Crafty Combinations

Pairing beer and simple dishes is a natural fit that enhances flavor profiles.

When some restaurants pair beer with food, they don’t think beyond pizza and wings. But coupling craft beer and simple dishes offers a world of exciting culinary possibilities that can keep customers coming back.

“The best way to build a loyal following is to help people discover something excellent and outside the norm when they go out to eat,” says Adam Dulye, co-owner and chef of San Francisco’s popular Monk’s Kettle and Abbot’s Cellar restaurants. “It’s an experience they’ll seek to repeat.”

For Dulye (pronounced Doo-lee), this means pairing clean and simple foods with well-crafted beers to take his diners’ taste buds to new and interesting places.

Dulye is widely known for his beer and food pairing skills. Aside from having the beer program front and center at his two restaurants, Dulye also serves as a consultant for the Brewers Association, handling the culinary duties for events like SAVOR: An American Craft Beer and Food Experience as well as the Farm to Table Pavilion at the Great American Beer Festival.

“There’s a parallel happening right now with food and craft beer—brewers and chefs are honoring their simple ingredients,” Dulye says. “This makes them a natural fit for one another.”

Pairing by Flavor, not Brand

At the Monk’s Kettle, this union takes the form of farm-fresh tavern fare that works in harmony with 24 constantly rotating taps of beer, each chosen for its flavor profile and not the name on the label.

“We have six taps dedicated to Belgian beers, four reserved for hop-forward ales, two for pilsners, etcetera—but none are reserved for a particular beer,” Dulye notes. “We choose beers based on what flavors they can deliver, and we change them once or twice a week—it’s rare you’ll find the same beer twice.”

What you will find on every foray to Monk’s Kettle are beer pairing notes below each dish on the menu—and these notes reference words like “bready, stone fruit, floral, and roasty” instead of specific brands or styles of beer.

For instance, the Roasted Mushroom Risotto with aged white Cheddar and fine herbs comes with pairing recommendations of “earthy, malty, nutty, roasty, highly carbonated.” Diners can choose a beer that delivers these flavors based on their own experience and preferences, or ask their server for a recommendation that will deliver the desired experience, such as a Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale.

Pairing by flavor instead of by beer name or style opens up exciting possibilities, and this is particularly true when the menu is constantly changing to accommodate the best local produce and proteins.

“You’re not limited to certain breweries or set menu items for creating an experience; you do everything based on how it tastes or how those flavors work together,” Dulye says. “Walk in with flavor ideas in your head, and we’ll make you happy.”

Of course to make this happen, your staff has to know their stuff. “We train our servers to know all the beers, our menu items, and the stories behind them, and we taste everything,” Dulye says.


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