Beer is more than a satisfyingly bubbly food-compatible drink. It's also an ideal ingredient for restaurant events. Beer and food pairings tie in with the current interest in regional and seasonal ingredients, and the bar food trend.
Beer has staying power. In fact, McGillin's Olde Ale House is celebrating its 150th anniversary in Philadelphia, as the city's oldest continuously operating tavern. In honor of the anniversary, McGillin's created its own beer, McGillin's 1860 IPA, brewed by Stoudt's of Adamstown, PA.
Beer offerings at Firefly Restaurant in Washington, DC's Dupont Circle also boast a flavor of the past. Part of the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants family, Firefly is one of a few restaurants in the area selling a specialty beer from a recipe found in a brewer's archives. Batch 19 Pre-Prohibition Style Lager is named for the year 1919. The beer, from MillerCoors, is currently available on tap at selected restaurants in five cities: Milwaukee, San Francisco, San Jose, Chicago and Washington, DC. Firefly offers 64-oz. growlers of Batch 19 (four 16-oz. drinks) for $10 during happy hour and $18 at other times.
Another idea that holds contemporary appeal is the canned beer program at Jackson 20 in Alexandria, VA. During J20 Eco Hour, canned beers are featured at a discounted price. Canned beers are promoted as being more eco-friendly than their glass-bottled counterparts. The reasons given: aluminum is easier to recycle, and shipping beer in cans saves gas because cans are lighter than bottles. Chef Dennis Marron has expanded the beer program — which includes draft beers, American beers such as Budweiser and Miller Lite, craft bottled beers such as Yards Tavern IPA, and imports such as Guinness — to include a wide selection of more than 12 canned beers. The J20 Eco Hour specials include $2 Working Man's Canned Beer selections (including Iron City Light and Schlitz) and $5 Craft Canned Beers such as AVBC Pale Ale and Hell or High Watermelon Wheat. Jackson 20 serves Eco Hour food as well (between 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. daily), such as Ham or BBQ Pork Sliders, Giant Soft Pretzels, and Fried Green Tomatoes.
Jackson 20, a Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants operation, is an American tavern named for Andrew Jackson and his image on the $20 bill. Its mission is to offer affordable food and drink in a sociable environment.
Sure, October offered a good reason for a beer promotion, but many of the ideas implemented around the country can be adapted for year-round promotions.
At Cosmopolitan in San Francisco, every Friday night in October was celebrated in a Beer & Bubbles Garden. On these $5 Fridays, from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m., guests headed to the back patio for $5 appetizers, $5 sparkling wines and $3 beer specials.
At The Publican in Chicago, this month's 2010 Brew Master Series dinner — one of a year-long series — includes beers from New Holland Brewing Company and showcases fresh fall ingredients from Michigan farms. The cost for the four-course prix fixe beer dinner is $45 per person, plus $10 to $15 for beer pairings. Brian Huston is the chef de cuisine; Paul Kahan is executive chef/partner.
Chifa in Philadelphia hosted a Yards Brewing Company dinner in September, pairing menu items with brews. The second course, for example, paired poached halibut, sweet potatoes and soy-glazed Brussels sprouts with Extra Special Ale (ESA). The event was priced at $65 per person, plus tax and gratuity.
Mid-week Oktoberfest Specials at Mimi's of River Ridge (New Orleans) included two- course dinners for $18 during the month of October. Each of the two-course Oktoberfest dinners included a traditional German salad of tomato and thinly shaved cucumber and a choice of four to five German entrees which changed weekly. Entrees included Roast Pork Loin in Beer Sauce.
The Shake Shack's annual Shacktoberfest ran for ten days during October in New York City and Miami Beach. Each location featured a selection of seasonal beers from artisan brewers. Menu highlights included Garlic Sausage topped with Bacon n' Beer Cheese Sauce (with ShackMeister Ale) and crushed pretzels.