Sometimes it can seem like wine lovers and the beer-obsessed are at odds, especially when it comes to food pairings. Usually, a person is firmly one or the other. And while your parents probably attended plenty of wine dinners in their time, beer pairing dinners are a newer phenomenon.
But in Denver, we’re damn lucky to be in the epicenter of the craft beer revolution, so we know that there’s a lot more to consider when tasting beer beyond how easy it is to get down while doing a keg stand. Even serious certified sommelier Elizabeth Woessner admits that beer is a safer bet when trying to find the perfect pairing.
“With wine, the lower the alcohol and the more acidic, the better it goes with food in general,” Woessner explained, “beer, by its nature, typically has less alcohol and is more acidic than wine, which makes it great for pairing with food.”
So with that in mind, Woessner and I set forth to get a pretty good buzz…I mean, taste some popular Denver-made beers and get one wine expert’s take on their ideal food pairings.
Prost Pils + Sausage
This pilsner is light and clear in color with a bit of bitterness at the end, which makes it ideal for cutting through something fatty but not too heavy (Think: a creamy risotto or mild mac and cheese). But the perfect pairing comes in sausage form. “This smells like college,” Woessner said after one sip. No, she wasn’t throwing keggers with free flowing pils (well, maybe she was), but she did go to college in Germany and drank plenty of pilsner while chowing down wurst. Woessner suggests the German veal from Biker Jim’s if you’re looking to grab something to go to pair with your six pack of pils waiting at home.
Dry Dock Sour Apricot + Cheese
Sour beers have reached the mainstream, but the flavors can be overwhelming for the unfamiliar. Dry Dock’s sour spin on its uber-popular apricot ale is the perfect place to start because the tart bite is balanced but a bit of fruit-spiked sweetness and strong, refreshing apricot aroma. This beer’s got a lot of personality, so it can stand up to some stronger flavors. The verdict? “This is the perfect accompaniment to cheese,” Woessner declared, “especially any kind of washed rind creamy cheese, maybe a cheddar or a brie or camembert would be nice.” So satisfy your inner monger at these cheese shops and find a few options to build the cheese board of your dream and sip the night away.
Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout + Chocolate
This stout has some serious coffee flavor going on which would make this another good choice for breakfast or brunch pairings (yes, we fully endorse day drinking, especially when it involves Briar Common’s chicken and waffles), but it’s also quite bitter. “From a wine perspective,” Woessner said, “this is like a great, big beautiful California cab or Bordeaux blend that you just want to sit by a fireplace and sip on.” In that way, it’s actually at it’s best on its own, as your nightcap after a long day. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt to add a bit of chocolate to that situation (see our favorite chocolate shops here).
Upslope Craft Lager + Burgers
At 4.8% ABV this is a true patio pounder and it’s clean, light flavor is a crowd pleaser. If you’re planning a dinner party, this is a safe bet on all fronts. Your guests can drink without fear of getting too buzzed too fast and more importantly, it will pair well with almost anything. “There’s kind of a yeasty, bready aftertaste,” Woessner described before deciding that this brew would be amazing with an order of garlic knots” (head to Big Bill’s NY Pizza for some of Denver’s best). Burgers and fries, too, would complement this beer’s straightforward flavors. The key here is avoiding anything too complex since that might overwhelm the flavor of the beer.
Grimm Brothers Brewhouse Little Red Cap + Pastrami
Malty, yeasty, with little bitterness and even some chocolate notes, this altbier (a kind of ale-lager hybrid) is more complex than the other brews on this list so far. “Something nice and salty would stand up to this,” Woessner said. A pastrami sandwich (Prohibition’s bison version is a must try) or a Reuben (Masterpiece Delicatessen‘s is hard to beat) would be perfect since this beer will cut through that strong flavor and add a layer of complexity to your dining experience.
14er Brewing Company Mt Massive IPA + bacon
No surprise here, but hops are the main flavor component of this IPA – “hop juice,” as Woessner described it. “This is your brunch beer,” Woessner said, “it’s clean, crisp and bright which balances out things like bacon or a rich hollandaise.” So break out the benedicts or fry up some bacon and eggs and let the day drinking commence. But skip the pancakes or french toast (in fact, that Tangerine Cream might be the right choice for those).
Denver Beer Co. Graham Cracker Porter + Barbecue
The name may say “graham cracker” but the flavor has coffee and caramel notes. “You could absolutely pair this with something sweet, but I’d love this with a smoked meat,” Woessner said. It’s chocolatey in more of an unsweetened dark chocolate way and has a richness that would only be enhanced by some smoky pulled pork or brisket. So basically we just gave you the ideal excuse to eat your way through Denver’s best barbecue joints. You’re welcome.
Station 26 Tangerine Cream + Ice Cream
This was a last-minute addition to the lineup after the fine beer-slinging folks at Molly’s Spirits recommended it as one of the more popular Denver-made brews around. And popular though it may be, its strong creamsicle-like flavor makes it tough to pair. The beer itself isn’t creamy, but the mouthfeel is, and the heavy vanilla-citrus flavor is begging to be sipped alongside a slice of lemon meringue pie or even chocolate silk. But beyond dessert, those added flavors generally pose a problem – you’re not going to drink a beer like this with a burger or some tacos. But you can definitely grab a pint of vanilla from High Point Creamery and made a totally respectable beer-float.