During this past weekend, the Great American Beer Festival rolled through Denver. It brought with it tens of thousands of thirsty beer aficionados, over 500 media members and even some of the nation’s finest chefs. Did that last part throw you a little bit? There is a whole world of food and beer pairings that is much more intense and sophisticated than the typical “light beer and hot wings” most of us are accustomed to.
The “Paired” event (formerly known as “Farm to Table”) took place during both the Thursday and Friday sessions and cost an additional $65 on top of the $80 it cost for a general admission ticket. Friday evening, there was a “media only” session of this crafted culinary experience that I had the privilege of attending. There were 21 chefs that worked with 21 breweries for 42 total pairings (two from each brewery/chef). These chefs came from all across the country with one chef actually coming from London. Beyond having top notch chefs prepare complex dishes, the beers featured at the event were exclusive to Paired in that they were not being poured to general admission customers in the main hall.
Since this event started at 4:45 pm and the main festival started at 5:30, I knew I wouldn’t be able to try everything. I honestly had no order or strategy to the pairings I would try and did not base them on beer style or personal food preferences. I ate friggin’ octopus guys so there’s no way I was being picky. While not all of the dishes were in my comfort zone, not a drop of beer was dumped out and all plates were discarded empty. Below are some of my favorites from the event in no particular order. If you'd like to see the full menu, click here.
|Dish: Pastramied Beef Belly with Pickled Mustard Seeds|
|Chef: Nathan Anda - Red Apron - Washington, DC|
|Brewery: Real Ale Brewing Company - Blanco, TX|
|Beer Name: Codex Triplex|
|Beer Style: American Wild Ale - Sour|
|Dish: Pickled Octopus, Marble Potato Salad, Grapefruit Pompelmocello|
|Chef: Sean Clark - El moro Spirits & Tavern - Durango, CO|
|Brewery: Union Craft Brewing - Baltimore, MD|
|Beer Name: Pink Flamingo|
|Beer Style: Sour ale brewed with pink grapefruit and ginger|
|Dish: Crispy Clam Roll with Hatch Green Chile Aioli|
|Chef: Kevin Nashan - Sidney Street Cafe - St. Louis, MO|
|Brewery: Bear Republic Brewing Company - Healdsburg, CA|
|Beer Name: Grand Am™|
|Beer Style: American Pale Ale|
|Dish: Duck Pipian|
|Chef: Carlo Lamagna - Clyde Common - Portland, OR|
|Brewery: Joyride Brewing Company - Edgewater, CO|
|Beer Name: Abbey Road|
|Beer Style: Belgian Dubbel with cherries, raspberries and blackberries.|
|Dish: Frank's Chili Dog: Smoked Prime Rib Chili, Mustard and Onions, Poppy Seed Bun|
|Chef: Frank Bonanno - Russell's Smokehouse - Denver, CO|
|Brewery: Haymarket Pub and Brewery - Chicago, IL|
|Beer Name: Peated Scotch Ale|
|Beer Style: Wee Heavy|
|Dish: Boilermaker Ice Cream Sundae (hair of the dog granola)|
|Chef: Scott Dolich & David Sapp - Park Kitchen - Portland, OR|
|Brewery: Oskar Blues Brewery - Lyons, CO|
|Beer Name: Rum-Barrel Aged Death by Coconut|
|Beer Style: Irish Porter|
The beer and food was phenomenal and I can say in complete sincerity that it was one of the neatest beer experiences I’ve ever had. At one point I sat in a corner, exasperated at trying to take the perfect picture of Chef Sean Clark’s pork and lamb sausage with citrus zest and leeks. I set down my camera after scrolling through and not liking any of the 9 pictures taken. Then I took a bite of the sausage, followed by a sip of Real Ale Brewing Co.’s Royal Farmhouse, a Double IPA. Wow!
For me personally, it was the most amazing and delicious pairing of the entire evening. At that moment an overwhelming feeling of gratitude washed over me. I realized how lucky I was to be a part of this event, and beyond that, a part of the craft beer community as a whole. Hosting events such as this lends credence to the legitimacy of the entire craft beer movement and that’s something that’s appetizing to all of us.