Clubs are getting crafty with beer pairings and dinners.
Bend, Oregon has some of the best craft breweries in the country. So it makes sense that Tetherow Golf Resort, also located in Bend, has a pub where beers, and beer pairings, are big.
The Row is Tetherow’s casual, family-friendly eatery. With 12 beer taps, over 30 bottled and canned beers, and a menu that offers both American and Scottish-inspired dishes, it is one of Bend’s best and newest restaurants. (It’s open to residents, guests and the general public.)
“Every month for five months, we feature a different brewery in The Row,” says Sean Mercer, the restaurant’s manager.
Each week, for each new brewery featured, Sous Chef Justin Birtola comes up with five new appetizers, five new entrees and five new desserts that pair well with the different brews.
“We try to develop partnerships with different breweries,” says Birtola. “With one of the breweries, we had their chef come in and cook with us.”
To create pairings, Birtola, who studied pastry, takes a fairly formulaic approach. He examines the characteristics of each beer and how it interacts with other ingredients to affect change in flavors.
“There are a lot of variables to consider when you cook with and pair beer,” says Birtola. “Especially when you’re dealing with filtered versus unfiltered.”
One of the most popular beer-centric dishes at The Row is a drunken salami flatbread made with pesto, soppressata, Parmesan cheese, pepperoncini and a stout glaze.
“We also do a mole wing sauce using Imperial IPA, jalapeno, honey and porter,” says Birtola, who starts his menu-building process by tasting the beer.
“By offering a constantly changing selection of beer and a well-developed menu that goes with it, we’re able to offer our guests something they can’t get just anywhere,” says Mercer. “We’ve done dedicated beer dinners, too. We’ve even had guests visit the resort just for the beer dinner.”
More than a thousand miles south of Bend, Rio Verde (Ariz.) Community and Country Club is also jumping on the beer-pairing bandwagon.
“Last year, we focused on wine dinners,” says Executive Chef Todd Berry, who has been at the club for a little over a year. “And while our members enjoyed them, we started to see demand drop toward the end of the year. I think they were bored.”
So Berry and his team kicked around the idea of adding beer dinners to the mix.
“The membership jumped on it immediately,” he says, noting that next year, the club plans to alternate beer and wine dinners each month. “Members are more open to beer pairings as gastropubs continue to become popular.”
To create pairings, Berry likes to consult with his cooks and compare tasting notes.
“Not everyone tastes the same flavors as I do, so we sit down, take notes and bounce ideas off each other,” he says. “I always tell my team to be as gutsy and as crazy as they want when they’re coming up with pairing ideas. They know that I’ll rein them back in and figure out how to make it financially viable and how to execute it.”
Berry tries to avoid relying on classic beer pairings like stout and chocolate.
“That’s boring,” he says. “You’ll make a much bigger impact if you can take a lager or a hefferveisen and pair it with a lighter dessert, like a pot de crème, that has notes of citrus and coriander.”
Berry also doesn’t follow the traditional light-to-dark menu map. He has no problem starting with a heavy beer and ending with something really light.
“It’s our job to expose our members and guests to new ideas, new flavors and new beers,” says Berry. “Beer dinners open an interesting avenue that most haven’t had a chance to travel yet.”