Katherine Martinelli: When did you start pairing beer with food? How did this come about?
Jeff Eichelberger: I have been pairing beer with food since 2003. I was fortunate to have come up under a group of incredibly talented beverage people including Michael Anthony, Master Sommelier Paul Roberts, and Andre Mack. I was always challenged to “search for an epiphany.”
KM: How do people respond to beer pairings?
JE: At RM Seafood, all pairings are customized to the guest experience. As a result, we have discussed possibilities with the guest before we present the actual pairing. Response is almost always favorable. Some of my favorite pairings are multi-course exclusively with beer.
KM: How do you go about pairing a beer with a dish? (What drives the pairing, the beer or the food?)
JE: Food usually drives the pairing for us, because we are responding to the guest selection. I think of beer in the same vein as wine when approaching pairing. Texture and complimentary flavors/aromas are key to look for. Beer is usually easier to pair with food than wine as it tends to be broader and more forgiving on the palate.
KM: Is there anything that you avoid in beer and food pairings?
JE: Two styles of beer that need to be treated with care around food are older vintage beers and strong IPAs. Desserts can be a lot of fun with the right beer, but you have to be careful about the particular dessert and beer that it is matched with.
KM: Do you have a favorite pairing?
JE: Chimay Cinq Cent paired with Poached Blue Point Oysters served with Bacon Lardons and Kimchi Cream. Lindemans Framboise Lambic with Molten Chocolate Cake.
KM: Are you increasing your beer and food pairings as a response to the economy – i.e. lower price point for customers and lower cost to you?
JE: While people are being more selective in the challenging economic times, we find that they are staying with what they enjoy. If we are doing a pairing for someone who is open to letting us explore, I always try to sneak a beer in along the way.