So, Deschutes Brewery’s Street Pub is traveling the country and stopped in Cleveland (CBB‘s backyard!) to spread the Bend, Ore., craft beer love. Be sure to click that highlighted text for the full report. But beyond the beer, the Street Pub has a significant, standout grub component to it as well. Honestly, Executive Chef Jeff Usinowicz was more of a central figure during the event than anyone from the brewing team. The reasons being: 1) Deschutes is just as committed to quality, local food as it is quality, awesome beer; 2) Deschutes knows how to build its brand; and 3) Usinowicz is a character.
You may think of chefs as standing in the back of a facility, whisking things in big funny hats and mumbling in fake Swedish, but Usinowicz is an extension of the Deschutes brand and, as such, had a mic in his hand for a majority of the event, having fun with the crowd, sharing chefly wisdom and chatting/cooking live with some of Cleveland’s top chefs (which has a ton of top chefs).
Most of our question for Deschutes were about the business side of the event, but we did have a few questions for Usinowicz, too.
CBB: I’m sure everything you last tasted is probably the answer, but what do you think was your favorite beer-food pairing that was featured thus far at a Street Pub?
Usinowicz: I would have to say my favorite pairing at Street Pub was a creation made by Cleveland-based Chef Nolan Konkoski of Ohio City’s SOHO. He made a lemon fried chicken accompanied by a watermelon salad with mint and feta to pair with Chainbreaker White IPA. This was a to-die-for pairing. It worked because the light body of the wheat beer, along with its touch of orange peel and coriander, played nicely with the coolness of the watermelon and sharp creaminess of the feta cheese. I also thought the lemon brine on the chicken added a nice complexity, pairing with the citrus notes of the Chainbreaker White IPA.
CBB: Outside of the Street Pub, what is your favorite current food-beer combo?
Usinowicz: I’m really enjoying pairing foods with sours and farmhouse ales. I like the fruity components and barrel-aging of some sours – The Dissident in particular comes to mind. The Dissident, which was aged in Pinot barrels and brewed with cherries, plays particularly well with cedar plank roasted salmon with a Rainier cherry Dissident glaze or sour beer glaze. This is a classic Oregon dish.
CBB: Before you get back to hosting this event, what are some of your most notable tips for pairing craft beer and food?
Usinowicz: When looking to pair beers with food, a good rule is to pair light with light and dark with dark. For example, pale ales pair better with white fish, seafood and poultry, while stouts and porters go with darker, richer flavors like coffee, cocoa and aromatic cheeses. If you pair this way, you ensure that a dark beer doesn’t overwhelm a lightly flavored food and vice versa. In reality, there are no hard and fast rules, but for the novice that is a great way to start.