Craft Brewers Look to Change Opinions
About Beer and Fine Dining
By JOHN HOLL
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The menu was as impressive as it was delicious.
To start: Tartare of slat-roasted baby beets with an egg baked in a bred
basket and a side of lemon-horseradish sauce. The entrée was roasted
organic chicken and fennel spiced Italian sausage with scarlet runner beans
and collard greens. The meal was topped with a chocolate pot de crème with
coffee foam and chocolate pearls.
At Washington D.C.'s acclaimed Firefly restaurant, the presentation was
impeccable the service flawless. The chef even went out of his way to
perfectly pair each course with a high-caliber alcoholic beverage: beer. "To
me, beer is the new wine," said Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer
Company, which produces the Samuel Adams line. "There is the thought that
beer does not have the dignity and nobility of wine, but frankly beer goes
better than wine when it comes to food."
Koch and others in the brewing world were in the nation's capitol last
weekend for the second annual SAVOR: an American craft beer and food
experience, an event aimed at changing the public's perception on what kind
of foods should be served with beer.
Too often, the fermented beverage is stuck on the same tables as a burger or
helps to wash down the overly dry and salted peanuts on the bar. And while
that's fine in some situations, the truth is that with so many different styles of
beer that go well beyond the traditional offerings from Coors or Miller, there
is no end to perfect pairings.
Consider what the 1,900 people who attended SAVOR last weekend at the
National Building Museum were treated to:
Grilled tomato and halomi skewers paired with a South German Hefeweizen
from Virginia's Starr Hill Brewing Company.
A Belgian Style Farmhouse Saison from Brewery Ommegang of New York
paired with curried-coconut chicken skewers.
A Double Indian Pale Ale from Colorado's Great Divide Brewing Co. paired
with Moroccan spiced-lamb burgers
Southwestern black-bean soup was teamed with a Chocolate Milk Stout from
Hibachi Style grilled Pacific salmon skewers served with an Imperial Pilsner
from Rogue Brewing in Oregon.
A Belgian Wheat beer from Allagash Brewing in Maine paired with passion
fruit and mango mousse cups
There were also dozens of beer and cheese and beer and chocolate parings to
That's right, cheese and chocolate, two things that are most commonly
associated with wine. The complexities of the brews like Anchor's Steam
beer and Maytag blue cheese or the dark ale aged in oak bourbon barrels
paired with black forest chocolate brought new flavor profiles to each item,
creating something otherworldly.
The Brewers Association, a Colorado-based group that promotes the
American craft beer industry, hosted SAVOR. About 1,900 people attended
the event where 68 craft breweries poured their product inside the National
"Ten years ago, when you said ‘beer and food,' people automatically thought
of hot dogs and sauerkraut," said Steve Hindy, founder and president of
Brooklyn Brewery. "But today, thanks to the work of craft brewers and
innovative chefs, savvy consumers are more aware of how well beer pairs
with sophisticated meals. Our Belgian-style, cork-finished Brooklyn Local
series is selling in some of the country's finest restaurants."
There are an estimated 1,500 craft brewers operating in the United States
accounting for almost 8.5 million barrels of beer in the market. A craft
brewery, according to the association is one that produces less than 2 million
barrels a year. And while it might only be a dent in overall world of brewing,
it is certainly a start.
To get people to seriously consider proper beer and food pairings, said Koch
of Boston Beer, "you need to do a lot of un-educating.
"The large breweries have made beer out to be associated with party loving
dogs, female mud wrestling... and twins," said Koch. "We need to change
that. We need to shock people's palates. The revolution begins now."
John Holl writes about wine, beer, spirits and the culture of drinking. He may
be reached at JohnHoll@gmail.com
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A Journalist Looks at Beer
|The Beer Briefing
by John Holl