Utah Bites

BREWS & CHEWS: 6 Can’t Miss Restaurant Food & Beer Pairings

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 become as popular as food and wine pairings.  


Photo courtesy of Elevate on Unsplash

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 become as popular as food and wine pairings.  

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 Cauliflower

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 Fresno peppers and sriracha vinaigrette. 

“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 also  a great choice to sip alongside the succulent Sliders at SOMI Vietnamese Bistro. The steamed bao buns stuffed with crispy barbecued pork belly, daikon, cilantro, carrot, and house-made hoisin barbecue sauce is an excellent Elephino foil. 

Garage on Beck Nashville Chicken Sandwich

If ever there was a dish made for a cold beer, it’s Nashville-style hot chicken. At the Garage on Beck, they cook up a fiery Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich consisting of a crispy fried chicken breast brushed with spicy butter and topped with house-made dill pickles, and coleslaw, all served on a soft kaiser roll with hand-cut French fries or a side salad. 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 pairs nicely with Nashville chicken, cutting through the deep-fried fat, but not a high alcohol brew that would clash with the spiciness of the chicken. 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 Valley restaurant in the Avenues. The fruity bouquet and bright hop character of a Squatters Double IPA from the beer menu is a slam-dunk with the spicy and tart curry from the Saffron kitchen. 

Feldman’s Deli Sloppy Joe

For authentic Jewish-style food in Utah, Feldman’s Deli is the real deal. Egg salad, matzo ball soup, potato pancakes, kosher brined pickles, Utah’s best bagels … I could go on and on. The hot half-pound deli sandwiches at Feldman’s are second to none and the signature Sloppy Joe – made with corned beef, pastrami, Thousand Island dressing and homemade coleslaw on Jewish rye – will change the way you think about Sloppy Joes forever. Sip a crisp, light Mandarina Kölsch from UTOG Brewery with its blood orange notes alongside that superb Sloppy Joe and you’ve got a pairing that can’t be beat. 

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 and the wine selection at both BTG and Caffe Molise is formidable. But there is a swell selection of locally crafted brews available as well, in addition to a killer 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 fizzy friend of something scrumptious like the Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake with dark chocolate ganache topping served at Caffe Molise. Give it a try!

Culinary quote of the week: “Some people wanted champagne and caviar when they should have had beer and hot dogs.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower




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Food writer Ted SchefflerOriginally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.

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