Craft brews were the big draw at last month's Great American Beer Festival, but a portion of the beer bonanza was also devoted to beer-and-food pairings, which, in the last few years, have become more and more frequent, and while there are a fair share of cynic oenophiles who will insist that wine -- not beer -- is the ideal accompaniment to food beyond pretzels and wieners, beer geeks are telling another story.
"There are so many different flavors and types of beers, and the pairing options are actually much greater than wine, because you're dealing with more than just grapes as an ingredient," says Mike Burns, the founder of beercraving.com. "Not only are there a lot more opportunities to experiment with food-and-beer pairings than with wine," he adds, "but the flavors in beer can be designed to pair perfectly with a specific dish."
That theory will be put through the test on Thursday, when a dozen chefs will partner with the same number of local breweries at the first Chef and Brew Festival, which takes place at the Oriental Theater from 6 to 9:30 p.m. "The beer-and-food pairing trend is really taking off, and when I was working at the Brewer's Association, we'd get phone calls from different reporters around the country asking us how to describe a beer's relationship with food, and we want to proliferate that movement and capture it in a festival format," says Burns, who organized the festival with the help of former Opus/Aria chef Michael Long. "Our goal was to expose as many people as we could -- as fast as we could -- to the growing trend," he adds.
Each brewery will pour two beers that will be matched with one (or two) appetizers prepared by each chef, and attendees will decide which team wins the grand cash prize; a squadron of judges will determine which team is the most creative and who wins best in show, and those teams will also be awarded prizes.
Tickets, which can be purchased here, are $39 in advance and $49 at the door, but guess what? We're giving one Cafe Society reader (and a guest) the opportunity to attend for free. Here's what we want to know: How many pints of Cowtown Milk Stout did the Wynkoop serve during the month of October? The person who comes the closest to the correct answer without going over will win the prize.
Please submit your guesses in the comments section below, and don't forget to include your name and e-mail address, so we can get in touch with you if you win. We'll announce the winner today by 6 p.m.
In the meantime, here's the complete list of the participating chefs and breweries, along with a few of their dishes and pairings:
Chris Cina, Ghost Plate and Tap Himalayan salt- and pepper-crusted lamb loin carpaccio with sherried bell pepper relish and Haystack Farms Queso de Mano Pairing: Breckenridge Christmas Ale
Sheila Lucero, Jax Fish House Monkfish liver torchon with lychee, black pepper, lime and a sesame cracker Pairing: Funkwerks Deceit
Elise Wiggins, Panzano Rabbit gnocchi Pairing: Prost Brewing's Pilsner Pastiche: baked pasta with handmade meatballs, cheese tortellini, cinnamon custard and savory pie crust. Pairing: Prost Brewing's Dunkel
Sean McGaughey, Opus/Aria Beer cheese-filled tortelli with vegetable crudite Pairing: West Flander's Angry Monk
Taylor Drew, Russell's Smokehouse Smoked lamb neck shepherd's pie with goat cheese whipped potatoes in a "Beeyond the Hive" honey whole wheat crust Pairing: Elevation "Apis IV" Quadruppel Spiced Carrot Cake with "First Cast" macerated golden raisins and cream cheese frosting Pairing: Elevation "First Cast" IPA
Steve Jones, TAG Burger Bar Ménage à trois burger: beef slider with Grey Poupon Dijon mustard, sliced Gruyere cheese, "French onions" and Kirby pickles Pairing: Wit's End Green Man Ale
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Jensen Cummings, Row 14 Power Rangers meatball (each ingredient represents a different Power Ranger's color) Pairing: Caution: Brewing's "The Green Tease" infused with tea and fermented with sake yeast