Mixing Food and Beer

Mixing Beer and Food

Chefs are increasing collaborations with brewers

Food and wine pairings have long been a part of the tasting experience, and food pairings with craft beers are following suit. But what about actually mixing food and beer together?

Culinary brewing is moving to the forefront of craft brewing. It’s no longer a matter of “Hey, this beer would go great with… insert a food item here” or a matter of brewers developing exclusive brews for restaurants. Now chefs and brewers are collaborating on foods that become part of the brewing process.

Expanding Beer Flavors

Craft beers are growing well beyond hops, grain, water, and yeast although those four basic ingredients have been combined for centuries into various forms of beer. Move over berries and citrus, there are a lot of foods that are now incorporated into the brewing process. Make room for ingredients like peanut butter, pretzels, bacon, or oysters.

Oysters? Yup, Flying Dog’s Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout may well be the best beer to sip while you’re slurping. Located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Flying Dog brews with local oysters and was developed as a collaboration between Flying Dog, Rappahannock River Oysters, and Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen. Plus proceeds from the brew benefit the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a large-scale oyster restoration effort in the Chesapeake Bay.

Porters and stouts seem to handle food flavors with greater ease. “Stouts and porters have such a wide range of strong flavors to work with,” says Troy Hansen, head brewer at Michigan’s un-conventional Short’s Brewing. “Whether it’s the sweetness of a milk stout or the dark-fruit flavor in a Baltic porter, it’s pretty easy to isolate a component to enhance or complement with experimental ingredients.” (Quoted in Draft’sWaiter there’s food in my stout!”)

Bringing Brewers and Chefs Together

In Chicago, Fountainhead executive chef, Cleetus Friedman has embraced collaborating with a variety of brewers developing more than 30 craft beers. He’s quoted in Gapers BlockWhen Brewers and Chefs Meet: A Love Story”: “When you have a chef’s influence into the beer, you introduce the culinary world and the two meld. Collaborating opens up your mind to the ideas of others – it’s like a Ping-Pong game between the chef and the brewer until something explodes and that’s the gift. It’s magic.”

FirstWeFeast.com describes the following chef/brewer collaborations (“A Brief History of Chef-driven Beer Collaborations”) including:

  • Evil Twin Brewing and Andy Ricker: A black lager named The Darkness (exclusively available at Pok Pok, NY)
  • Rogue Ales and Masaharu Morimoto: Soba Ale, brewed with buckwheat
  • Flying Dog and Bryan Voltaggio: Backyard Ale with a barbeque zest
  • 4Hands and St. Louis’s Beard Award-nominated chefs: Foundation: a blonde ale that includes basil, ginger, and organic peach juice

The next time you think about mixing beer and food, it’s time to think well beyond what food would go well with a beer and think: What food would go well IN a beer.