Beer dinners are a great way to explore craft beer’s myriad flavors. Beer and food have long gone hand-in-hand. Beer is, after all, liquid bread. Pairing beer and food allows the flavors of the beverages and the dishes to blend together, offering comparing or contrasting experiences that highlight the individual components of the dishes and the beers. Often, with successful pairings, the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.
The Swiss Restaurant & Pub excels at beer dinners. Past dinners have included pairings with Georgetown Brewing, Mac & Jack’s, 7 Seas Brewing and Deschutes Brewery. Wednesday, July 29, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. will pair its beers with Swiss chef Jacob Thacker’s creations. I caught up with Thacker in his Swiss kitchen for a preview of his Sierra Nevada four-course, six-beers dinner.
PEAKS AND PINTS: Your secret pairing a dish with a certain beer?
CHEF JACOB THACKER: It’s a balancing act, really. The breweries want to feature certain beers. I want to prepare certain favorites. They want to feature flagship beers. I want to experiment. Typically, the breweries give me ten beers and I’ll choose six. I always chose one or two exotic brews that will turn the beer geeks’ heads. In terms of cooking, most beers have their own special notes. If I taste honey, then I have honey on the brain and it’s on.
P&P: Speaking of honey, you are pairing the Sierra Nevada Nooner Pilsner with canapés made with fresh beer bread and smothered with Point Reyes Blue Cheese, cherries and honey nuts. What was your inspiration?
THACKER: The Nooner has notes of honey. Played with it, experimented, no, no, no and then I went camping in Port Townsend. There’s an awesome bakery there, and I love Point Reyes cheese. Over an open flame, I made a salami sandwich smothered in Point Reyes Blue Cheese and cherries and bam! I had an idea. People loved my beer bread from a previous beer dinner.
P&P: What doesn’t work?
THACKER: Beer reductions are tricky. In most cases beer reduction sauces turn out bitter. I tend to add beer at the end of sauces.
P&P: Let’s skip to dessert. …
THACKER: Originally, I wanted to bake oatmeal scones with beer grains, add poached pears with a crème brulee. I just wasn’t satisfied with the results. So, I’m pairing the Bigfoot Barley Wine with my own housemade, square-shape tartlet shells with a vanilla crème that’s more like custard, topped with fresh berries and a poached pear fan on the side. I did cook with the Bigfoot, and it’s going to be damn tasty.
P&P: What brewery is next on the docket?
THACKER: I’m excited to work with Two Beers Brewing Company and their sister company Seattle Cider. It’s gig to be fun. Do I lead off with beers then go to ciders? Do I start with ciders? Do I alternate? I’m up for the challenge.
P&P: You’re working on a new menu for The Swiss?
THACKER: I am, indeed. Expect more lighter, healthier salads — including a salmon salad with pineapple salsa. We’re bringing back more pastas. I’m excited for people to taste my white mac and cheese dish. We’ll have a new chicken sandwich. I’m still tweaking it.
P&P: Thanks Jacob. Honestly, I’m looking forward to the Hoptimum paired with prosciutto wrapped and stuff chicken breast with spaghetti squash riding shotgun. Yum.
SIERRA NEVADA BEER DINNER, 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 29, $40 per person (plus tax and gratuity), The Swiss Restaurant and Pub, 1904 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma, 253.572.2821, tickets at The Swiss or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1838986