SAVOR hits New York City for the first time later this week, so I thought it was as good a time as any to recall which moments have meant the most in the evolution of the relationship between American craft beer and decent food. (By the way: SAVOR is but the latest chapter in Gotham’s 30-plus-year relationship with craft beer.) In other words, how did we trend away from fried whatever and Bud as the be-all, end-all in food + beer? It was not inevitable.
Here are five moments, I think, that made all the difference. Each of them was a first.
Englishman Michael Jackson was already the world’s best-known beer critic when he wrote a long piece for The Washington Post the week before Thanksgiving 1983, about which beers to pair with which parts of the national feast (for the turkey itself, he recommended Bavarian pales). It was the first time a major American newspaper had published serious writing about pairing beer with food.
One night in September 1985, legendary beer bar the Brickskeller off DuPont Circle in Washington hosted a meeting of the Cornell alumni association. Attendees paid $15 a pop to drink 10 different beers during the course of a buffet dinner. It was the first commercially run sit-down beer dinner in the U.S.; the Brickskeller, which shuttered in 2010, would go on to host many more.
In October 1998, a handful of American craft brewers flew—with their beers—to Turin, Italy, for Salon del Gusto, the biennial convention of the Slow Food movement. They were greeted like rock stars. The brewers were accompanied by officials from the U.S. Association of Brewers. It was the first time European gourmands embraced American brewers and beers in such a public way.
Garrett Oliver was the well-respected brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery when he wrote The Brewmaster’s Table. Published by HarperCollins in 2003, the 384-page book was not only the lengthiest guide yet on how to pair beer with food, but the first on how to really incorporate craft beer into your everyday meals.
During a Super Bowl party on Feb. 6, 2011, President and Mrs. Obama served a honey ale made by the White House Mess using the fruits of a beehive on the mansion’s grounds—the first time brewing had ever been done at the White House in its 210-year history. When the president allowed the release of the recipe in September 2012, it caused a run on honey at homebrew shops nationwide, and cemented craft beer as part of the national palate.
· Washington: Where Good Food Met Craft Beer [TomAcitelli.com]
· How Craft Beer Came to New York City [TomAcitelli.com]
[Photo: the Brickskeller in the 1980s; courtesy Dave Alexander]