“It’s like a Star Trek convention for beer nerds,” whispered a SAVOR attendee waiting in line for a pour and a bite this weekend. Perhaps so. With dozens of breweries–and, more enticingly, those brewery’s brewmasters–on hand for this one-time-only New York event, hordes of ale and lager aficionados descended on the Altman building, where they received a lesson in pairing via tasting, discussion, and educational salons. We, too, gleaned a few good tips from our own experimentation and from chatting up a couple of brewers.
Early on, we stumbled upon a bite paired to a couple of different beers: A goat cheese cheesecake nibble topped with crunchy caramel corn was meant to match both the citrusy Bronx Belgian Pale Ale and the Crooked Stave Surette, a tart saison. The bit enhanced the orange, floral notes of the pale ale, which in turn soothed the sharp flavor of the goat cheese. When paired with the Surette, the cheesecake tasted much more like dessert, and it brought forth fruity elements of the beer.
New Holland brewer Fred Bueltmann just released a book on pairing. His advice? “We always say food or beer tastes like something, so I break it down into basic flavors: smoky, tart, savory, and so on. Then I start thinking about where in the beer world I can find those flavors. In that way, matching beer to food is like matching beer to people. I like to use the stereotypical example of the couple who comes up to me at a wine exhibition. The woman will say, ‘I don’t drink beer.’ I ask her to give me a chance, and then I ask, ‘Do you like chocolate, coffee, and red wine?” When she says yes, I pour her a stout. I don’t go for the lightest thing on the table.” Here, the Monkey King–a saison–is paired to charred and marinated squid with chick peas and tomatoes. New Holland also offered a pour of Dragon’s Milk oak barrel-aged stout paired to a black-and-tan brownie.
While reflecting on the place of Kolsch in both the German culinary canon and in the kettles at San Francisco’s Magnolia, owner Dave McLean offered, “Experimentation is part of the American craft beer experience. It’s like we’ve been given keys to the car.” He poured his Kalifornia Kölsch with spiced corn and smoked bacon on lime.
Our favorite pairing of the night? The one pointed out to us by chef Adam Dulye: the Brooklyn Black Ops, a Russian Imperial Stout, with a dot of rich chicken liver sandwiched between two sheets of dark chocolate. The stout both complemented the intense flavors of the bite and rinsed the palate of the fat with its crisp finish.
A few more photos of the event:
Flying Dog’s Easy IPA with a togarashi-garnished yuzu meringue.
Port Jeff’s H3 Belgian Style Trippel
paired with a honey-and-sesame-infused seaweed nougat.
Denver Beer Co.’s Oak-aged Graham Cracker Porter with pulled lamb cassoulet studded with pomegranate.