GABF: Incredible food found interesting beers at Paired

Last Thursday and Friday brought Paired, a brilliant display across 20 tables at the Great American Beer Festival highlighting innovative food from chefs all around the country. The event paired bites with participating breweries, offering special craft beer releases that weren’t available inside the festival. Like many of the competing brewers, chefs didn’t hold back, expressing their culinary prowess with unconventional brew buddies.

Colorado chefs and breweries were well represented. Sean Clark of El Moro Spirits and Tavern in Durango wowed with pickled octopus, marble potato salad and Pompelmocello (like limoncello). It was accompanied by a citrus-ginger Berliner Weisse called Pink Flamingo from Union Craft Brewing out of Baltimore.

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Aurora’s Dry Dock Brewing Co. provided a chocolatey, barrel-aged double coffee porter to set off the lava-lake lamb empanada from Matty Melehes of Q Roadhouse in Jackson Hole beautifully. It combined Anson Mills antebellum corn flour, coffee guajillo, and chipotle.

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Fate Brewing Co. in Boulder paired their salty, tequila-barrel-aged funky uror gose perfectly with a delicate crudo from Jorge Guzman of Brewer’s Table in Minneapolis, Minn.; garnished with bergamot vanilla curd, pineapple mint, and granola .

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Kyle Mendenhall of Boulder’s Arcana solicited the sweeter side with a carrot cake topped with juniper cream, orange and maple caramel to set off Alaskan Cran-Spruce Ale, a herbal witbier from Alaskan Brewing Co.

Joyride Brewing Co. in Edgewater, Colo. offered their cherry laden Abbey Road Belgian Dubbel, magnifying one of my favorites of the evening, a beautifully tender duck pipián by Carlo Lamagna of Clyde Common in Portland.

Notable plates came from coastal creators like Mike Friedman from Red Hen/AP in Washington, D.C. He showed off his gnocchi alla Romana with smoked salmon, cucumber, crème fraîche and trout roe to go alongside Fremont Brewing Co.’s Field to Ferment, a freshly hopped pale ale from Seattle.

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Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant out of Wilmington, Del. shared their decorated Russian Imperial Stout — “a beer fit for a steak” — appropriately paired with Goodkind’s chefs Paul Zerkel and Lisa Kirkpatrick of Milwaukee, who made a svizzerana beef brisket tartare, dandelion marmalade and cured egg yolk.

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Overall, Paired was absolutely, without hesitation, my favorite part of GABF and an exciting illustration of the way craft beer can elevate cuisine. The relationship is truly reciprocal.  As beer expands, so do the chances to enhance the most-basic to the most-sophisticated dishes.  Whether you’re eating a stadium chili dog or sashimi, we’ve hit a point in time where there’s a beer for that.

[Images: Dionne Roberts]