Fall and winter usher in more than just cold weather, endless loops of holiday music, and a relentless onslaught of holiday sale emails. The two seasons provide us with plenty of reasons to gather with friends and family through New Year’s Eve, and new beer releases.
The changing seasons also give operators the opportunity to leverage get-togethers and beer through beer pairing dinners, and even lunches and brunches. After all, people are ready to eat and drink from Thanksgiving through the end of the year.
As far as concepts go, a beer pairing meal is fairly straightforward. Your goal, as you’ve likely already put together, is to enhance the food experience with properly curated beer selections, and to enhance the beer experience with thoughtfully and expertly selected food items. When done correctly, flavors are enhanced across the board, which means that the guest experience in its entirety is enhanced.
There are multiple ways to go about planning and executing this type of promotion. If you happen to operate a brewery or brewpub and have a kitchen, you’re well positioned for a beer pairing lunch, brunch or dinner for obvious reasons: you know your beer and you know your food. To really make this sort of promotion resonate with your guests, consider featuring off-menu items paired with your beers. You can also use this type of promotion to release a special, seasonal or rare offering (or offerings) with off-menu food items, or allow a tap takeover. Since this type of beer promotion can be as simple or elaborate as an operator wishes, take your concept, distributor relationships, and guest expectations into account and decide whether a buffet-style or multiple-course meal is best, and price tickets accordingly. Selling tickets ahead can help you to generate revenue prior to your event and gauge interest. It also helps you to plan for inventory requirements.
In order to pull a beer pairing meal promotion together, to truly pull the seams tight, you’ll want to feature have a brewmaster, chef, cicerone, or other expert hosting the event. A pairing meal, much like any tasting, should be approached as though it is a guided tour, because that’s precisely what it is. You’ll notice below that each of the beer pairing dinners that have caught our eye feature (or featured) a brewmaster. You’ll also notice that five courses seems to be the standard when it comes to a beer pairing meal.
Fireside Chat with Firestone Walker Brewing Company
On November 19, 2016, Libertine Social inside Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas will be hosting the Fireside Chat with Firestone Walker Brewing Company. This new cocktail and dining concept, a collaboration between The Modern Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim and Chef Shawn McClain. Both are Iron Chef America alumni, and both know how to craft and deliver on an experience. This 5-course beer pairing dinner is $75 the venue is offering two seating times for the event.
If you think your venue can support it, consider offering two seatings for your event. Two hours is more than enough time to move through three to five courses without rushing your guests.
Thali Beer Dinners
Yak & Yeti is known for handcrafted, award-winning beer and food. They operate three locations in Colorado, and their new Thali Beer Dinner promotion is offered at their Arvada venue. This location also happens to be where they brew their beer. December 13, 2016, marks the launch of their five-course food and beer pairing dinners. Thali, for those wondering, is a style of Nepalese cuisine that Yak & Yeti describes as similar to tapas.
Guests will be treated to five courses of Nepalese-, Indian- and Tibetian-inspired food, a beer paired with each course, a special Yak & Yeti beer glass, a meet and greet with Yak & Yeti brewmaster Jeff Tyler, and a guided tour of each course and its beer pairing by the brewmaster.
This type of ongoing promotion can enhance guest loyalty and help you keep your venue, brand, beers and food top of mind. Monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, seasonally… The schedule can be tailored to suit your needs and the needs of your guests.
5-Course Beer Pairing Dinner
Colorado Plus Brew Pub already hosted this promotion but we wanted to share this event with you regardless. One reason is to show you that this type of event has the potential to run for the long term: this was the 12th such dinner Colorado Plus hosted. The brewpub also ensured that both the brewer and chef were present at the dinner. Not only did they see this type of promotion as a way to highlight their beer, they wanted their chefs to be able to show off for their guests. And show off they did:
- 1st Course: Arugula & goat cheese salad with citrus honey glazed Colorado pork belly paired with Blood Orange Saison
- 2nd Course: Pichelsteiner Bavarian Stew paired with Apricot Pale Ale
- 3rd Course: Brat & pretzel bun “deconstructed” slider with red kraut paired with German Pils
- 4th Course: Sliced Colorado ribeye with stout demi-glace and whipped parsnips paired with Coffee Stout
- 5th Course: Apple Dumplings w/ vanilla bean ice cream paired with Pumpkin Ale
Tickets were $50 and needed to be purchased prior to the event. And to encourage socializing and provide a relaxed, immersive experience, Colorado Plus utilized community seating.
As you can see, a beer pairing dining event can be a special one-off (or two-off in the case of Libertine Social) affair, a monthly event, or a long-term annual promotion. Planning and executing will depend on your venue and concept, and you will certainly want to put your brewmaster and/or head chef front and center. Lacking one or both of those, partner with your beer distributor, local brewery, or restaurant with which you have a healthy relationship and plan to have their brewer or chef at your event.