Food Meets Beer Explores BYO Pairings at Dangerous Man
By John Garland, The Heavy Table
Since the popular Northeast brewery encourages BYO food, we undertake a quest to match the neighborhood’s best eats to Rob Miller’s best brews.
Five years seems like forever ago for Northeast Minneapolis. Back when Nordeast wasn’t yet a type of Grain Belt, the only brewery in the area was a defunct historical remnant. Arts and cafes were the unchallenged hallmarks of its cultural landscape.
Now, its transformation into a brewing district is growing ever more obvious. Maybe it’s an all too easy corollary of gentrification, but beer snobbery has become already entrenched in the neighborhood’s zeitgeist.
Dangerous Man Brewing is partially responsible for this sea change, though the establishment process wasn’t easy. Owner/brewer Rob Miller was at the middle of the 2011 Minneapolis City Council debates that would adjust the rules for vending alcohol near a church.
He was unaware of those statutes before latching on to his 13th Avenue location, across 2nd Street from St. Cyril’s. He was more concerned about proximity to a vibrant scene with lots of good food to complement his beer.
“We see people pack picnics and come to the brewery, families have brought their dinners in, and a lot of people bring snacks like sausage and cheese,” says Miller. “It’s awesome to see that what we envisioned while writing the business plan is actually coming true.”
His neighbors all seem happy for the increased activity on their block. “It’s become a gathering place, a community watering hole,” says Heidi Andermack of Chowgirls Catering. “[Rob] is completely open to cool ideas and collaboration.”
One such has been on Chowgirls’ menu for a month: a garlicky beer cheese made with Miller’s various IPAs. “We like to use a Dubliner cheddar because its so sharp,” says kitchen manager Kate Kiernoziak, who created the spread for a recent beer dinner at Dangerous Man. “Everyone there loved it, and it’s been popular ever since.”
Restaurateurs in the area are doing all they can to sate the thirsty hoards. Joe Hatch-Surisook, owner/chef at Northeast Thai favorite Sen Yai Sen Lek, is organizing delivery service with a specialized menu to the brewery on Wednesdays. He’s disappointed they won’t distribute, but still wants to find a way to get his food paired with these increasingly popular beers.
During any trip to Dangerous Man, you’re sure to notice all degrees of BYO food, from the humble sack lunch to gigantic catering platters. So as a public service (and as an excuse for your author to eat and drink extensively in the area) we set out to find Northeast’s killer food pairings for Miller’s beers.
We found four worth sharing. For the first two, we endeavored to find the right beer for the most popular meals being consumed at Dangerous Man. The other two are pairings we didn’t expect to find, but were elated once we did.
None of them involve Miller’s most popular beer: the chocolate milk stout. It’s the one beer of his you’ll often hear about being among the Metro’s finest. It is a triumph, no doubt, a soothing beer you can’t help but swoon at.
But consider the nature of the drink. It’s nearly a milkshake – a dessert course in and of itself. Sure, it was just fine with a mocha torte from Surdyk’s, but so was the Matchbox Coffee porter. They were also just fine by themselves.
Maybe the reason it didn’t pull off a killer pairing is because it doesn’t need to. Perhaps it’s apropos that, for a brewery that won’t distribute its products, its best beer should be so eager to stand alone?
Killer Pairing #1: Imperial IPA + Fire from Element Pizza
There are 105 restaurants within the Bitesquad delivery radius for Dangerous Man. The local delivery fleet tells us that of all the orders they’ve brought to the brewhouse, a vast majority has requested Element Pizza.
It’s not too surprising, considering the Element is mere blocks away and Miller keeps their menus among a few others at his tables. Of all their pies, we dig the Fire – topped with spicy sausage, roasted red peppers, goat cheese and basil,
It needs a beer with some gravitas to pair well and our tasters immediately recognized the success of the Imperial IPA. We know, not exactly earth-shattering news that pizza and IPA go together. But it’s a feat of engineering that Miller managed to combine mighty distinct malt and hop profiles so harmoniously for being over 8% alcohol and 95 IBU.
Rather than amplifying the heat, the dry IIPA acts like a palate cleanser and the hops play nicely with the herbs on the finish. It should be a jumping off point for any spicy dishes you might bring in.
Killer Pairing #2: Belgian Golden Strong + Anchor Fish and Chips
If Element Pizza is the most-delivered lunch to Dangerous Man, then Anchor’s grease-spotted brown paper envelope has to be the meal most often brought in on foot. Kathryn Hayes of Anchor corroborates the trend:
“Its had nothing but a great impact on our business and other businesses on the street,” she tells us. “Our to-go business on Thursday, Friday and Saturday has increased about 50% in volume since Dangerous Man has started.”
With fish and chips, pub grub of the most legendary order, we knew we had to get this one right. We began thinking too literally, searching for a Guinness clone. The chocolate and coconut stouts missed the mark badly, instantly overwhelmed by the substantial fish. The El Dorado-hopped rye ale proved a bitter clash.
We needed something to tame this meal. On the insistence of Fulton brewer Mike Salo, we waited until the 10.6% alcohol Belgian Golden Strong was back on tap, and we’re glad we did.
The heavy malt on the nose leads to a sweet attack of mellow hops that get quickly washed away by a copious body of alcohol. It has wonderful acidity on the mid palate to cut the grease and the finish offers the right tangy bite in lieu of malt vinegar.
Killer Pairing #3: Cream Ale + Kibbi Nayyi from Emily’s Lebanese Deli
Emily’s has a smaller menu than some of metro’s more popular Lebanese outposts, but what’s there is a faithful snapshot of Levantine mezze – stuffed grape leaves, kafta, shish kebob and the spectacular hummus to match.
We go for the raw kibbi. Also spelled “kibbeh” or “kibbe”, it’s essentially Middle Eastern steak tartare. Freshly ground beef mixed into a paste with onions and spices and cracked wheat, which delivers a hearty graininess that screams to be matched up with a beer.
Because kibbi has such a delicate flavor, something too hoppy or alcoholic wouldn’t do. While having just the right amount of gamey flavor, the meat also has an inherent sweetness to it that found a perfect match with DM’s light and refreshing cream ale.
Also, make sure to get Emily’s meat pies. They’re a mix of lamb and beef, with onions, pine nuts and spices baked into a soft, portable triangle of dough (and they make a nice match with DM’s toasted hemp brown ale).
Killer Pairing #4: Coconut Milk Stout + Smoked Beef with Roasted Yams & Andouille from Brasa
So, we’re already aware of Miller’s milk stout prowess. But coconut infusions are a dicey proposition. When they’re bad, they taste contrived and artificial. The flavor is so distinct that brewers need employ a deft hand, lest it be the only thing recognizable in the finished product.
Brasa’s rotisserie meats are so damn tasty we knew just about any beverage could complete a fine pair. The El Dorado rye was perfectly tasty with the roasted pork and collard greens. And the chocolate milk stout with smoked beef proved at least admirable; the roast and lactose offer a complementary sweetness to the creamy yams.
But thank goodness Miller had the coconut variation on tap. The andouille in the yams flares up the aftertaste, right when the coconut hits the palate and the magic happens. Immediately, the dish’s flavor is transported to the West Indies. The beef suddenly becomes more like oxtail, the starchy yams now a homespun stand-in for plantains. A truly transcendent match.
John Garland also writes about food and drink for the Heavy Table (heavytable.com)