Here at Fort Brewery, we offer our online menu as a sort of beer pairing guide designed to help our valued customers get the most out of their experience. You might have noticed our recommendations, found to the right of our beer menu, but what’s our reasoning behind each one?
Is it best described as a form of culinary artistry, or are its roots found in the science of biology? Are pairings subjective, defined by an individual palate, or is a palate defined by its ability to appreciate the pairing? The fact is that any answers might be as subjective as the questions themselves, but here at Fort Brewery, we prefer not to overthink it. Why? Because the act of pairing cuisine with craft beer can be fun — and why shouldn’t it be? Like all good things, it comes down to balance.
But balance comes in more than one form. It can take the form of complementary balance, where the uniting attributes of both the beer and the dish harmonize with one another. On the other hand, balance can take the form of contrast. This is where an ‘opposites attract’ approach strikes an enjoyable chord between the conflicting attributes of the beer and the dish. The former represents the safer, more assured road – the latter represents a more risky approach, but both can be impeccably satisfying.
Accepting the Complement
Finding the harmony that comes with complementary pairings is a satisfying experience all it’s own. It comes down to recognizing the attributes of the dish, in terms of flavor, mouthfeel, and aroma, then identifying a beer whose own attributes will emphasize and accentuate them. If a dish displays deep-roasted flavor such as those found in slow-roasted meats, a beer with smokey flavor (a barleywine, for example) might pair beautifully with it. This sort of complementary pairing will be dialed up a notch if the meat is marinated in a sweet barbecue sauce, as there is an inherent sweetness to be found in the beer itself. The characteristics of both food and drink will mirror one another, striking a balance without overpowering the other.
Embracing the Contrast
But when a dish has a dominant characteristic, the choice of a contrasting beer can help to offset that characteristic and bring a sense of balance to the meal. An overly sweet dish, for example, might be paired with a sour gose. A seafood dish best described as briny might be paired with a malty stout. Or a dish with a heavy, cream-based sauce might be cut with the light, freshness of a pale ale. But what’s truly interesting is the manner in which the pairing of the same beer with different dishes will highlight the unique attributes of the beer itself in different ways. It can also change the way that your tastebuds perceive the beer.
Other Important Factors
While flavor is a primary consideration when pairing dishes and beer, it’s not the only one. One might also consider such factors as the level of carbonation in the beer, and the ideal temperature at which it is served. As beer aficionados know, some beers are carbonated through natural fermentation, of which carbon dioxide is a bi-product. Others, however, use nitrogen as the basis for carbonation. Each process creates different characteristics, with the ‘CO2’ creating a more crisp, biting sensation (often served at a colder temperature) while the ’N’ yields a more smooth, creamy mouthfeel and might be served warmer.
In addition, serving size and glassware can impact the overall experience. When pairing a beer with a dish, it’s best to favor a 1:1 ratio, calculating roughly a 1/2 ounce service for each bite. It’s not an exact science, but it’s an important consideration. On top of this, it’s important to understand that the selection of the proper glassware speaks to both presentation and celebration of the beer’s uniquity. Granted, glassware is not a complete deal-breaker, but it’s definitely worth putting some thought into if you’re looking to optimize the experience.
Fort Brewery Pairings
Here at Fort Brewery, we are constantly evaluating the pairing possibilities of every dish and craft beer style that we offer. We consider our ability to strike that perfect balance to be a huge part of creating a truly satisfying experience for all of our guests. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the pairings that keep people coming back to Fort Brewery over and over again.
Fort Brew: Grey Eagle
Content: 5.2% ABW / 10 IBU
Paired With: Goat Cheese and Chicken Pizza
The aptly-named German Hefeweizen style comes from its two key ingredients, yeast and wheat, with only a modest inclusion of hops to create a more balanced flavor. We imbue ‘Grey Eagle’ with subtle hints of vanilla, banana, and bubble gum to create a light, refreshing experience. Mirroring these kinds of subtle complexities is our Goat Cheese and Chicken pizza. Like all of our Fort Brewery pizza, this can be ordered as a personal-sized pizza or a full-size, making it perfect whether you’re enjoying a Grey Eagle in the company of others, or on your own.
Fort Brew: Ocho
Style: Indian Pale Ale
Content: 7.0% ABV / 60 IBU
Paired With: Diavola
On the flipside, Ocho has no shortage of hops. In fact, there are eight (yes eight) different styles of hops included in the brewing of Ocho to create a complex and powerful flavor. And speaking of powerful flavor, our Diavola pizza is celebrated by flavor-fiends for its inclusion of spicy salami and the optional inclusion of jalapeño peppers. If you love an overwhelmed palate as much as we do, this pairing might be perfect for you.
Fort Brew: Clara
Content: 4.6% ABV / 20 IBU
Paired With: Italian Caprese
The Kolsch style is known for its clean and refreshing flavor profile, bridging the gap between ales and lagers. In turn, Clara aims for a moderate, well-balanced taste that’s both light and accessible. A similar approach is taken with our Fort Brewery Italian Caprese, favorite on our appetizer menu. Accented by basil, a balsamic reduction, and the right amount of seasoning, these slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella are a refreshing delight.
Fort Brew: Moonrider
Style: Oatmeal Stout
Content: 6.0% ABV / 28 IBU
Paired With: Potato & Rosemary
Dark. Full-bodied. Velvety. These are just some of the words we use to describe the rich, roasted flavor of Moonrider – a proven favorite of this time of year when comfort is found in full-bodied favorites. This is just part of the reason why we pair Moonrider with our Potato & Rosemary pizza. Any way you slice it, this pairing provides some rib-sticking goodness.
Fort Brew: 1849
Style: Irish Red Ale
Content: 5.2% ABV / 18 IBU
Paired With: BBQ Chicken Pizza
The modern version of the Irish Red Ale is a perennial favorite here in the U.S., especially among the brewing community. Here at Fort Brewery, we embrace the toasted characteristics of the Irish Red and balance it with the sweetness of caramel and toffee. Perhaps it’s that sweetness that makes 1849 so perfectly suited for pairing with our BBQ Chicken Pizza. With our use of Heim’s Signature BBQ sauce and sweet red onions, both the dish and the beer that compliments it so well provide a refreshing, full-bodied flavor with a sweet finish.
Fort Brew: Zeppelin
Content: 6% ABV / 20 IBU
Paired With: Pretzels with Dijon Mustard
Few styles of beer embody seasonality more than a Marzen. And while they are most commonly associated with Oktoberfest celebrations, our strong, malted Zeppelin is incredibly popular and styled to be enjoyed year-round. But the German roots of Zeppelin are evident in our pairing of it with our homemade pretzel, complete with a side of roasted garlic Dijon mustard. Of course, we offer a wide variety of pretzel flavors and toppings, but it’s the classic that we recommend for lovers for Zeppelin.
Fort Brew: Los Muertos
Style: Mexican Style Lager
Content: 4.8% ABV / 18 IBU
Paired With: Garlic Knots
Mexican-styled lagers are often thought of as a perfect backyard beer for hot summer days. Light, refreshing, and thirst-quenching our Los Muertos is another example of a seasonal favorite whose popularity has expanded across all months of the year. But whether we’re talking about Los Muertos’ year-round popularity or its light flavor, few are surprised when we recommend that it be paired with our trademark Garlic Knots. Enriched with sautéed garlic and virgin olive oil, Fort Brewery’s Garlic Knots are a rich delight that can be further enhanced with the inclusion of both mozzarella and marinara. And it’s that richness, paired with the light refreshment of Los Muertos that makes it such a winning pair.
What are Your Favorite Fort Brewery Pairings?
We want to know! Be sure to let us know in the comments below. Who knows, your favorite pairing might end up being the ‘next big thing’ here at Fort Brewery.