WASHINGTON, D.C. – The menu was as impressive as it was delicious.
To start: Tartare of slat-roasted baby beets with an egg baked in a bred basket and a side of lemon-horseradish sauce. The entrée was roasted organic chicken and fennel spiced Italian sausage with scarlet runner beans and collard greens. The meal was topped with a chocolate pot de crème with coffee foam and chocolate pearls.At Washington D.C.'s acclaimed Firefly restaurant, the presentation was impeccable the service flawless. The chef even went out of his way to perfectly pair each course with a high-caliber alcoholic beverage: beer. "To me, beer is the new wine," said Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company, which produces the Samuel Adams line. "There is the thought that beer does not have the dignity and nobility of wine, but frankly beer goes better than wine when it comes to food."
Koch and others in the brewing world were in the nation's capitol last weekend for the second annual SAVOR: an American craft beer and food experience, an event aimed at changing the public's perception on what kind of foods should be served with beer.
Too often, the fermented beverage is stuck on the same tables as a burger or helps to wash down the overly dry and salted peanuts on the bar. And while that's fine in some situations, the truth is that with so many different styles of beer that go well beyond the traditional offerings from Coors or Miller, there is no end to perfect pairings.
- Grilled tomato and halomi skewers paired with a South German Hefeweizen from Virginia's Starr Hill Brewing Company.
- A Belgian Style Farmhouse Saison from Brewery Ommegang of New York paired with curried-coconut chicken skewers.
- A Double Indian Pale Ale from Colorado's Great Divide Brewing Co. paired with Moroccan spiced-lamb burgers
- Southwestern black-bean soup was teamed with a Chocolate Milk Stout from Arcadia Brewing.
- Hibachi Style grilled Pacific salmon skewers served with an Imperial Pilsner from Rogue Brewing in Oregon.
- A Belgian Wheat beer from Allagash Brewing in Maine paired with passion fruit and mango mousse cups
There were also dozens of beer and cheese and beer and chocolate parings to be tried.
That's right, cheese and chocolate, two things that are most commonly associated with wine. The complexities of the brews like Anchor's Steam beer and Maytag blue cheese or the dark ale aged in oak bourbon barrels paired with black forest chocolate brought new flavor profiles to each item, creating something otherworldly.
The Brewers Association, a Colorado-based group that promotes the American craft beer industry, hosted SAVOR. About 1,900 people attended the event where 68 craft breweries poured their product inside the National Building Museum.
"Ten years ago, when you said ‘beer and food,' people automatically thought of hot dogs and sauerkraut," said Steve Hindy, founder and president of Brooklyn Brewery. "But today, thanks to the work of craft brewers and innovative chefs, savvy consumers are more aware of how well beer pairs with sophisticated meals. Our Belgian-style, cork-finished Brooklyn Local series is selling in some of the country's finest restaurants."
There are an estimated 1,500 craft brewers operating in the United States accounting for almost 8.5 million barrels of beer in the market. A craft brewery, according to the association is one that produces less than 2 million barrels a year. And while it might only be a dent in overall world of brewing, it is certainly a start.
To get people to seriously consider proper beer and food pairings, said Koch of Boston Beer, "you need to do a lot of un-educating.
"The large breweries have made beer out to be associated with party loving dogs, female mud wrestling... and twins," said Koch. "We need to change that. We need to shock people's palates. The revolution begins now."