Sage warning to new transplants and Denver visitors: do not underestimate our devotion to craft beer. We will drink it all day - yes, even for breakfast. This past weekend we enjoyed our first ever Brewer’s Brunch hosted by The Corner Office and Ratio Beerworks. Ratio was the smallest brewery to date to participate in the brunch series, previous contributors were such titans in the industry as Avery, Odell and Great Divide. Although small in size, Ratio proved that their beers are robust and diverse in taste (and pair well with deviled eggs!). The series began in January and has been holding monthly gatherings since, the next event takes place on Saturday, July 23rd and features Renegade Brewing Company, get your tickets here: http://thecornerofficedenver.com/events-in-denver/brewers-brunch-events/
Beginning Saturday with a 4 course meal and an excuse to day drink was our best start to a weekend yet. Our first impression going into this was that beer and breakfast foods are delicious on their own, but together they don’t really mesh well. We asked Chef Rich Byers, the head chef of The Corner Office about his take on the unlikely pairing, “Brunch has been growing in popularity, along with the craft brewing scene. By creating this dining series, we saw the opportunity for a chance to do something different and coin an area that no one else is really doing. Beer offers a variety of tastes and textures, which makes pairing it with food a fun challenge. Brunch also has a wide breadth of flavors and that makes it perfect for pairing with beer.” And when the first course arrived, we knew what he was talking about.
The first course featured Ratio’s Handwritten Belgian White alongside Chef Byers’ deviled eggs ‘buffalo style’ and hush puppies. The interesting thing about pairing beer with brunch is that while the beer is consumed wholly on the side it is also used throughout the cooking process. Chef Byers explained, “I most use it in batters. When creating the menu for these events it is very calculated. We use certain beers that we feel would work with a dish to cook with, others we just try and pair similar flavors.” It seemed as though we had only scratched the surface concerning beer and food pairings, “All beer pairs well with food. When pairing craft beer to food comes down to tasting the beer and looking at which characteristics are best highlighted in the beer. It is good to think of beer as a supporting ingredient to the dish and how it is going to interact with the palate. When cooking with beer you need to be careful. IPAs and hop forward beers can turn bitter. I would say, when cooking use a lighter more malt forward beer, stouts or porters. When pairing, hop bitterness enhances notes of spice, sweet malt notes clam spice and hop bitterness can be balanced on the palate with the addition of fat.” Pairing the deviled eggs and hush puppies with Ratio’s spring seasonal wheat was very strategic because the lemon undertones of the wheat cooled down the savory and buffalo flavored first course. A match made in a carefully curated beer heaven.
No meal is complete without its boozy companion and this brunch was no exception to that rule. Prior to the event we were able to delve a little deeper into Ratio’s brewing process. While brewing is just as much a labor of chemistry as it is of creativity, the folks over at Ratio Beerworks have mastered the art of balance. Marketing Director Tristan Chan explains, “I firmly believe in the mix of the fundamental science of brewing and the creative nature of recipe development. At Ratio, I think of it more of a pyramid, where the chemistry and fundamentals of brewing science lay the foundation for our beers. Only then can you start adding creativity and experimentation on top of that foundation. I love to start with classic styles and techniques, and then layer a creative modern twist to the beer. For example, our Dear You saison starts as a classic base, but we use a modern American aroma hop called Citrus all the way through the brew, including a dry-hop.” Drawing on their passion for experimentation and revolutionizing the basics, we asked Chan to detail the most interesting ingredient that they’ve worked with and ingredient that Ratio is most eager to get their hands on. “Culturing bacteria to help sour our berliner weisses and goses has been a fun learning process. I'm looking at using umeboshi, which are Japanese salted plums that are extremely sour and I think will work great in a beer.” We couldn’t agree more and will be patiently awaiting the release!
Moving onto the next three courses we were greeted with Ratio’s Domestica America Standard Ale inspired by long music festivals due to its low abv and clean finish. Chef Byers paired this beer with the classic childhood staple of fish n’ chips and this easily was the highlight of our morning. Before the duo could even finish describing the meal a hungry guest shouted eagerly, “I LOVE fish n’ chips man!” a perfect representation of the meal to follow. The 3rd course featured andouille sausages which we learned the chef had house ground, made and stuffed himself with a sausage machine his coworkers gifted him this past Christmas. The team paired this with a hoppier counterpart to offset the grounding flavors of the sausage and cheddar grits. The Antidote IPA boasts spicy and earthy undercurrents which is counterbalanced by its aromatic citrus and herbal notes.
It is apparent that beer has played such an integral role in both Chef Byers and the team behind Ratio’s lives. The food and craft was paired seamlessly and with such thoughtfulness we knew that such an obsession was not fostered overnight. Chef Byers’ love affair with beer begin at a young age, “I was probably 12 and I stole some Guinness from my neighbor’s garage. It was warm, so not love at first sight. I later tried a few Budweiser’s on a family cruise, but it probably was not until I was 20 that I started to fall in love with beer. Back then Fat Tire and Anchor Steam were my beers of choice.” His love for beer has transpired through to his cooking in such unique and intriguing ways.
Our last course left a sweet taste in our mouth and an itch that only the next Brewer’s Brunch can scratch. Our fourth and final meal was finished with Ratio’s famed Hold Steady Chocolate Rye Scotch Ale and paired with The Corner Office’s chocolate cinnamon bun and hoppy raspberry icing. The Scotch Ale complimented the sweetness of the icing due to the hoppy flavors but also toned down the sweetness of the overall pastry. Prior to our brunch at The Corner Office we had never even thought of cooking with beer or using it to highlight certain flavors in a meal. There is so much room for creativity and experimentation when it comes to cooking with beer and the team behind the Brewer’s Brunches has tapped into that goldmine strategically and with grace. The Brewer’s Brunch series is shaping up to be our newest (and best) excuse to substitute our morning coffee for beer and we could not be more excited. Click here to get your tickets to next month’s brunch!
It is no secret that Denver loves beer pairings, with events like the Bacon and Beer Festival and the Beer and Donut Festival we have almost exhausted all our food and booze combinations. What’s next? Kale and beer?! For our sake as a city we certainly hope not. But what does this mean for our craft beer scene? Are we nearing the tail end of its rise to power or is it just getting started? We asked Tristan Chan, Marketing director of Ratio Beerworks and founder of PorchDrinking.com to elaborate on his thoughts about the future of Denver’s craft beer culture and what we can expect to see from Ratio Beerworks this summer and beyond.
Ultra5280: Craft beer has almost surpassed rocky mountain water as our preferred beverage of choice in Colorado. Do you feel that the popularity the industry has garnered is sustainable and has the potential to grow even bigger?
We definitely feel craft beer is sustainable, so long as we continue to focus on quality, community, and identity. Quality is key, if people are exposed to bad beer even once, it can easily become a turn off to beer as a whole. Our focus first and foremost is producing great beer. Additionally it is extremely important to re-invest in our communities. At Ratio, community is one of our core values, which means we are constantly giving back to local non-profits via beer donations, as well as holding events in the taproom benefitting local organizations we strongly stand behind.
And finally, with this new wave of craft breweries, it's becoming increasingly important for breweries to carve out their distinct identities and focus on branding toward those core values. With Ratio, our founders all come from the music industry, after having crossed paths in the punk rock music scene, so music is such a huge part of our brewery's identity. This can be seen in our Ratio Sessions, where we invite touring bands to perform three song acoustic sets and record interviews on the Mostly Harmless Podcast, additionally we host Record Vinyl Swap nights, band performances in the back, and we only play carefully curated music that fits specific genre requirements.
Ultra5280: Ratio is big on local events - from pop up comedy shows to live music, it seems like you’re always up for contributing to our local culture. Is this something we can expect more of this summer? What does the future hold for you?
We have our core recurring events that take place every month, like Ratio Comedy, Yoga in the Brewhouse the first Saturday of every month, Ratio Quiz Show, which is our fun extra comedic take on your basic trivia set up, and we've recently just introduced a monthly Record Swap Vinyl Night at Ratio on the last Tuesday of every month, where people can bring in their vinyl records to be played in the taproom or to be swapped and traded with other enthusiasts. For Record night, we also bring in Bowman's Vinyl and Lounge's mobile record store. We're also working on an air guitar night to follow up on our music theme, but beer-wise we've also got some great pairing events, as well as some special stuff planned for GABF week, which will build on the return of our Karaoke Throwdown, the Saturday night of GABF. Still on the theme of music related events, we'll periodically host Ratio Sessions for touring bands as we mentioned earlier.
We also enjoy working with outside accounts on creative partnership events. An example of that is our recent New Wave Tour which debuted our Summer seasonal New Wave Strawberry Berliner at Avanti, Historians and the Way Back. We'll also co-host special beer dinner events with various accounts around town. We've got beer dinners already arranged this summer with Bacon Social Club and The Populist.