This month, Brewers Association guest columnist, Lotte Peplow (pictured above — photograph Nic Crilly-Hargrave), looks at the high level of engagement between beer and food in America compared to the UK
The ubiquity of beer and food pairings in America never fails to impress me. Enjoying beer with a meal is a given in America, and most bars, brewpubs, restaurants or diners have an extensive beer, as well as a food, menu, together with specific beer suggestions alongside each food dish. When the two come together in a celebration of beer and food heaven it truly is a wonderful thing.
Nearly two weeks ago, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) took place in Denver, Colorado. Organised by the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade body representing small and independent American craft brewers, GABF is now in its 37th year and takes place every fall.
To say it’s huge would be the understatement of the year! More that 800 breweries pour 4,000-plus beers, and 62,000 attend over three days in a cavernous convention centre the size of eight football pitches.
There’s also the GABF competition, which this year attracted 8,496 entries from 2,404 breweries, vying for success in 102 beer categories.
It’s a mind-blowing and overwhelming experience, but tucked to one side of GABF is an oasis of tranquility and a chance to experience the advanced and elevated position beer and food pairing enjoys in America.
Curated by Brewers Association executive chef, Adam Dulye, PAIRED is a showcase of celebrated chefs with small and independent craft brewers that demonstrate beer’s ability to shine from the tap to the table and educate beer lovers into the boundless ways beer can enhance food, and vice versa.
The intimate setting features 26 celebrated chefs and 26 craft brewers, who collaborate to devise 52 unique pairings of gastronomic delicacies with equally special or rare craft beers.
Beers served at PAIRED are unavailable in the festival, making it an exclusive and very different experience to the mind-blowing choice and din of the festival floor. This year, PAIRED was bigger than ever before and occupied an expanded space to accommodate more chefs and food pairings.
Guests were treated to mouth-watering delicacies, rich in flavour and melt in the mouth deliciousness when enjoyed as a paired bite with high-quality American craft beer. This was no ordinary pie and pint night out!
Adam said: “The idea behind PAIRED is to challenge consumers’ perceptions of pairings in a way they had never thought possible, and create excitement around beer and food.
Three Weavers’ Inglewood IPA with Thai style beef salad, cabbage, Thai chili, nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce), coriander and cashew. Photograph: Michael Harlan Turkell
“Consumers are looking for an experience when they go out, and PAIRED is a unique and different way of experiencing the glorious interplay between beer and food.”
Highlights included Three Weavers’ Inglewood IPA with Thai style beef salad, cabbage, Thai chili, nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce), coriander and cashew. A taste combination that danced across the palate as the tropical, citrus fruit notes of the IPA played off the rich, meaty flavour of the beef and the sweet ’n’ sour dipping sauce rounded out the savoury bitter kick of the finish.
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery brought its A game to the table as its Rosemary Saison was a delightful flavour combination when paired with chicken sausage slider, Lonne’s Hawaiian roll, palisade peaches, and braised red cabbage. The queue for this pairing was at least 50 people deep.
And Sixpoint Howler NE IPA, a small batch hazy, juicy IPA teamed with shrimps and grits. The full-flavoured hop character had the effect of stripping the palate clean of creamy polenta in readiness for the next mouthful.
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery’s Rosemary Saison was paired with chicken sausage slider, Lonne’s Hawaiian roll, palisade peaches, and braised red cabbage. Photograph: Michael Harlan Turkell
PAIRED took place across two nights of the GABF and attracted 2,000 people per session, who bought tickets for $160 each (including GABF entry). The interest and excitement on guests’ faces was plain to see as I mused how far behind the UK is in creating this level of engagement between beer and food.
An event on the scale of PAIRED has never been undertaken in the UK, but I can’t help feeling there is a market for a high-level, expertly curated event with a wide choice of top quality beer and food. One day…
• Lotte Peplow attended the Great American Beer Festival / PAIRED as a guest of the Brewers Association.
About the Brewers Association
The Brewers Association (BA) is the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts.
The BA represents 4,000-plus US breweries. The BA’s independent craft brewer seal is a widely adopted symbol that differentiates beers by small and independent craft brewers.
The BA organises events including the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival, Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America, SAVOR: An American Craft Beer and Food Experience, Homebrew Con, National Homebrew Competition and American Craft Beer Week.
The BA publishes The New Brewer magazine, and Brewers Publications is the largest publisher of brewing literature in the US.
Beer lovers are invited to learn more about the dynamic world of craft beer at CraftBeer.com and about homebrewing via the BA’s American Homebrewers Association and the free Brew Guru mobile app.