Food and wine pairing is a centuries-old tradition, whereby the culinary and winemaking traditions of a region would evolve together, creating a natural complimentary relationship. And while beer, which is thought by some to be the world’s oldest fermented beverage (laws regulating beer can been found in The Code of Hammurabi), pairing beer with anything other than burgers and pizza is a much more modern phenomenon.
I can remember back to my first Food & Wine Classic — the World Series of the culinary and oenophile world — seven years ago when a chef hosted a tasting of Belgium beers on the roof of the Aspen Daily News. He only paired them with basic appetizers, but even then I recall thinking that beer-food pairings should definitely be a thing.
The lack thereof was mostly, I’m sure, a result of the relatively small number of breweries crafting complex beer with enough substance and character to stand up to the complex yet delicate flavors of fine cuisine. But that certainly isn’t the case anymore, and states like Colorado are examples of why. There are about 140 breweries in the Centennial State, and in 2010 we ranked first in the nation in gross beer production and fourth in the number of breweries per capita.
Now, the Food & Wine classic hosts sold-out seminars on food-and-beer pairing, and have even published a book on the topic. And it comes as no surprise that Aspen has already adopted the trend, much of which is being driven by our own Aspen Brewing Co. But restaurants up and down the valley are picking up it.
At the end of last year, speakeasy-style, craft cocktail bar Justice Snow’s hosted a beer pairing vs. wine pairing dinner to much acclaim.
At the Limelight, guests can partake in a regular three-course meals and specialty beer pairings for $40, including tax and gratuity. Beer dinners are done in partnership with the Aspen Brewing Company, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, and Anheuser Busch. The last of the season is on Tuesday, March 19. Reservations must be made in advance, as there are only 14 seats that fill up fast. Call 970-925-3025.
Then on Wednesday, March 27, downvalley hot spot Phat Thai will host Aspen Brewing Co. owner Duncan Clauss and head brewer Chase Engel offer six beers and ales from Aspen Brewing Co. with six courses from the Phat Thai kitchen. Tickets are $45. Call 970-963-7001.
One of the great benefits of beer pairing dinners as compared to wine pairing dinners is the price. Whereas wine dinners often start at $100 or more and can skyrocket much higher, I’ve yet to see a beer-pairing dinner above $75. And that’s definitely something to drink, and eat, to.