Emily Hutto's picture

Chefs Who Choose Beer Over Wine

Mashing In
Jared Rouben Moody Tongue Brewing Company Beer Connoisseur
Jared Rouben photo by Kaitlyn McQuaid

Beer or wine with your food? There’s not much debate in the craft community about the preference for beer – not to mention a burgeoning number of articles about beer pairing in foodie publications. Here are three beer-centric chefs who talked with Mashing In about their preference for beer, which helps to explain the growing trend toward ales and lagers in place of wine with food. Ian Clark, BRU, Beer Connoisseur

“Everyone thinks of food and wine together,” said Ian Clark, the founder of BRU Handbuilt Ales & Eats in Boulder, Colorado. “I love wine, but I find it to be simple by comparison to beer when it comes to pairings. The brewer has the ability to design the beer he wants it to be. Knowing that, a chef can then build on those flavors or counteract those flavors with food.”

Like Clark (pictured at right), the brewmaster at Chicago’s Moody Tongue Brewing Company, Jared Rouben, has a background in cooking and a preference for beer pairings over wine pairings. When he attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, he opted out of the institute’s wine club (mostly because he thought it was too expensive) and started his own beer club instead.

“I brought in breweries to pair, cook, and bake with beer,” Rouben said. “We had a very popular response, with positive feedback from students and chefs. We found that beer has so many different flavor profiles, and there were so many times when wine didn’t make much sense for pairing... Asparagus with garlic, for example, gives sommeliers nightmares, but cicerones couldn’t be more excited to pair those flavors.”

Rouben went on to cook at The Martini House in Napa. Despite NAPA’s access to some of the best wines in the world, he still found himself reaching for the tap list instead of the wine list. “In our days off us cooks were drinking beer. We thought it paired so much better with the food we were making,” he said.

“We’re on the cusp of the food and beer pairing trend becoming super popular,” said Surly Brewing’s executive chef Jorge Guzman in a Beer Connoisseur interview about the brewery’s new brewpub menu. “Food and beer can be paired better than food and wine. Our opportunity is to show people that we can do this, and do it really well.”

Needless to say, the Brewers Association is helping to promote this trend. “Craft beer is helping beer reclaim its rightful place at the dinner table,” said Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association Julia Herz in a craftbeer.com article. The recent publishing of the BA’s Beer & Food Course and the hiring of Adam Dulye as the Brewers Association Executive Chef have been established in support of this evangelism.