Friday, October 05, 2012
Beer and burgers are a natural combo. But beer in a fast-food restaurant?
Last month, Denver-based chain Smashburger broke new ground for its industry category by launching a beer-pairing menu for its sandwiches in 16 Colorado stores. Nine different burgers or chicken sandwiches have recommended pairings with five different New Belgium beers.
And while you won't find New Belgium's magnificent beers like, say, La Folie on this menu - because, really, what would that pair with? - it is a worthy experiment whose time has come. And some of the combinations are pretty spot-on.
Take, for example, the pairing of the Colorado Burger with Ranger IPA. This is a messy, sprawling burger - pepper jack and melted cheddar cheese slapped with green chilies on a spicy chipotle bun. And, sure enough, Ranger's bitterness compliments it well, giving an earthy, non-fat taste to a greasy (in a good way), multilayered burger.
Then there's the BBQ, Bacon + Cheddar Burger paired with 1554 Black Ale. Both the burger and the beer start out with sweet notes (the bbq sauce vs. the quickly apparent chocolate malts) and evolve together into a slighty smoky, meaty finish.
Not every combo works so well. The attempt, for example, to pair the Spicy Baja Burger - pepper jack cheese, chipotle mayo, fresh jalapenos - with Sunshine Wheat is a mismatch, with the huge spice of the burger leaving the coriander tastes of the beer as an afterthought.
But you have to give props to a fast-food burger restaurant for figuring out that people actually like to drink beer with burgers rather than sip overpriced sodas. And the promotion - which founder Tom Ryan said will go on indefinitely and spread to other cities with local craft brews as well - is one that's worth stopping in to support.