The working man's beverage goes upscale.
For the past few years, as laws on breweries across the country have relaxed and trends have encouraged culinary exploration, the American comfort beverage, a frosty glass of beer, has gotten an upgrade.
There's not just a couple of new twists on the existing lagers: hundreds of new breweries are distributing Belgian blonde ales, Russian imperial stouts and even hard ciders that are more appropriate for fine dining than for a tailgating party. According to Donna Hood Crecca, senior director of the Adult Beverage Group at national research firm Technomic Inc., beer is especially popular with the 21-35 age group who are increasingly incorporating beer tastings into their weddings and other events.
Editor of TheKnot.com, Anja Winnika, notes that craft beers are being used to highlight a couple's origins, much like the signature cocktail trend. "A beer tasting is a cute way to highlight where the couple's from, either where the couple met originally or where their families are from. If they used to live in New York, you can have their favorite Brooklyn beers at a wedding in Chicago," says Winnika.
Beers also work well in themed events. All black or red beers fare well at a color-blocked event, says Steve Kurowski, director of marketing at the Colorado Brewers Guild. Seasonal beers, like the ever-popular fall pumpkin ales and an assortment of winter brews, also fit into creative events.
If a client wants to include a beer tasting at their event but doesn't have any specific theme in mind, go to a local brewer's guild or organization and ask them for some regional favorites. Don't be afraid of working closely with the brewer, advises Kurowski: "They know how to walk through the beers from beginners to the experts, and they can work with a caterer's menu to pair flavors and showcase exactly what you're looking for."
An up-and-coming taste he recommends for events are Belgian sour beers, like saisons and lambics, which are more fruity and tart. They compare to wine in their complex profile, so an event's oenophiles will be satisfied. "Sours are great with cheeses, fruits and lighter meats like prosciutto. It's a really fun and flavorful beer for chefs to pair with from an appetizer to dessert," recommends Kurowski. He also notes that because this is a newly popular style of beer, brewers will be excited to showcase them.
Quick guide for a five-beer tasting from Colorado Brewers Guild's Steve Kurowski
1. Start with a light wheat beer or a pilsner.
2. Move on to an amber or a red beer.
3. Introduce a hoppier beer, like a pale ale.
4. Go to the dark side with a porter or a stout.
5. Pick a wild card: something a brewer is proud of but could be considered a little unusual, like a lambic or an Imperial India pale ale.
Originally published in Catersource magazine