Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Breakfast Beer Pairings

Beer pairings aren't just for dinner anymore. Or, apparently, just for lunch either.

A couple of events held by Denver breweries earlier this month show that beer can be paired successfully with brunch or with doughnuts. The trick is making sure you have the right combination.

Denver Beer Co., which has tried events pairing its beer with everything from chocolate to oysters, tried a new tact and decided to put them up against doughnuts from Habit Doughnut Dispensary, a nearby neighbor to its LoHi tasting room. And while the combination of sweet and hoppy may not sound like the most natural marriage, the result was surprisingly effective.

Take, for example, the combination of Denver Beer's Blood Orange Tandem Pedal Double IPA with a Trailblazer Cran Orange doughnut; the sweetness of the doughnut calmed the bitterness of the beer and the sharp cranberry-orange taste of the pastry matched the beer's zing. Or there was the brewery's signature Graham Cracker Porter paired with a Yuzu Gram Cracker doughnut, contrasting the dark beer and sweet yuzu topping that blended surprisingly well.

Not every doughnut/beer combo is magic; the Pretzel Assassin Amber Lager is too bland a beer, for example, to strike any meaningful relationship with crullers like the Mexican Black Out it had as a partner. But the brewery and doughnut shop clearly put a lot of thought into this, and the pairings made for a fun sensory process.

The Corner Office - the hip restaurant bar across from the Denver Performing Arts Complex - has launched its own exploration into the pairing world with a beer brunch series. And through a varied assortment of offerings in conjunction with Ratio Beerworks earlier this month, it too tried out some previously little-used combinations.

The restaurant, for example, knew how to employ a lighter beer better, as it put Ratio's Domestica American Standard Ale up against a fish ' n chips basket with a fried rosemary sprig in order to let the easy beer act as a cushion for subtle, rather than overwhelming, flavor. And putting homemade andouille sausage over beer cheddar grits with the Antidote IPA really let the hop flavor bring out just enough of the moderate heat in the sausage and pronounce both personalities a little more.

The taste of the brewery's fantastic Dear You saison was lost when it was added into the Spring in Your Step cocktail that was laden with rye and cointreau, but The Corner Office at least gets points for trying that combination. More obviously absent, however, was the presence of breakfast foods, short of the buffalo-style deviled eggs and hush puppies, and I would have loved to see what the restaurant and brewery could have done with a benedict plate or some other more traditional serving.

Still, the brunch series, which continues with a July 23 brunch with Renegade Brewing, illustrates one more way that restaurants and bakeries are looking to work beer into settings that were traditionally garnished with a mimosa or with no drinks at all. And the beer community is the winner.

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