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Beer/Food Pairing Trend Keeps Growing

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Restaurants have been offering food and wine pairing recommendations for many years, but today the growing trend of food and beer pairing seems to be on track to become just about as commonplace.

The growing popularity of craft beers has something to do with it. New boutique breweries seem to be popping up everywhere, along with new styles of beer and ales. According to craftbeer.com, over 95 percent of the more than 1,800 breweries in the U.S. today are small, independent operations.

The beer and food pairing trend may also be a byproduct of the macro trend of local food sourcing. Restaurants like the idea of menuing dishes created using locally sourced ingredients, and pairing them with local craft brews is just a natural addition.

Now American restaurants are stepping up to provide customers with suggestions on which brews best complement the dishes on their menus.

Two examples pointed out by Amanda Baltazar, writing for trade magazine Restaurant Management, are restaurant Birch & Barley and Church Key, a high-end beer bar.  Both are located in Washington D.C. Each operation has a rotating menu of more than 500 beer in cask and bottle varieties.

Greg Engert is the beer director and managing partner for both establishments. Quoted in the Restaurant Mgt. story, Engert says, “When I started doing this (in 2009) there wasn’t a boom about beer and food pairing,” says Engert. “But I knew beer was as noble and complex as wine and the natural extension was it could accompany really great cuisine. I had to study food and wine pairings to study what was distinct about beer and food and how it was the same, how it was different.”

Engert talks about the theatricality of dining out, that customers want their beer to do more than just quench their thirst. At Birch & Barley, a five- and six-course tasting menu is offered nightly, and the staff is trained to suggest beer pairings for each course. Engert works with his chef to develop the menus, and that the pair sometimes start with the beer and work backwards to the food from there.

A different example of beer and food pairing can be found at Sweet Revenge in New York City, where beer and wine are sometimes paired with things like cupcakes. Owner Marlo Scott says doing the pairings makes her operation more of a destination restaurant. Sweet Revenge serves a full menu of breakfast, brunch, and lunch, plus lighter fare in the evenings—and that’s when most of the pairings are done.

Brewster’s Bar & Grill at the Four Points by Sheraton, near Los Angeles International Airport has 16 beers on tap and more than 100 in bottles. The restaurant features tapas that were especially created to pair with specific beers, such as smoked salmon with Stone Smoked Porter and lamb with Schneider Aventinus.

Beer and food pairing has become big business in one of America’s beer capitals, Milwaukee, reports Lori Fredrich, writing for OnMilwaukee.com. Local establishments taking up the beer/food matchmaking service include Bacchus, Sanford, Roots, Café Centraal, Triskele's, INdustri Café and Tess. All of these Brew City eateries have hosted beer dinners in recent months, Fredrich reports.

A series of special dinners, called the Best of Milwaukee Beer Dinners, is planned for this year. The first of the five dinners on tap for 2012 will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at the Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub. Many of Milwaukee’s finest chefs will be contributing their skills to the dinner series, and they'll be pairing their expertise with those of brew masters from the city’s top craft breweries. Talk about a great pairing! This oughta be really good.

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