The Brewers Association, the organization that represents craft brewers, has hired an Executive Chef. It’s an acknowledgement of growing interest nationwide in the way beer and food can and should go together.
The job went to Chef Adam Dulye, a veteran of fine dining restaurants in some of America’s best food cities, who developed a growing interest in craft beer while cooking in the brewing hotbeds of Portland and Colorado. I spoke with the chef by phone after his appointment was announced and he told me the time is right for someone to do this job because “We’re starting to take craft beer into every aspect of food and dining” but there is still a long way to go.
He says in the restaurant world, “Craft beer’s importance is growing, but overall I think it is undervalued and underappreciated by a lot of establishments. I don’t think craft beer has even come close to realizing its full potential.” He points out that at mid-level and fine dining restaurants, diners expect a choice of perhaps 15 or 20 wines, and a wide array of spirits and cocktails. He wants to see the same kind of craft beer selection being offered as well: “The biggest problem right now is getting someone with four beers to go to eight or ten or twelve and to realize that’s where the growth opportunity is.”
And whatever’s on tap, Chef Dulye says restaurants need to take their beer programs seriously. That means picking a good selection to start with, not serving outdated or infected beer, keeping tap lines clean, and especially training their staffs to understand what they’re pouring. He says food and beer pairings don’t have to be on the menu, but servers need to be able to suggest them. And when it comes to pairing, Chef Dulye says there is obviously a place for wine, spirits, and beer, but he points out that beer tends to be more versatile: “You can elicit three, four, even five flavors on the palette from just one beer.”
As for cooking with beer, he says that can be a touchy subject. “There’s a stigma out there that goes against beer,” he says, because of perceptions that it can turn food bitter and the reality that many people just pour some of whatever they’re drinking into whatever they’re cooking. He says the keys are asking, “Does this beer help the recipe?” and, if so, treating it properly as an ingredient. Bitter flavors, such as those that come from IPAs, need to balanced with sweetness, often simply by adding sugar to a dish. And when cooking with a high-alcohol beer, he says, “You have to treat it just like a spirit or high alcohol wine. You have to slowly reduce the alcohol out.”
Chef Dulye says his long-term goal is “that craft beer achieves its rightful place on menus alongside wine and cocktails.” Short term, he wants to get serious craft beer education into America’s culinary schools, where the next generation of chefs is being trained. And he and Julia Herz of the Brewers Association have created a free beer and food course available to anyone online at:
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