Surveying a delivery of corn, tomatoes, and several kinds of squash, Mark Goldberg was reminded recently of how much he likes this time of year. “We’re right in between seasons, so there’s a lot to work with,” says the executive chef of PARK Restaurant & Bar. “It’s cool because the food and beer transitions are happening at the same time.”
That evening, Goldberg matched a pork-and-squash-filled pie with “Hop Noir,” a black IPA from Maine’s Peak Organic Brewing, which blends roasted chocolate malt and bright, floral hops. The arrival of cooler weather allows for pairings that are richer and heavier, but they don’t have to be. Around town, chefs and brewers are matching harvest foods with everything from smoky English porters to sweet Belgian tripels.
At The Biltmore Bar & Grille in Newton, culinary director David Nevins is having a Troegs Brewing dinner on Sept. 30 with an IPA, a Hefeweizen, an Amber Ale, a Dopplebock, and a stout. He’s pairing the spicy, piney hops of Perpetual IPA with salmon tartare and butternut squash arancini, golden rice balls made with risotto (pictured). “There is a certain nuttiness in the IPA that goes perfectly with the risotto,” he says.
Pairing food and beer is something John Holl, author of the “American Craft Beer Cookbook,” likes to do and is used to defending. “People just kind of gravitate toward wine because that’s what they’re accustomed to do,” says Holl. The beer industry, he says, “hasn’t done a good job of selling itself as an accompaniment to food.”
For fall or any season, Holl suggests finding a particular flavor in a beer, such as citrusy hops or yeast, and going from there. A recipe in his book pairs grilled scallops with brown butter and roasted fall vegetables and a crisp Czech pilsner. “If you’re still using your grill and get a little caramelization on the meat, that really goes well with porters and brown ales,” says the author.
Jeff Pond, the chef at the new A4 pizza spot in Union Square, Somerville, planned his menu around the fall beers. Despite the early release of some of these brews, Pond says he doesn’t tap them until the ingredients make sense. “I wait until I wake up in the morning and it feels cold,” says the chef. Pond is braising pumpkins in Southern Tier’s “Pumking” Ale, pureeing the mixture into a sauce, and finishing the pizza with roasted chanterelles. He suggests matching a fresh J.K.’s Scrumpy cider with another pizza of baked apples and cured pork.
A particularly good French saison called “Soleil,” made by Brewmaster Jack of Northampton, produces an incredibly bright, funky nose, whose barnyard qualities would cut the richness of a triple creme or match the nuttiness of an aged cheddar.
Saison is a style rooted in farming, which Brewmaster Jack’s brewer and founder thinks is suited to fall. “Maybe it’s just in my head," says Tyler Guilmette, “but the historical context makes saisons seem to taste better during the planting and harvest seasons.”
Gary Dzen can be reached at email@example.com.