Katherine Martinelli: At what point did you begin to seriously consider pairing beer with food? Is this gaining popularity? With what clientele?
Garrett Oliver: I've been hosting beer dinners for more than 20 years. At this point I've hosted about 600 beer dinners and tastings in 10 countries. Beer and food pairing has become very popular indeed. At The Brooklyn Brewery we even make a beer exclusively for Thomas Keller's restaurants. I wrote my last book, "The Brewmaster's Table," as a guide to pairing beer with food.
KM: How do you go about pairing a beer with a dish? (What drives the pairing, the beer or the food?)
GO: First you match the impact - make sure the dish and the beer are well-matched for weight. Then you look for pleasant harmonies between the beer's flavor and the flavor of the food. Beer has a far greater range of flavor than wine does, so it's much more versatile.
KM: Is there anything that you avoid in beer and food pairings?
GO: Aside from obvious clashes, I look to avoid the "football tackle," a pairing where either the beer or the food are wiped out. It should be more like a dance.
KM: Do you have a favorite pairing?
GO: I wrote a book with 360 pages of them! You'll get a different answer every day, depending on my mood, the weather, etc. But the good news is that the pairings are pretty much endless.
KM: What do you think is the future of beer and food pairings?
GO: Especially in this economy, people should realize that many of the world's best beers are wonderful with food and cost less than a latte at Starbucks. Craft beer is the new affordable luxury, and a little bit of knowledge about beer will really improve your life. Great restaurants are now joining in, and some are even leading the pack. Gramercy Tavern, one of NYC's best restaurants, even has a vintage beer list and matches the beers with their cheeses. Their guests love it.