With all the beer brains at the Brewers Association focused on the best ways to promote craft beer in the U.S., someone still needs make sure there's great food to go with the amazing variety of brews being produced across the country (and no, that doesn't mean flipping a coin to decide who calls for pizza delivery). The Brewers Association is dedicated to providing support, education and advocacy for small, independent and traditional beer makers — and part of that is helping brewers, chefs and beer drinkers bring out the best in food with good beer (and vice versa). The Great American Beer Festival is the association's biggest event, but for BA's executive chef Adam Dulye, this week's festival is one of many opportunities to bring good food and beer together.
For the past several years, the GABF has included a premium package with food and beer pairings from some of the country's top chefs. Once dubbed the Farm to Table Pavilion, it's now simply called Paired. Dulye is the curator for the event and he's brought together 21 chefs and 21 brewers who will work in teams to serve up 42 food-and-beer pairings (that's two pairings each from every chef-brewery team). Of the participants, Colorado is represented by ten chefs (Kyle Mendenhall, Alex Seidel, Kelly Whitaker, Daniel Asher, Frank Bonanno, Sheila Lucero, Alex Figura, Jordan Wallace, Brian Vaughn of Steamboat Springs, and Sean Clark of Durango) and five breweries (Elevation, Great Divide, Twisted Pine, Grimm Brothers and Lone Tree).
"It's a great way to see the state of beer and food pairings," Dulye says. By working with innovative chefs, Dulye can help create exciting new flavor combinations, rather than falling back on tried-and-true pairings that many beer drinkers have already experienced. "One thing I hear from brewers is 'stop putting by stout or porter with dessert.," he explains. "I encourage a lot of chefs to go beyond the standards,"
So while you may still run into a stout-and-chocolate combo, there's plenty more to excite those looking for something a little different. For example, Sheila Lucero, executive chef of Jax Fish House, is serving a smoked seafood salad of clams, mussels, Spanish octopus and squid alongside a barleywine from Cincinnati's Rhinegeist Brewery. And Loveland's Grimm Brother's Brewing is pairing its Master Thief German porter with smoked sauerbraten shortrib served over white-cheddar grits from Q's Roadhouse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
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While Paired ticketholders are an exclusive group (sales were limited to members of the Brewers Association or the American Homebrewers Association and only about 1,000 tickets were sold), Dulye says there will be other opportunities to match good food and beer in the main GABF hall. The Beer & Food Pavilion will offer a variety of presentations, demonstrations and tasting opportunities throughout the three-day festival. Denver chef Jensen Cummings, who currently runs Brewed Food (a beer and cuisine education and special events company), will demonstrate how two different beers can bring out unique elements in a single dish; Jeff Stoneking of ChoLon will pair Southeast Asian stories and dishes with beer from Green Flash Brewing; and Central Bistro's Matt Selby will discuss cooking with beer while offering bites paired with beers from Declaration Brewing.
Beyond the GABF, Dulye's responsibilities include designing and executing the menus for all the food at the World Beer Cup (held every other year) and overseeing Savor Craft Beer, an annual event in Washington, D.C. that serves up beer and food pairings from 72 breweries to more than 5,000 guests.
For those with tickets to Paired, Dulye points out that there's more food and beer than ever at this year's GABF. His advice? "It's a lot this year; pace it out a little." And for attendees whose idea of food with beer doesn't extend beyond pretzel necklaces, he says they still have a place at the festival. "They bring so much energy and fun to the floor," he notes.
For a complete list of all the Paired participants, see the Paired page on the GABF website.