It is surprising to me that craft beer drinkers are too often not always craft food eaters. Craft beer drinkers are often proud of the fact that their beers do not contain the adjuncts or chemicals that the large macro brewers use. However many will happily eat low quality, mass produced food.
When Stone brewery first opened their restaurant, they created a menu that contained as much of a focus on quality ingredients, as they have on their beer. The result was their guests often complaining that they didn’t sell cheap bar food. In addition to being the largest purchaser of organic food in San Diego, the brewery even purchased a farm last year so they can even start growing their own vegetables. Stone’s World Bistro and Gardens is a great resource for how to merge craft beer with high quality food.
Here in Vegas, we have several restaurants that do focus on both craft beer and food. Public House and Todd English’s PUB immediately come to mind, along with a few others. However, it isn’t practical for anyone to solely eat at these restaurants everyday, so what can someone do at home to enjoy both craft beer and food?
The first step is to start cooking, using as few prepared meals/ingredients as possible. Buy fresh meats and vegetables and prepare it yourself. I’m not saying you have to buy organic foods, and I’m not saying that you even have to eat “healthy” foods (though both are good options), all I’m saying is that you make your own food from fresh ingredients. Write down a few of your favorite foods, and look up recipes to make it yourself. If you love pizza, buy cheese, sauce, pepperoni, dough, and make it (even better, make your own dough). Do you like hamburgers? Heat up the grill and start making your own burgers. If you want to go to the bar and eat chicken fingers, then you should make your own. I guarantee that if you buy fresh chicken and make your own beer batter, it will taste better than anything you can buy in a bar where the focus is solely on making chicken fingers as quickly, and cheaply, as possible. There are many things added to these foods when you get them at your local bar that you would never use at home. Restaurant food is known for having ridiculously higher sodium levels than the freshly homemade equivalent. The fresher your ingredients, the more flavor the food will have and you will need less salt and fat to make it palatable. Even if it’s a bacon cheeseburger, the home cooked option is more likely to taste better and be better for you (bacon is a nutrient right?).
There are two things you will learn once you start pairing great food with great beer:
1. Great food will make a great beer taste better. The rich, hearty flavors in great dishes will match the quality of the beer and increase its refreshing characteristics.
2. Great beer will make your food taste better. Because the quality of the food matches the beer, the flavors in the beer will match the flavors in your food. The caramel sweetness in a brown ale will match, and increase, the sweetness in barbecue. The light tartness in a hefeweizen will match and highlight the lemon flavors in seafoods, salads, or other dishes seasoned with lemon. Because beer and food have so many similar flavors, you will find a near infinite amount of ways to match food with beer.
I am confident that once you begin to drink your beer with better quality food, you will enjoy both even more.
If you need help with recipes (especially ones using bacon and beer as ingredients) contact Hooked on Hops’ own contributor, Goran Cvijanovic. You can view a few of his recipes here on the site as well.
Earlier I mentioned the struggles Stone had getting their guests to enjoy and appreciate high quality food. You can read more about this, and even get some recipes from the restaurant in their book.