I think, and consequently write, a lot about wine and wine and food pairings. A day rarely goes by when I don’t have at least a cursory thought on the subject.
Recently, though, thanks to chats with friends at Bier Station and KC Bier Company, my mind has been contemplating beer and food pairings.
I like Craftbeer.com’s breakdown of today’s suds, which puts malted beverages into six categories: crisp & clean; malty & sweet; hoppy & bitter; fruity & spicy; sour, tart & funky; and dark & roasty. Here’s a brief primer on where your favorite brews fall:
▪ Crisp and clean — think lagers and pilsners.
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▪ Malty and sweet — beers like brown ales and hefeweizens
▪ Fruity and spicy — Belgium-style saisons, among others
▪ Hoppy and bitter — American pale and brown ales and India pale ales
▪ Sour, tart, and funky — As the name suggests, all sours fall into this category
▪ Dark and roasty — Stouts, porters and all of those holiday and Christmas special brews
So, what type of food brings out the best in these beers and vice versa?
For some insight, I went to the source of perhaps the largest collection of craft beers in the metro, Bier Station, and Jacob Kruger who mans the kitchen there.
Kruger says he’s learning on the job every day, exploring new beers and new food and beer pairings. It started, interestingly enough, with a beer and Girl Scout cookie pairing a few years ago.
“I’d never thought of anything like that, but the Thin Mints were great with porters,” Kruger said.
Kruger says he enjoys cheese and beer matching in particular, noting that “stinky” cheeses seem to fit perfectly with sours. Kruger says most of his cuisine and beer pairings come down to trial and error, though because of his affinity for spicy food, he actually read up on that topic.
Well, he Googled around, which counts for reading these days. “Yeah, I looked into that because I love spicy food, and found that spicy dishes go really well with hoppy IPAs. I’ve confirmed for myself. It really works,” Kruger said.
On the Country Club Plaza, I also chatted about food and beer matching with Jax Fish House bartender Kenny Cohrs. Cohrs oversees an excellent collection of craft beers at Jax — beers that go really well with Jax’s seafood-centric menu.
“Whether I’m matching beer, wine, or spirits with cuisine, I find you have to go one of two ways — either a beverage that has flavors and aromas complimentary to the dish or something that heads in the opposite direction,” Cohrs told me.
With nearly 100 beers on tap, you’re certain to find some great food and beer compliments at Barley’s Brew Pub.
I reached out to general manager Dave Brown to get his thoughts on the concept. Brown says he’s a particular fan of matching beer with Barley’s bruschetta board, which features three different bruschettas — tomato-basil; serrano ham, whipped goat cheese and arugula; and a two-olive tapenade.
Brown says they pair each bruschetta with a different beer — an O’Dell 90 Shilling with the tomato-basil; a Grand Teton Gose with the ham, goat cheese, and arugula; and a Pauliner Heffeweisen with the two-olive tapenade.
Brown is also partial to the pan-roasted chicken served with the local Torn Label pale ale. He says the hoppiness of the beer cuts through the fat of the crispy skin while the overall weight of the beer compliments, rather than overpowers, the dish.
Wow, I might just have to have beer with my dinner tonight. It all sounds so delicious!
Dave Eckert is a partner with Flavor Trade, a Kansas City-based gourmet food incubator and co-packer. Before that, Eckert was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons.