Complementing craft beer with food

By Nicholas Johnson of the Leader
Posted 1/26/16

Beer pairs well with lots of things – good friends, funky music and maybe a designated driver for good measure. It also pairs well with food.

For the hundreds descending on Port Townsend and its …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Complementing craft beer with food


Beer pairs well with lots of things – good friends, funky music and maybe a designated driver for good measure. It also pairs well with food.

For the hundreds descending on Port Townsend and its downtown American Legion Hall this weekend with a thirst for strange brews, pairing opportunities abound.

The 12th annual Strange Brewfest brings together some three dozen Pacific Northwest breweries, each pouring two brews especially made for the festival over two days, while six funky musical acts keep feet moving and butts shaking.

For those tempted to venture beyond the festival walls, Port Townsend and Jefferson County are filled with good food and drink. You just have to know where to look.


Since its 2005 inception at the former Water Street Brewing in downtown Port Townsend, Strange Brewfest has served as a testing ground for experimental brewing creations. For example, Elysian Brewing’s Dick Cantwell debuted his now widely distributed Avatar jasmine IPA at the festival that year.

And, no matter how strange, any brew can find balance with the right dish – whether a classic pairing of, say, pilsner and pizza or stout and stew, or something stranger, such as a Belgian lambic with chicharrones (fried pork rinds) or a honey basil ale with fries and ketchup.

This year, festival food includes fresh paella from Paella House of Port Townsend; burgers from the American Legion Marvin G. Shields Memorial Post No. 26 crew; and pretzel necklaces, chips, nuts and pepperoni sticks from the Legion Ladies’ Auxiliary.

Port Townsend’s Courtyard Café is serving pulled-pork sandwiches on house-made Hawaiian buns, as well as chili, nachos, breadsticks and beer-cheese soup, and smoked cheddar-bacon scones.

The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader asked 12 locals – from brewers and chefs to beer snobs and foodies – what their favorite Northwest craft beer is to pair with any food available locally. Here are their recommendations:

Virginia Marston and Ned Herbert

Taproom and bottle shop owners, Pourhouse

Chuckanut pilsner from Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen (Bellingham)

White Pie from Hillbottom Pie (215 Tyler St., 385-1306)

“Chuckanut Pilsner is a golden-bodied, crisp, effervescent lager brewed in Bellingham. Its clean and refreshing taste pairs well with a hot and gooey pizza pie right out of Tim and Mariko’s oven. We like the Chuckanut pilsner because it is the most true-to-style pilsner brewed in Washington state, and it is a beer style that we are both partial to. Hillbottom’s White Pie comes out of the oven with a bubbly and airy crust topped with a bright house-made basil pesto combined with gooey, fresh mozzarella and kalamata olives that add a meaty saltiness.”

Arran Stark

Executive chef, Jefferson Healthcare

Wanderlust IPA from Breakside Brewery (Portland, Oregon)

Cirrus cheese from Mt. Townsend Creamery (338 Sherman St., 379-0895)

“On occasion, I’ve had the privilege to join with Mt. Townsend’s head cheese maker, Dylan Stanfield, to talk food and pair his cheeses with selections from our local Pourhouse’s beer board. One memorable session included a perfectly aged Cirrus paired with an IPA from Breakside Brewery called Wanderlust. The inherent floral acidity of the Wanderlust paired really well on my palate with a light saltiness of buttery Camembert-style Cirrus.”

Amber Bartl

Co-host of Sirens Pub’s monthly Brewers Dinner

Scotch ale from Port Townsend Brewing Company (Port Townsend)

Steak and clam strips from The Valley Tavern (21 Chimacum Road, 385-0388)

“I have worked at Sirens for 14-plus years. During the past three years, I have been cohosting a monthly Brewers Dinner, creating a four-course meal paired with beer from a specific brewery. And, in this past year, I have been involved with the opening, creative development and daily operations of The Old Whiskey Mill. I get to wear many hats and, luckily, most of those include beer and food. I love IPAs, Belgians, sours, and anything with heavy citrus and floral notes. But my favorite beer to cook with and pair with has to be Port Townsend Scotch ale. No other Scotch ale compares; it has the right amount of caramel malt sweetness that leaves with a slightly dry finish and a subtle hint of smoke. I use it as the base in the recipe for Siren’s shepherd’s pie, Smoky Beer-n-Cheese Soup, and even the spicy beer mustard that comes with the Locals Winter Happy Hour corn dog. If I were to pair this beer with a good meal and a fun night out, I’d recommend The Valley Tavern on Tuesday nights for steak and clam strips. The steak is flame-grilled to bring out that hint of peat, and the ale has enough body so as not to get lost. Then you add salty, briny, crispy clam strips that really accent the sweetness in the caramel malts.”

Ryan Trail

CEO, Mt. Townsend Creamery; formerly a brewery engineer at New Belgium Brewing Company

Kilt Lifter ale from The Pike Brewing Company (Seattle)

Off Kilter cheese from Mt. Townsend Creamery (338 Sherman St., 379-0895)

“I’ve devoted the last two decades to production of fine beer and cheese; they naturally pair well together. I love them both equally (like my children). I like to pair Off Kilter cheese from Mt. Townsend Creamery with Kilt Lifter ale from Pike Brewing. While Off Kilter is aging, we wash the cheese with Kilt Lifter ale. We originally had the idea to work with Pike Brewing because Rose Ann and Charles Finkel from Pike were big supporters of ours when we first started the creamery. They used to ride their tandem bicycle to the Ballard Farmers Market to buy our cheese for their restaurant in the Pike Place Market. The beer is not a flavoring for the cheese on its own; it’s the nutrients, acidity, and yeast from the beer that help develop the microbes that ripen and give flavor to our cheese. In my opinion, this creates flavors that are not identical, but very complementary. Another local twist: Make a cheeseburger with Short’s Family Farm grass-fed beef and Off Kilter cheese, and serve with Kilt Lifter.”

Kathleen Kler

Jefferson County commissioner (District 3)

Hook Tender honey brown ale, 101 Brewery at Twana Roadhouse (Quilcene)

Pulled pork sandwich from Quilcene’s Gear Head Deli; smoked by owners Larry and Debbie Williams, with fresh sides and a dill pickle (294963 U.S. Hwy. 101, 301-3244)

“Even though I am county commissioner, my dream job is food critic. I have been a disciple for years of a local beer expert, who shall remain unnamed for his privacy. Sometimes eating by myself, concentrating only on the food and drink, is the most restorative activity I can do. A messy, juicy sandwich is a challenge to eat in public in the midst of conversations and greetings. To savor each bite, each swallow of well-crafted and lovingly prepared food and drink, is an essential part of living well and in the moment. Enough of the philosophy; the pulled pork is spicy enough to call for a brown, hearty ale. And, not surprisingly, the spice of the pork is heightened by the honey tones of the Hook Tender, which is caramelly and roasty, yet smooth. The sandwich size is very generous, the bread fresh and chewy, so having a growler handy keeps the glass full enough for those long, cold swallows to wash down the flavors.”

Tim Nebel

Co-owner of Getables; former Water Street Brewing employee

Grapefruit IPA from Ghostfish Brewing Company (Seattle)

Carrot cake from Courtyard Cafe (230 Quincy St., 379-3355)

“The Northwest craft beer choice for one of my favorite local pairings is the coppery, award-winning, gluten-free grapefruit IPA from Ghostfish Brewing Company in Seattle, a dedicated gluten-free brewery. I love its edgy notes of grapefruit, ginger and peppercorn. What I don’t miss is the general sense of bloat I get these days after dusting off a brew. Ghostfish products are available at Getables, the Pourhouse and the Port Townsend Food Co-op. The food choice involved in my favorite local pairing is the decadent carrot cake made by Heidi over at the Courtyard Cafe. The positive response we received when serving her carrot cake for our three-year anniversary was unparalleled! If an IPA paired with carrot cake sounds odd, give it a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised! First off, Heidi's carrot cake is the perfect balance and proportion of velvety cream cheese frosting and savory, moist carrot cake. It’s sweet, but not overly so. And, when paired with the bright, bracing bitterness of the grapefruit IPA, all the positive aspects of both are noticeably enhanced. The India pale ale serves to prepare, elevate and refresh the palate. Take a sip before, during and after a nibble ... you’ll see what I mean.”

Amy Howard

Port Townsend City Council member; executive director, The Boiler Room; former Water Street Brewing Company employee

Avatar jasmine IPA from Elysian Brewing Company (Seattle)

Pork larb from Khu Larb Thai (225 Adams St., 385-5023)

“I have been cooking both professionally and as a hobbyist for 10 years. I love food science and understanding why some flavors work perfectly with others. I also have several friends who are making their own beer. I’m a food and beer nerd – bordering on snob. While my favorite beer from Elysian Brewing is Night Owl, it is a seasonal pumpkin ale and not currently available, so I hopped over to my second Elysian choice: the Avatar jasmine IPA. Most IPAs are too bitter for my palate, but Avatar sits at the lowest end of the IBU (international bitterness unit) spectrum allowed – only 43. For comparison, imperial IPAs can be up to 120 IBUs. The jasmine is right out front, bringing the floral note right to the top, and is followed by a nice warm malt. I grew up in a part of Eastern Washington where Thai food was completely unavailable and didn’t become introduced to the wild array of Thai flavors until I moved to Port Townsend in 2000. The only perfect meal I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant was at Khu Larb Thai – everything was perfectly prepared, and our service was down-to-the-second perfect. The go-to meal for my household after a busy day when nobody wants to cook is 123 Thai – and they are within walking distance of the Pourhouse if a meal is needed after a couple craft beers. I am what I generally refer to as a ‘zero-star girl,’ but my husband likes a spicy dish – especially with rice noodles. The Avatar worked nicely to calm the spice while elevating the flavor of the dish. In my opinion, hoppy beers can clash with spicy food by intensifying the heat and creating excess bitterness, but the low IBUs and sweetness of the malt in the Avatar create good contrast while the floral notes from the jasmine accentuate the same in the food.”

Carter Camp

Head brewer, Port Townsend Brewing Company

S.H.I.P. (Single Hop Imagination Pale) from Port Townsend Brewing Company (Port Townsend)

Bahn mi sandwich from Pho Thao Vietnamese Cuisine (2310 Washington St., 385-3240)

“This is a hoppy pale ale we brew at PT Brewing that features a different hop each time. I believe this pairs nicely with a bahn mi Vietnamese sandwich from Pho Thao. The pale ale has an assertive hop character, but not quite as hoppy as your typical Northwest IPA, and it has a lower alcohol content – only 5 percent, so think lunchtime pairing! I think the subtle bitterness and hop flavor pairs nicely with the seasoned meat (or tofu) and pickled vegetables on the bahn mi. Pale ales are relatively thirst-quenching, which works with this sandwich, as it comes with sliced jalapeños. I also recommend the hoisin and Sriracha sauces on the bahn mi.”

Robert Horner

Owner and brewer, Propolis Brewing

Spruce saison from Propolis Brewing (Port Townsend)

Cape Cleare salmon sandwich with pesto and a fried egg served on Pane d’Amore ciabatta from In Season Catering’s salmon wagon, with a side of Mt. Townsend Cirrus cheese

“The Spruce bursts with bright citrus notes that perfectly complement the fresh salmon. The ciabatta highlights the bready notes of the beer, and brings out the honey-glazed qualities of the spelt with which the beer is brewed. The Spruce saison is crisp and refreshing and finishes dry, with a light acidity that cuts the fats of the salmon, pesto and Cirrus. The cheese accentuates the creaminess of the beer, and also celebrates the myriad citrus flavors that dance between the beer and the cheese.

Availability: Spruce saison and other Propolis ales can be found around Port Townsend at The Food Co-op, Aldrich’s Market, The Wine Seller, Sweet Laurette Cafe & Bistro, Mt. Townsend Creamery, the Pourhouse, and always in vintage bottles and fresh on draft at Propolis Brewing’s just-opened taproom and brewery, at 2457 Jefferson St. In Season Catering grills at the Port Townsend Food Co-op on Thursdays, and Cape Cleare Fishery salmon is available there, as well as Aldrich’s Market.”

Scott Wilson

Publisher, Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader; “a globally recognized expert in tap beer”

Chet’s Gold golden ale from Port Townsend Brewing Company (Port Townsend)

CB's peanuts from CB's Nuts of Kingston, Washington (local grocery stores or the Pourhouse, 2231 Washington St., 379-5586)

“I like the PT Brewery golden ale – now called Chet’s Gold golden ale – because it is locally made, comes from Northwest pilsner, is lighter and is not an IPA, for which I have lost my taste. I also like Mac & Jack’s African amber and, if forced to drink from a bottle, Lagunitas Li’l Sumpin’ Sumpin’ ale, a pale wheat ale with a touch of pine. I used to be a big Guinness drinker, but now find it a bit thick. I sprint to the far side of the room when confronted with a fruity beer. At the Pourhouse, the beer varies with the taps, but I go for pilsners and ales. The food choice is easily CB’s peanuts; it’s hard to go back to regular, puny peanuts after you’ve had CB’s. They go with any cold beer. They are the size of sausages and easy to share. At Sirens, it’s always the nachos, which are perfect for feeding a group in the Moroccan style – i.e., get your fingers in there and dig. At the Uptown Pub & Blue Moose Uptown Grill, I’m a sucker for the Uptown burger with bacon-wrapped chipotle poppers – that’s my one burger for the month. At the Old Whiskey Mill, which used to be The Public House, the grilled cheese is a good beer companion.”

Dominic Svornich

Co-owner, Cellar Door

Avatar jasmine IPA from Elysian Brewing Company (Seattle)

Not-So-Plain Jane with pickled jalapenos from Dogs-A-Foot (closed in winter); or barbecue pork bahn mi from Pho Thao Vietnamese Cuisine (2310 Washington St., 385-3240)

“My wife, Stephanie, and I own Cellar Door, a local restaurant, bar and music venue, and I’ve been a home brewer for 10-plus years. Food and beer are two of my biggest passions in life, much to the detriment of my waistline. To be honest, I’ve only had this combination once … but man, it was good. The Avatar is a perfectly balanced IPA for spicy food. It’s brewed with jasmine and is one of my favorite beers of all time. The floral notes are delicate but still cut through even strong flavors, like spicy hot dogs or barbecue, without any cloying sweetness. It’s hoppy and high octane enough without being too bitter, so it doesn’t overwhelm the palate. There’s just the right amount of flavor to balance aggressive food. I believe you can get the Avatar IPA in 22-oz. bottles at the Pourhouse, and I know it’s available at Aldrich’s Market, The Port Townsend Food Co-op, Safeway and QFC.”

Victor Paz

Co-owner, Olgita’s Tortillas y Mas; bartender and chief beer taster at Disco Bay Detour

Beltane golden elderflower saison brett from Propolis Brewing (Port Townsend)

Seafood from Key City Fish Company (307 10th St., 379-5516)

“I have become a huge fan of the Beltane elderflower saison brett for how wonderful it tastes and its versatility. I drink it during the cold, wet season, and during the dry, hot seasons of the Northwest. As for food, I like anything from steamed clams and mussels, like the ones at Doc’s Marina Grill, to grilled salmon citrus salad from Cape Cleare and my mom’s Guatemalan recipes. I find that Beltane pairs well with most foods because of its floral and citrus notes and light-to-medium body. It is less filling than my other go-to beers – the hoppy IPAs. The color and smell of Beltane create a visual and subtle tasting effect that holds up to robust seafoods and Latin American spices and, at the same time, it does not overpower mild foods like salmon and mild cheeses.”


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here