Colossal pairings

BruFrou brings culinary and brewing titans together

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B. Borowsky of Boulder Digital Arts

Colorado’s culinary world will collide with the craft beer scene at the second annual BruFrou, a celebration of beer and food pairings. On Saturday, April 25, 80 Colorado brewers and chefs, including many from Boulder County, will team up to create 50 unique pairings to elevate the experience of both the dish and the accompanying brew.

When creating the chef and brewer partnerships for the three-hour event, pairs with existing relationships naturally emerged, like Boulder’s Basta and Wild Woods Brewing.

“Their beer definitely creates a story with every sip,” says Chad Luman, beer coordinator at Basta, of their partner brewery. Luman says that the herbs and spices used in Wild Woods’ beers make pairing a dish with them even better. Luman feels with so many different styles of beer, the possibilities when pairing food are endless.

He says the complexities of the beer, in his opinion, lend a little better than wine, which most people think of as the traditional choice.

“The reason we do the dinners and events is to raise awareness of how special the marriage of craft beer and food can be,” he says.

That excitement and admiration to work together is mutual. Jake and Erin Evans, owners of Wild Woods Brewing, have been going to Basta since it opened and have become both neighbors and friends.

“We really respect and admire Chef Kelly [Whitaker]’s simple, beautiful approach to food that lets the ingredients and cooking method speak for themselves,” says Erin Evans. She says last year they sat down and thought about the food and beer side by side. But this year, they’ve decided to make a beer specifically for the event, after which the Basta crew will make a dish to pair it with. Basta’s love of wine was their inspiration, so they opted for Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand, which have a similar flavor to sauvignon blanc grapes.

“We chose a light, refreshing blonde ale style to really let these beautiful, fruity, white grape-flavored hops shine, and decided to round out the beer with a hint of tartness from a touch of fresh kiwi fruit,” Evans says.

Another duo with a previous relationship is Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar with Denver Beer Co. Adam Reed, director of operations at Jax Fish House, says they’re happy to be involved in an event that reaches so many people. He describes last year’s event as loud, boisterous, fun and vibrant.

“We love working with BruFrou because of the enormous opportunity to connect with beer makers at the top of the craft game in town and also the chance to reach a huge base of guests who are as passionate about craft beer and great food as we are,” Reed says. They’ll be serving a seared duck andouille with English mustard, duck gelee and brioche toast with Denver Beer Co.’s Employee of the Month Sour. They’re also preparing a Jaz Emersum Oyster Shooter with strawberries, cucumber, Banyuls Gastrique and Denver Brewing Co.’s Raspberry Princess Yum Yum paired with the same beer.

“I would say that the creative process started in the kitchen, but ideas were solidified once we tasted the beers,” Reed says.

Another process for pairing the teams is when someone has a request to work with a specific chef or brewer that they may not have had an opportunity to work with in the past.

“We love this because we feel we act as a community builder, which is key to this Colorado-only event,” says John Heins, creative director and co-founder  of Idea Trading Company and BruFrou.

If no requests are made for a collaboration, the BruFrou team considers beer styles compared with food styles, clientele, brand alignment and the concept of both the eateries and breweries.

“We paired Finkel & Garf with Glazed and Infused Donuts. Both have super light-hearted brands that focus on the fun of creating taste sensations, without taking themselves too seriously,” Heins explains. Finkel & Garf (of Boulder) will be bringing their Rye Saison and says once they met the team at Glazed and Infused, they knew they had a “stellar combination.”

A chefs’ motivation for what dish they’d pair with a brew is quite eclectic. Dakota Soifer, chef and owner of Café Aion, says he will generally pair hoppy beers with something “a little fatty,” such as pork. This is particularly important in this case since they are eagerly looking forward to teaming up with High Hops Brewing because the brewery grows their own hops. 

Zeal’s Head Chef Leslie White, who is teamed with 12 Degree Brewing, says she hopes to use the beer in the cooking process.

Davin Helden, CEO of Liquid Mechanics Brewing Co., wanted to pair with a gourmet restaurant who did things similarly to how they create beer. They wanted to work with Butcher’s Bistro since they specialize in meat and their brews have deep aromas and flavors that would pair well. Head Chef Scott Bauer came to the brewery to taste beers with Brewer Seth Townsend. They sampled the brews, talked about which menu items might work and decided on the Imperial Porter.

“We think the event should be seen as an educational one for everyone involved and the general public,” Helden adds.

But not all dishes are going to be created by a duo. The Post Brewing Co. is “pairing” with their in-house Goodbird Kitchen, and FATE Brewing Company is on their own. FATE is preparing a crostini with housemade smoked sausage, herbed goat cheese, pickled green tomatoes and fresh cracked pepper to be paired with their Laimas Kolsch Style Ale, a 2014 Gold Medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival.

“Flavor, seasonality and execution are the biggest for us,” says Tim Berry, FATE Brewing head chef.

There is also a strong effort to expand the fest’s offerings. A private website is open to the eatery partners, where they choose from a series of main ingredient options — beef, pork, poultry, vegetables and sweets along with main dish types like pizza, ceviche, sliders, soup, taco, mousse and more.

“The idea is to curate a more diverse option menu for attendees and also challenge the chefs to collectively create a menu that has something for everyone,” explains Co-Founder Heins.

Setting this event farther apart is the unique backdrop: the Wings Over the Rockies Museum in Denver, a World War II-era airplane hangar.

“The venue alone makes this event hard to miss,” says FATE Brewing owner Mike Lawinkski.

Tickets are still available for the afternoon session (1-4 p.m.) and the evening session (5-8 p.m.). A full pairing ticket includes all-you-can-enjoy beer and food, a Belgian beer tasting glass and a party plate with tasting glass holder ($95). Food-only tickets are $65.

BruFrou also offers a TastyTalks Session (11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. before the tasting session) to learn brewer and chef insights and to enjoy food and beer pairings. Boulder area chefs include Kyle Mendenhall from The Kitchen, Dave Query from Big Red F Restaurant Group and Kelly Whitaker from Basta and Cart-Driver. FATE Brewing’s Lawinski and brewmaster and cofounder of The Post Brewing Co., Bryan Selders, will be sharing their insights as well.

Visit www.brufrou.com for tickets and more information.