Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

I enjoy a good craft brewed beer, or even a few from the same brewery. I appreciate the taste and how it feels on my tongue. You can tell quite a bit about a beer even before you taste it by the color and aroma.

The beer itself is a complex, fascinating combination of sensory stimulation. There is more.

For many people, the beer is just the beginning.

Some people are drawn in by the people they meet as they explore craft breweries. They get to know the brewers as well as the other people who frequent tasting rooms. Other people approach beer and brewing as more of an intellectual pursuit. They study beers and how they are brewed, learning from the nuances and surprises.

Another aspect of beer which really attracts me is pairing beer with food. While I can sit and drink beer for quite a while, creating tasty beer and food meals adds another level of interest for me.

Apparently I am not alone. It is almost as if “the food question” were another aspect of the brewing process. Each brewery considers how to pair their beers with food for the greatest advantage. They come up with their own uniquely creative strategies.

Food can be a challenge for a brewery with a tasting room. Tasting rooms are licensed to allow customers to taste a brewery’s beer, and not licensed to serve food. There is also a significant financial jump between having a tasting room and serving food.

The first option of many tasting rooms is to see prepackaged food or to give away free snacks. This food tends to fall into the category of potato chips and pretzels. This food’s primary benefit in terms of pairing their taste with beer is they are often quite salty and encourage patrons to drink more beer.

Some tasting rooms encourage people to bring their own food along, or to have it delivered. When I visited Hangar 24 in Redlands several people had pizzas delivered and the patrons of Stone Store in Pasadena often have meals delivered from nearby restaurants. Bootleggers Brewery in Fullerton is just across the alley from Two Saucy Broads Pizza.

The next step for many tasting rooms is inviting food trucks to spend a day in the parking lot. I have asked for food and beer pairing recommendations and been well rewarded at trucks parked at Angel City Brewery in the Arts District in Los Angeles and Claremont Craft Ales in Claremont.

Another step toward restaurant status is developing a working relationship with a chef or an existing restaurant. Two excellent examples of this approach are Maximiliano in Highland Park, which features beers from Craftsman Brewing on draught and food prepared by chef Andre Guerrero, and the Eagle Rock Brewery Public House.

There are also a number of restaurants which feature a variety of craft beers and menus  designed to complement them. Examples include Lucky Baldwin’s locations,Congregation Ale House’s locations, the Greyhound Pub in Highland Park, and the Back Abbey in Claremont.

These are a few options to get you started. There are many more choices, and decisions about which food to pair with what beers are up to you.

You might also want to pick up a growler at at brewery or tasting room and bring it home to pair it with food you prepare yourself. People like to explore and try new combinations. In general, without going into too much detail, there are a couple of ideas you might want to keep in mind.

Some people prefer to pair beer with food which has flavors which fit well together. This is the idea behind drinking a particular IPA with beer battered fish in which the same IPA is used in preparing the fish, for example. This might lead you to pair lighter beers and food which have lighter flavors, or heavier beers and foods which may be more robust.

People also work to pair their beer with food which has complementary flavors. This might prompt you to pair food which tastes more spicy with beer which has more of a bitter flavor. You might want to try an IPA with pasta and arrabiata sauce or something with plenty of jalapeńo, for example.

Ultimately, the best pairing of beer with food is what you enjoy the most. Try something new, put something on the grill and pair it with a beer you think would taste good with it.

If you decide you do not like it, you can always call me and I will help you finish it.

Greg Richardson is a leadership and organizational coach, and a spiritual life mentor, in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg is a recovering attorney, executive, and university professor. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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