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Brew HaHa – Beer and Food with Bruce and Craig

By Joe Ruvel · September 28th, 2009 · No Comments

The SF Chef Food Wine event is more than a month past – so yeah, I am way late in writing this post – but hey, it happens. And this was an exciting session. It was titled “Brew Haha – Beer is Not Just for Breakfast Any More”. Nothing like a 10 a.m beer session. The crowd at first was pretty sparse but filled in nicely.

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One thing I noticed right away was that the crowd was definitely not your usual beer tasting crowd–a lot of these people were trying something new. They like beer but are looking to learn more, to understand how to taste and how to go about pairing food with beer. It brought a good feel to the session. The hosts were Bruce Paton, the beer chef, and Craig Wathen, from City Beer Store. Both of these guys know a whole bunch about beer, but beyond that they worked well together, telling anecdotes, tips, and ideas to the crowd about beer and food.

I have been lucky to attend a bunch of Bruce’s dinners and also hear him speak a few times, but this was my first time hearing Craig and he didn’t disappoint. The man knows his beer and wants to share that knowledge. He even talked about how well the wine industry does education–beer could learn something about teaching the consumer what they are drinking. In a way, that is the purpose of City Beer Store. Craig went on to say that single bottles are starting to do better and better over six packs (at least at his store) and that’s great, as it gives people a lot of options to try a bunch of different beers.

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 They did a good job of giving some introductory info, some history of beer styles, and even some tasting tips. Bruce told us about the three c’s of beer and food pairing – complement, contrast, and cut. Also (very smartly) they began passing out the beer and food pretty early while still talking. This gave them a chance to go through each tasting of food and beer rather slowly and let everyone get a feel for it. First up was Alesmith X. First time tasting this for me. I don’t have any notes on the beer but I think that’s because I was enjoying it. Very yeasty pour as you can see from the pic. I will have to try it again to remember the taste. Overall, I love Alesmith. 

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Next up was our first food and beer pairing: prawns with ginger and scallion sauce paired with Russain River Temptation batch 4. The citrusy flavor and that distinctive brett yeast flavor went pretty well with the shrimp. The spice in the beer played off the spice of the shrimp. I sometimes forget that pairing beer and food is all about experimentation–play off the flavors of both and see what comes up.

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“While we are drinking Pliny, we can talk about session beers.” I think it was Craig who said this while he went through what a session beer was. I laughed – not sure the crowd got it. Among craft beer people, the session beer is creeping higher and higher in alcohol, but Pliny the Elder from Russian River is no session beer. I love that they included Pliny in the tasting. For people who are just getting into beer this is one that can change their life. And Bruce brought out a doosey of a food pairing. Deviled eggs. I still can’t believe how much I loved this pairing. For me, there are very few foods I won’t eat–but deviled eggs is usually on that list. I gave this one a try and the clouds parted a bit. It is usually the mayo and the sulfur smell in the egg yolks that get me. Bruce used wasabi, I think, along with tabasco, Hawaiian sea salt, and probably a few other ingredients. And boy does Pliny the Elder go well with them. The hops cut right through the fattiness of the egg yolks while the egg brings down the beer and adds a little sweetness.

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The pairing even started my mind going on other Pliny pairings, which is what a good pairing should do. I think Pliny would go amazingly well with crab. Maybe a crab salad of sorts.

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Last pairing was the Rogue Mocha Porter. This is just a silky smooth, tasty beer. If I remember correctly, Bruce paired this with a piece of TCHO chocolate and that is all this beer neeeds.

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Thanks Bruce and Craig for teaching and sharing some food and brew.

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Tags: Beerventures · Tastings