It's a banner year for those consumers who love beer. With more brew brand choices than ever before, smart operators tempt patrons with beer flights paired with foodstuffs, guided samplings, beer schools and “pint persuasion” selling techniques.
Owner Jonathan Makar of Philadelphia's SnackBar starts smooth selling with suggestions on the beer menu. “We'll say that if you like a Hoegaarden, then you'll probably also like the Boulder Brewing Co.'s Sweaty Betty Blonde Ale, or if you like the Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, then you'll like the taste of Lakefront Brewery's Cherry Lager,” says Makar. “It's a way to connect the dots for our customers and encourage them to try something new.” Adding beer as an ingredient to house specialties, such as mussels with spicy chorizo steamed in lager, is another incentive.
At the G Bar & Kitchen, in Swampscott, MA, chef/owner Gregg Brackman features fun foods, such as a “happy meal” tasting of house appetizers including crispy shrimp and bite-sized panini. The craft beer selection is small and focused, but Brackman says, “still we like to feature local beers,” so Massachusetts-based Harpoon IPA is always available as is the Sam Adams line.
In Washington, DC, the ground level of the Georgetown Pizzeria Paradiso has been transformed into a “Birreria” — elevating the classic pizza and beer combination. The beer list includes 16 draft beer selections, 80 bottled beers and traditional British-style cask ale, all presented at the correct temperature and in the appropriate glassware. Bar manager Greg Jasgur presides over an elegant draft list that includes New Holland Mad Hatter IPA, Oskar Blues Gordon Ale, Ommegang Witte, Anderson Valley Solstice, and even a cask-conditioned version of Bells Amber Ale. In July, an All-American Pizza & Beer Festival at Pizzeria Paradisio featured delectables such as Watermelon Tiramisu paired with Dogfish Head Festina Peche, “because the mascarpone has a creamy, thick texture that's cut by the acidity of the ale,” says Jasgur. With the BBQ Chicken Pizza, Jasgur chose a light wheat ale, such as the Oberon summer ale from Bells Brewery.
Barbecue and beer are classic partners, but craft beer brings even more flavors to the pairing. Beavers BBQ of Houston, TX, features more than 75 craft beers and imports in its selection, with style explanations to target desired flavors — smoky, malty, bitter, refreshing. Andrea Lazar, who manages Beavers' special events, says, “We devote a section to ‘Texas Taps,’ so visitors can get a taste of locally produced craft brews.”
Guided tastings are another way to bring beer to the table. Christina Perrozzi, a consultant to the trade, creates pairings for annual five-course beer dinners at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica, CA. At $70 per person, the tastings feature combinations such as duck confit with Unibroue's Ephemere Apple Ale, and the seasonal Honesty Ale from Craftsman Brewing Company paired with a chocolate tart laced with cherry ale.