Beer Pairing Dinners – Coming to a City Near You?

Wine and food pairings have long been popular. You’ll find guides written on the subject, experts who will help you find the best food to pair with a particular type of wine (or vice versa) and restaurants that operate on the same premise. The same has not been true for beer, at least in the past. Things are changing these days, though. It’s becoming easier for the avid craft beer fan to pair their preferred brews with different meal options. Of course, not everyone has the same options but you might be surprised at some of what’s available to you.

Brewery Sponsored Events

One of the most popular options out there is to attend a brewery-sponsored event. Quite a few breweries (big and small alike) seem to be getting in on this act. For example, earlier this month, Sam Adams put on a pretty spectacular beer pairing dinner at The Beer Hunter that combined chef-prepared foods with the brewery’s beer offerings.

On offer at that dinner was a French onion soup paired with Sam Adam’s Wee Heavy, roast turkey calabresi with Sam Adam’s Winter Lager and carrot chiffon cake with Sam Adam’s Double Bock. If you weren’t lucky enough (or close by) when that event kicked off, there’s no need to fear. Quite a few other breweries have taken the hint and have started offering similar dinners in cities around the nation. You don’t have to go to a brewery-sponsored event to enjoy beer pairing dinners, though.

Your Local Watering Hole

Just as breweries have started cluing in that their drinkers might like to find out how to pair their offerings with food, many local pubs and bars have as well. While the trend is pretty much confined to higher end establishments that have a significant focus on craft beers, it’s spreading. In fact, in cities like New York and Seattle, you’ll find more and more local pubs getting in on the act. 

A lot of pubs have actually gone to the trouble of hiring experts in food and beer pairings to help their patrons have the best dining and drinking experience possible. It actually pays off for these establishments to hire servers who have knowledge of what they’re serving to patrons and know what type of food goes with what type of beer.

If you think about it, it makes good sense of establishments to start going the extra mile for their customers. A lot of people are interested in trying craft beer but really have no idea what the different styles taste like. And there are few things as jarring as enjoying a good meal and washing it down with a cold brew only to find out that the beer is too bitter, too sweet or too “something” for the entrée item you’re enjoying. By offering food and beer pairing information, pubs and restaurants can start to build a reputation and cement repeat customers. Think about it – where are you going to go, a pub that just tosses whatever your way or one that takes the time to help you enjoy an enhanced experience?

Local Festivals

You might not be lucky enough to live nearby a craft brewery or have any pubs that offer food and beer pairings, but you probably still have some options if you want to combine brews with food correctly. One option that you might not even think about is attending a local festival. Increasingly, local beer festivals are combining food with their brews to entice more people to buy tickets.

As an example, New Jersey holds their annual Beer and Food Festival in June every year. Attendees get to enjoy quite a lot here. There’s an all you can eat BBQ feast paired with craft beer and offerings from big breweries, and the festival even has a 4-course gourmet meal that combines food paired with specific beers and music. 

New Jersey is not the only place that offers beer and food festivals. Chances are good that you have a festival that’s local to you, or at least within driving distance. Denver’s annual beer and food festival is pretty well known, and Seattle has several options. There are festivals in Texas, Florida, Georgia and California as well. A little research might be all you need to do to find a festival that helps you pair beer with food.

Check Out a Guide

Just like wine/food guides, you’ll find a growing number of published guides that help you pair food with specific types of beer. The Brewers Association puts out the American Craft Beer Guide, but there are a number of other publications out there that can help you make good food and beer pairings. There are also some excellent online resources that are available at no charge, though there’s something nice about having a physical book that you can go to for information. 

Online guides can certainly be handy, but be prepared for them to give you a somewhat broad overview of the topic. Most will classify types of beer that go well with certain types of food, but do not go into deep detail. For example, you’ll find guides that pair seafood with wheat ales, but they do not necessarily list specific dishes, such as shrimp scampi or crab cakes. This lack of specifics might not be a bad thing, though, as it gives you a lot of room for experimentation and the leeway to try your own inspired food and beer pairings.

Regardless, you have many different options available to you if you want to start experiencing beer paired with the right types of foods. You’ll find that not only does it enhance your enjoyment of the beers you try but it can also help bring out different flavors in the meals that you eat. Whether you like light or dark brews, fried or roasted foods, meat or vegetables (or even prefer desserts), there’s a combination out there waiting to wow your taste buds.

Posted on December 25, 2011 and filed under The Business of Beer.