For decades, wine snobs ruled the roost when it came to finicky food and beverage pairings. You know: Chardonnay ain’t good with steak; Cabernet is. That sort of thing.
Well, with the emergence of America’s craft breweries and the idea that you can eat something besides burgers or beef jerky with your beer, focused food and beer pairings have also become “a thing.”
Selecting a brew that complements what you’re eating has recently become de rigueur, with many breweries, restaurants, and pubs hosting beer pairing dinners. With that in mind, here are a handful of my favorite restaurant dishes and beers that will partner perfectly with them.
HSL chef/owner Briar Handly and his staff pride themselves on procuring and using natural, organic ingredients whenever possible. So it’s no surprise that HSL features Pinkus Ur-Pils on their beer list. Now run by the 5th and 6th generation of the Pinkus-Muller brewery in Munster, Germany, they are the world’s first brewery to brew with only organically grown barley malt and whole hop blossoms.
Pinkus is certified organic by the USDA. A light-bodied, dry, well-balanced Pinkus Ur-Pils would be a terrific match for one of chef Handly’s most popular menu items: his spicy General Tso’s style cauliflower with pickled peppers and sriracha vinaigrette.
Red Rock Brewery and SOMI Vietnamese Bistro
“Very nicely done!” says a review of Red Rock Brewing Elephino Double IPA in the Beer Advocate, and I couldn’t agree more — it’s a near perfect beer. With floral hop aromas from the liberal use of American hops, along with sweet malt flavors, Elephino is a well-balanced beer that isn’t overpowering, as you might expect a Double IPA to be.
Double and Imperial IPAs go well with grilled and barbecued meats, so Elephino is a great choice to sip alongside the succulent Sliders at SOMI Vietnamese Bistro. The steamed bao buns stuffed with crispy barbecued pork belly, cilantro, and scallions with hoisin sauce is an excellent Elephino foil.
Garage on Beck
If ever there was a dish made for beer, it’s fish & chips, which is often made with beer. Over at the Garage on Beck, chef J. Looney has just released a new, updated menu with all sorts of interesting goodies on it, including fish & chips. He makes them using wild-caught Alaskan pollock which he hand-batters to order with the Garage’s own beer batter. The pollock fillets are cooked to light, crispy, tender perfection, spritzed with malt vinegar, and served with tartar sauce, lemon wedge and hand-cut French fries.
New Belgium Brewing Company in Ft. Collins, Colorado produces the wildly popular, easy-drinking Fat Tire Amber Ale sold at the Garage. It’s a crisp, clean beer that would pair nicely with fish & chips, cutting through the deep-fried fat, but not getting in the way of the delicate fish. The company is also 100% employee-owned.
Anyone who reads my food writing frequently probably knows that my favorite Indian dish is chicken vindaloo (or shrimp, pork or lamb). Born in the region of Goa, vindaloo is usually a fiery curry in which vinegar plays a key role. One of the best vindaloo versions I’ve tasted is at Lavanya Mahate’s Saffron Colonial restaurant in the Avenues. The fruity bouquet and bright hop character of a Squatters IPA from the beer menu is a slam-dunk with the spicy and tart curry from the Saffron kitchen.
Caffe Molise, BTG Wine Bar, and Epic Brewing
I tend to associate the excellent Italian restaurant Caffe Molise with wine, in part because owner/chef Fred Moesinger also operates its sister establishment, BTG Wine Bar. But there is a swell selection of locally crafted brews available at Caffe Molise, in addition to a vast wine and cocktail list.
You might not think of pairing dessert with beer, but you should. A smoky-sweet beer with caramel malts such as Epic Brewing Smoked and Oaked is a formidable friend of something scrumptious like the Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake with dark chocolate ganache topping served at Caffe Molise. Give it a try!