By: Sam Kislia
It’s one thing for a restaurant to have either great food or an outstanding beer selection. When a restaurant can boast both, you know you’ve hit the gold mine!
In the past, beer has been viewed as a simple, no-frills kind of beverage. As long as it quenched your thirst, not much else mattered. But times have changed and the craft beer industry is booming! In fact, there are around 120 craft breweries making unique styles and flavors of beer in Wisconsin alone. This massive growth in the number of breweries has pushed many brewers to experiment and innovate with new ingredients and flavors to set them apart from the rest. We’re talking ingredients like raspberries, chipotle peppers and even cocoa nibs – and these can all be found in the same beer (The Brewing Projekt)! With all of these intriguing flavor innovations, it’s no wonder why restaurants would want to pair them with delicious meals.
Restaurants have been pairing entrees with different wines for years. We all know red wines bring out the best in steak and whites can really boost flavors in chicken, but what about beer? With the massive influx of innovative craft brews and complex flavor combinations, the possibilities for pairing beer with food are just beginning! Restaurants throughout the state have taken notice and have added pairing suggestions to their menus, making it easier to discover new beers and to expand your palate.
It comes as no surprise that Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s “Brew City”, would be home to a number of restaurants with beer pairing menus.
Café Benelux in downtown Milwaukee’s Third Ward neighborhood proudly curates a 40-page beer menu with new and seasonal beers rotating out each month. What’s great is when it comes to choosing a beer with your food, Benelux takes the guess work out of the equation. Listed below each entrée is a suggested beer that is sure to compliment your meal. For the “spicy cyclist burger”, Benelux suggests Ale Asylum’s Bedlam IPA. The hint of pepper and aromas of summer fruits compliment the heat of the burger and balance out the flavors all around.
Café Centraal in Bay View offers a more casual atmosphere without sacrificing the beer selection. Like Benelux, Centraal also suggests a beer to be paired with each food item. The chicken and waffles, an enduring favorite, is said to match perfectly with the dark Founder’s Breakfast Stout. With hints of coffee, toffee, and chocolate notes, we don’t doubt their advice!
Of course, Milwaukee isn’t the only area getting in on the fun.
Café Hollander has locations in Madison, Mequon and Wauwatosa in addition to their Milwaukee location. If you’re stopping in for a boozy brunch, we suggest starting it out right with some house-made beignets for the table. Hollander suggests pairing these sweet treats with a glass of the heavier New Holland Poet to balance out the citrus and sweetness of the beignets. If you’re hungry for more, the Tenderloin Gratin Skillet is a great match for the Surly Coffee Bender, offering a great compliment to the roasted wild mushrooms and Gruyere in the dish.
If you’re heading up to Door County, Bier Zot in Sister Bay is a gastropub with eleven carefully curated drafts, one cask and more than 100 bottled varieties to pair with their European-style menu. Bier Zot has pairings for everything from snacks to small plates and even sandwiches. However, if you’re looking to pair a beer with a bratwurst, you’ll find the menu has some very Wisconsin-esque advice for you: Everything pairs with a brat!
Not all pairings have to be so specific to be helpful. World of Beer, with locations in Middleton, Wauwatosa, and Appleton has more of a loose pairing menu. Because their selection is so vast and ever-changing, they suggest a style of beer with each dish to keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Ordering the pork schnitzel? World of Beer suggests choosing one of their twenty-some German Pilsners. Isn’t it great to have options?
When it comes to pairing beer, there really is no right or wrong answer. However, it’s always helpful to have suggestions from those who know the menu best. Tell us about your favorite place to grab a beer with your meal in the comments below!
Interested in seeing where Wisconsin’s craft beer is made? Check out this itinerary to plan your tour of Wisconsin’s Breweries.