Food and beer pairings can elevate the experience of drinking beer, making it more fun and thought-provoking. Even the miscues teach you something. Those perfect pairings can leave you feeling euphoric.
I had that experience recently when I was about to wolf down a grilled veggie salad I made at home and, after rummaging through my well-stocked refrigerator, I popped the cap on a Pliny the Elder.
The salad included grilled zucchini, red onions, bell peppers, blackened corn and yellow squash, all of which I drenched in a dressing of cider vinegar, Dijon mustard and dill. Since the vegetables were still smoking hot, they soaked up much more flavor than a salad that is merely dressed, or coated.
The aroma was incredible, with dill leading the way. How would it go with the very hoppy and moderately bitter Pliny, Russian River’s flagship beer, which is known for being too harsh for many palates and a real challenge to pair with anything more nuanced than a meatball sandwich? Initially, I was deciding between the Pliny and a Mandarin-Coconut Gose by New Glory, which has this subtle, almost fragile melding of flavors on the finish that I thought would be obliterated by the food. So I went with a big and robust India pale ale that still has a nice underpinning of malt.
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It was a home run. The dill picked up some herbaceous/grassy hop notes that usually seem muted; the mustard and cider vinegar underscored the citrus and pine while tempering the lingering bitterness that is a hallmark of the West Coast IPA. A couple of days later, that New Glory gose was nearly perfect with a wheat berry and barley salad – fresh-squeezed lemon juice in my dressing elevated the Mandarin notes in the beer, and the chewy texture of the grains played nicely with the coconut flavors that rose to the top on the finish.
Sacramento Beer Week is going to be presenting numerous opportunities to tackle food and beer pairings. It’s especially interesting when an accomplished chef is part of the equation. Here are several options:
Out of Bounds at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
March 9 at 7 p.m., Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, 1185 Galleria Blvd., Roseville
Anyone for a filet mignon paired with a Belgian quad? ’Nuff said. This $75 dinner is at one of Roseville’s most popular eateries. Call for reservations: 916-780-6910.
Rubicon beer dinner
March 8 at 6:30 p.m. Rubicon Brewing, 2004 Capitol Ave., Sacramento
Four-course dinner for $45, including a main course of herb-crusted leg of lamb and gratin potatoes paired with a red IPA. For dessert, the cheesecake with Oreo crust is paired with a a dry Irish stout on nitro. Brace for a food coma shortly after the last bite.
English pub bites at Grange
March 2-12, Grange, 926 J St., Sacramento
Executive chef Oliver Ridgeway is often at his best when he’s riffing, so I’m excited about his English pub bites menu. In fact, the talented chef was dreaming up food pairing ideas while he was talking to me on the phone – sausage rolls, potted salmon, Scotch egg, English cheddar with piccalilli.
Brewmaster’s dinner with chef Adam Pechal
March 6, reception at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m.; Sactown Union Brewery, 1210 66th St., Sacramento
Best known for his dynamic bistro dishes at the former Tuli Bistro in midtown, Pechal should bring plenty of flavor and excitement to this five-course dinner for $60 at the brewery. Buy your tickets online.
Hawks Public House and Mraz beer dinner
March 8, dinner service starts at 5 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m., Hawks Public House, 1525 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento
Given the quality of the food and beer, this could be one of the top pairing opportunities for Beer Week. $60 for four courses. Seating is limited. Call for reservations: 916-588-4440.
Farm-to-fork brewers dinner with Sactown Union
March 9, doors open at 6 p.m., dinner served at 7 p.m. Mulvaney’s B&L, 1215 19th St., Sacramento
I’ve seen owner/chef Patrick Mulvaney do beer pairing demos the past two years at the California Craft Beer Summit, so you know he’s into it. Dinner is $60 and is served family style. Call for reservations, 916-441-6022.