Daniel Burns beats you to the punch before you can ask why he pairs beer with the tasting menu at his Michelin-starred Brooklyn restaurant, Luksus. “Why not beer?” Burns says.
The chef and his partner, gypsy brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso, have been questioning the status quo of fine dining from the start of their careers. Burns’s approach to cooking was influenced by stops in avant-garde kitchens including the Fat Duck, Noma, and Momofuku. Jarnit-Bjergso was the beer director at Noma before becoming the brewer behind the much-lauded Evil Twin Brewing.
The pair met in New York, the result of mutual connections through Noma (they both worked there, but not at the same time). Together Burns and Jarnit-Bjergso opened the 16-seat tasting restaurant Luksus and more-casual beer bar Torst in adjoining spaces in Greenpoint. Their new book, “Food & Beer,” examines the relationship between beer and food with recipes from the restaurants and pairing recommendations built around flavor profiles including bitter, funky, sweet, earthy, sour, smoky, tart, spicy, fruity, and tasty.
Q. How has the attitude toward beer changed in fine dining since you started your careers?
Jeppe: The acceptance of beer with food in fine dining has come a long way in the last 10 years. It’s definitely changing, but [prejudice] is still there.
Daniel: There are certain stigmas that it’s a poor man’s drink. It’s made very cheaply. But the most interesting part of beer making is that, unlike wine that’s based so much on terroir and tradition, there’s basically no rules to making beer. Now there are so many amazing craft brewers.
Q. What does beer bring to food pairing that wine doesn’t?
Jeppe: The range of styles and range of flavors is way broader in beers for many different reasons, one of them being in beer you can add ingredients like fruit or spices, which is something you can’t do in wine. You can get beers that have smoky flavors or salty flavors. That’s something that’s very difficult in the wine world. The wide range of flavors has become more and more in the past 10 years. People are doing more and more different styles and even changing the known styles.
Daniel: You can add chile and beetroot and coriander into the beer, and at the end you will have something very balanced and nuanced, and incredibly interesting to try. People come to the restaurant a little unsure. It’s always the case that we can find something they’re going to enjoy. There are sour ales that are aged in oak barrels that taste a lot like wines. If you blindfolded someone and gave them one of these sour ales, they wouldn’t be able to guess what it is.
Q. Which flavors do you think about first, the food or the beer?
Daniel: It always starts with the food first and then we try to find beer to pair. In my mind, [starting with beer] is almost impossible to do.
Jeppe: We tend to use a lot of wild yeast beers because Daniel’s food is very organic, vegetable-driven. He uses lots of fish and vegetables and fermentation. It definitely leans more toward the lighter, wild fermentation beers. When Daniel makes a new dish, we don’t know before we taste it what will work. We sit down and taste different beers.
Daniel: The food we do may have a little more acidity and more brightness than traditional French cuisine. Bitter in particular is something that I enjoy as a flavor. It can be such a strong flavor that just hints of it here and there can be awesome. We’re actually making dandelion chips right now for the tasting menu.
Q. Is the goal to complement or contrast flavors?
‘The acceptance of beer with food in fine dining has come a long way in the last 10 years.’
Daniel: Certainly sometimes you do comparative [flavors], like when there’s strawberries in the dessert and then maybe you try to find something with a little strawberry flavor. Those overall tend to be less interesting. So with a sweet desert, you might go for a fairly sour beer. If you taste the beer first, it tastes surprisingly sour. Then you taste a dessert that’s quite sweet, and the beer takes on almost a completely different flavor. In a dish where the main component is carrots, the third and fourth component might be coriander or a different spice. We would pair to one of the lesser ingredients. That really creates something interesting.
Q. How are you looking to change perceptions with the book and the restaurants?
Daniel: There has to be an educational aspect to it. Just as [with] trying a new grape or varietal of wine, the process of introducing a new style of beer can be equally interesting and eye-popping to what the possibilities are for pairing beer with food. It’s a big part of what we’re trying to do. Not a lot of others are doing it.
Jeppe: The day when you can go into any fine dining restaurant and choose between a beer and wine pairing, that’s when we have reached our goal.Michael Floreak can be reached at michaelfloreak@