As beer continues to grab the hearts of Grand Rapids locals and visitors, the realization that beer pairs well with food is becoming more and more clear. In fact, Grand Rapids hosts the sixth annual Cool Brews. Hot Eats., a month-long event that’s dedicated to cooking with craft beer and providing unique beer-and-food pairings.

Beer Month GR logoFact: Cool Brews. Hot Eats. coincides with Beer Month GR, which takes place February 15 - March 15, 2018. Credit: Experience Grand Rapids

We reached out to two local hotspots to see their take on the latest beer pairing craze, and here’s what we gathered:

Beer & Wine Are More Alike Than We Think...

Jacob Blaskis, Service Manager of The Green Well Gastro Pub (Cherry Street, Grand Rapids), believes beer is on par with wine and the restaurant tries to split its menu pairings equally.

When thinking about what beverages might pair well with an item, Blaskis likes to think of Master Brewer and author Randy Mosher, who said, “Because it is nearly a food itself, beer’s range of flavors, aromas, colors and textures complement many kinds of fare, giving us plenty to choose from when seeking resonance.”

Similarly, Blaskis says, “Just like with wine, beer can enhance the flavor, mouthfeel, structure of the dish.”
Blaskis looks at two Grand Rapids brewed beers as two go-to beers to match with food: Brewery Vivant’s Farmhand and Founders Brewing Co.’s All Day IPA.
“[Farmhand] is such an easy drinking beer as well as a pairing beer, it’s light body, mild in sweetness and tartness in a perfect balance,” Blaskis said. “All Day IPA is another go-to for me. For an IPA, it’s really not too bitter like you think when drinking IPAs. I like to pair it with chicken dishes and curry dishes.”
Tap handles at The Sovengard in Grand RapidsKnown for its seasonal cuisine, outdoor patio, and intriguing beverages, The Sovengard was named one of Grand Rapids Top 10 Restaurants of 2017 by Grand Rapids Magazine. Photo courtesy of The Sovengard

Collaboration & Feedback is Key to Finding a Successful Pairing

The Sovengard is celebrating 2018 on a positive note, by launching beer-and-dinner events, which will take place throughout the year.  

In January, The Sovengard hosted a dinner with Comstock Park’s Speciation Artisan Ales and the Chicago-based beer publication and branding company Good Beer Hunting, as part of the company’s Uppers & Downers coffee and beer series.

“Those two dinners really gave us a great jumping off point by providing us with a framework to craft the dishes,” The Sovengard owner Rick Muschiana said. “The world of beer now is so diverse, there’s a beer out there to pair with anything. Vegetable and spicy dishes are notoriously hard to pair with, but take something like a funky bottled beer and that plays nicely with those flavors. The sky’s the limit now.”

Prior to the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival at Fifth Third Ballpark, The Sovengard will host Small Ball, which is a week dedicated to celebrating small brewers. They will also host a blueberry pancake breakfast with Saugatuck Brewing Co. on Saturday, March 10, which will feature pancakes made with Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Blueberry Maple Stout!

Hopcat's Samwise Stew for Cool Brews. Hot Eats 2018 in Grand Rapids
Hopcat's beer-infused Samwise Stew includes: "Po- tay -toes. Boil em, Mash em, or in this case, stick them in a stew. With our house made braised beef, beer french onion soup, and a nice helping of veggies all served in a bread bowl. Samwise would be proud, gollum  would be gollum ." Yum! Photo courtesy of Hopcat

What to Consider When Pairing Beer with Foods

Both Muschiana and Blaskis have easy guidelines for pairing beer at home. For Muschiana, he looks at the Three Cs, a lesson he learned from Brewery Vivant brewer Jacob Derylo.

Those three Cs are: complement, contrast and cleanse (or cut).

For Blaskis, he looks at a simple lighter food with lighter beer and more assertive beers with heavier foods.

“Look for common flavors in beer and food, such as sweet, nutty, caramel or roasted,” Blaskis said. “Just remember to keep it simple and don’t overthink it. The possibilities are endless and everyone has a different way of tasting food and beer, so just try to some things out–whether you think they will pair well or not.

“Maybe you will find something that enhances the flavors better than you would expect.”

Cool Brews. Hot Eats. will take place in conjunction with Beer Month GR. Visit the Cool Brews. Hot Eats. website for a list of participating restaurants and breweries, including their menus. Or, search for the best brewery in town by becoming a Beer City Brewsader®.