Tuesday, July 03, 2018

 
The Continuing Evolution of Beer and Food Pairing in Denver

Seemingly every burger joint that comes in from another state to open in Denver these days claims it is the new place to drink beer and enjoy good food in the Mile High City. So, it's nice to see Hopdoddy attempting to do something to earn that reputation.

The Austin-based sit-down burger joint, which opened several years ago next to Denver Union Station, introduced its new Brew Series in May.  The series features a local brewery that not only gets a couple of beers onto the monthly menu but gets one of its creations featured as an ingredient in a designated new burger for the month.

I got the chance to check out the promotion about a month ago, when it was in the bridge period between May and June. So, I got to try the Renegade Brewing beers that were part of the initial May pairing, along with the Big Kahuna Burger that was a June feature. But I learned enough during that visit to draw some key conclusions about the program, which is now in its third month.

First, while few beer connoisseurs would have complained had bigger-name breweries like Odell or Avery been featured, Hopdoddy has gone out of its way to focus on more local artisans - first Renegade, then Telluride Brewing in June and now Ratio Beerworks in July. That is a way of digging into your community, even if you're an out-of-state chain.

Second, the use of the beer within the recipes is clever, even if it doesn't redefine the art of cooking with beer. Hopdoddy mixed Telluride's Whacked Out Wheat into the teriyaki sauce of its Big Kahuna Burger; while the wheat isn't readily apparent, the sauce is less sticky than many of its ilk and more bursting out of the bun like a flavor waterfall. The July offering of a BBQ pulled pork sandwich made with a sauce incorporating Ratio's Dear You saison also sounds intriguing.

Lastly, while some eateries match up food and beer for the sake of saying they can do it, Hopdoddy makes food that just goes with beer. Yes, sandwiches like the Big Kahuna — a chicken patty topped with beer teriyaki sauce, pineapple, avocado and cilantro mayo — slide into a pairing with a lighter beer or even a citrus-forward pale ale so easily, it's almost unthinkable not to do it. But the Brew Series also features the introduction of a number of new sides too, and those include the buffalo fries made with blue cheese and buffalo sauce - a tasty creation that called out for an IPA pairing among the nine draft beers and additional nine bottled/canned beers on the menu.

One could probably pick out a number of restaurants in the Denver area doing pairings like these, and it's worth noting that any restaurant that is discussing such beer-and-food deals and doing it with a specific beer in mind or new beer-infused menu items is worth cheering for its efforts.

But Hopdoddy particularly is worth spotlighting because it's a chain from a town that isn't lacking in its own beer resume that is fully embracing Denver culture and finding a way to work with local breweries. And that is a sign of a continually maturing craft  beer market that only will lead to more of these ideas — until finding a craft-beer-and-food pairing is less difficult than finding a restaurant that isn't trying something of that sort.

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