the like — in different styles for differentoccasions and cuisines. And the ﬂood of yellow,ﬁzzy brews doesn’t adequately represent theincredible range of beer ﬂavors.Beer’s reputation as an unsuitable foodpartner emerged as mass-market beers becamesingle-note beverages, Oliver points out. Evenafter American brewing returned to its rootsand expanded in the 1990s, the industry did apoor job of promoting how well beer pairs withfood, says Mark Edelson, director of brewing forthe seven-unit Iron Hill Brewery andRestaurant, based in Lancaster, Pa.“The wine industry has done such anincredible job over the last 25 to 30 yearspushing the wine and food connection, and weas an industry have got to get better in makingthe case of food with beer.”
The brew-pub craze of the late 1990s didn’thelp, with its abundance of batter-fried ﬁsh andchips. And a shakeout among the craft brewers,who made good beer but bad business decisions,slowed things down.“In the early ’90s, it was no longer goodenough to be the local brewery, even if youoffered a consistent and desirable product,which many did not,” says Dave Alexanderwho, with his wife and partner, Diane, runs
Beer’s wide range of ﬂavors allows for sophisticated food pairings,but ﬁrst you need to know your brews AT HOME WITH THE RANGE:
“Beer has a much wider range of ﬂavor than wine does,” says Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster GarrettOliver. Brewers, unlike winemakers, can introduce other ingredients,such as more highly roasted malt, smoked grains or fruits, to createdistinct ﬂavor proﬁles.
Beer can harmonize with ﬂavors that wine can onlycontrast with, Oliver says, citing hearty red wines served with a charredsteak. “What you’re not doing [with wine] in any way is harmonizing with the meat, which is about caramelization. Grabbing on to thatcaramelization is unique to beer.”
BEYOND COLOR CODING:
“Just serving a lighter brew with the ﬁrstcourse, an amber with the main and then a dark with dessert is a littlepassé,” says Charlie Devereux, secretary of the Oregon Brewers Guildand co-owner of Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom, who sees thebar being raised by beer dinners. “When people come to a beer dinner, they’re looking for something they might not ﬁnd at every corner,” heasserts. A recent dinner at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River,Ore., included such dishes as house-made carpaccio, antelope stew andrabbit with wild mushrooms. “These probably worked better with beer than they would have with wines,” Devereux observes.
SMOOTH THE TRANSITION:
When Greg Engert of Rustico in Alexandria, Va., confronts skeptical wine lovers, he opts for what he calls“transitional beers,” or beers that are more acidic, perhaps produced in ways similar to winemaking, via aging or exposure to morenatural yeast.
“Exploring the world of beer does not involve the kick of a steel-toed boot. It is a series of gentle nudges,”says Dave Alexander of Washington, D.C.’s, Brickskeller andRFD Beer. “You don't create a fan of specialty beers by gettinga Bud drinker to try a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine,” henotes. This dense, fruity and malty brew might be toointense a ﬂavor leap for those used to the pale stuff. “Youlearn what the customer likes and introduce the next stepin the ﬂavor proﬁle along his guidelines,” suggests Alexander, pointing to craft-brewed American lager or German Pilsner as better bets.
ENJOY THE JOURNEY:
“In any case, when thecustomer discovers a new taste, he is not going to stopliking that taste,” says Alexander. “As the world of beer moves into the kitchen, it brings those fans along with it.”
Breweries like Iron Hill prove there’s a beer style for every taste, from hop-heavy IPA tocask-aged brews with bourbon notes.
I R O N H I L L B R E W E R Y