
like to pair beer with very simple flavors, not complex dishes with
lots of sauces or layered flavors," says Chef Cory Schreiber, owner
of Wildwood in Portland, Oregon.
feature seasonal beers at Wildwood, such as the Full Sail Summer Ale
and Widmer Hefeweizen. These are delicious with steamed mussels, fried
razor clams or sharp, aged cheeses."
is possible to pair beer with more elaborate fare. In May, Chef Jody
Denton of Lulu in Palo Alto, CA, prepared luscious food at the Deschutes
Brewery (bar pictured below).
d'oeuvres started with fritters of risotto and English peas, prosciutto
ham & Parmesan cheese, plus savory tarts filled with crème fraiche,
garlic and Chanterelles mushrooms.
Fava Bean Soup matched with the Dance Orchestra Alt most harmoniously,
followed by skillet-seared bass with artichokes and anchovy butter
- a fragrant entrée with Rickreal Rye Steam Beer. The Devil's Garden
Dubbel strong character underscored the richness of beef braised in
Barolo wine with olives and greens over soft garlic polenta. Chef
Denton plans to branch beyond Northern California with a new restaurant
in Bend, Oregon, later this year.
of all, beer can withstand the acidity of marinades and vinaigrettes,
making it a perfect foil for summertime salads and grilled marinated
meats. In Victoria, BC, Spinnaker's Taproom serves salads made with
malt vinegars and vinaigrettes, and grilled steaks from spent grain-fed,
organically raised Highland beef, paired with their award-winning
of my favorite pairings in the summer is Pyramid Apricot Ale with
grilled pork tenderloin brushed with honey mustard. Here are other
Butterflied leg of lamb, grilled with garlic and rosemary - paired
with strong porter or stout
Grilled salmon with lemon and dill - paired with hoppy IPA
Sauteed wild mushrooms and romaine salad - paired with Weissbier
Smoked pork loin or barbecue with hot white pepper basting sauce
- paired with fruity Belgian-style ale
Falafel sandwiches made with hummus and garlic - paired with Kolsch
Ken Hueston uses Spinnaker's beer, from wort to finished brew, as
an ingredient in many dishes, too. "When I think about a beer and
food pairing, I think in terms of balance," says Hueston. "I want
the food flavor to be enhanced by the beer." That concept of balance
works well, even across regional markets.
Las Vegas, Nevada to Seattle, Gordon Biersch restaurants serve beer
and food far beyond basic pub fare. In Las Vegas, Biersch serves more
steaks, and in Seattle, the menu features more seafood and Asian flavors.
"We have to change the menu to accommodate regional tastes," says
corporate executive chef Craig Erickson.
always, we approach pairing food and beer as a synergy, so that one
flavor doesn't dominate."
tactic in regional flavor pairings is to research the origins of beer
styles and the foods of their native countries. The Rockfish Grill
in Anacortes, WA, just concluded its winter series of brewer-chef
to Rick Starr, "We explored the regional affinities that exist between
food and beer in the United Kingdom, Holland and the Netherlands,
and Belgium. We had a great response, because we brewed a special
beer to style for each event, and brought in guest beers from importers,
whether it's by the glass, or cooked in a dish, beer belongs at the
table. Just serve a sampling of different beers at your next dinner,
and find a memorable match.