3 of a Kind: Chef-Driven Breweries

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Chefs are experimenting with culinary brewing, focusing on the flavors of the beers to pair with the cuisines that they serve. Food Network has the scoop.

3 of a Kind checks out three places across the country to try something cool, new and delicious.

Beer has long been the post-shift drink of choice for chefs, but it’s rarely been the front-runner for pairing with the food in their restaurants. That’s changing as chefs are experimenting with culinary brewing, focusing on the flavors and aromatics of the suds to pair with the specific cuisines that they serve. Seasonal produce, bold spices and pantry items are all fair game when it comes to seeking the perfect balance for a brew.

Arts District Brewing Company, Los Angeles

213 Hospitality, the popular restaurant group behind Varnish and Seven Grand, decided to venture into the craft brewing world with a 15-barrel brewhouse that’s also loaded with old-school games like Skee-Ball and darts, and food from another 213 restaurant, Fritzi. More than a dozen housemade brews are available, including the Botanical Mateo, made with gin botanicals from a local Los Angeles distillery. Another beloved option is Crunch Time. Roasted pecans are a star ingredient of this nut ale, which puts forward notes of milk chocolate, biscuit and, of course, pecan.

Malai Kitchen, Dallas

Owners Braden and Yasmin Wages channel the authentic flavors of Southeast Asia at their Texas restaurant. The detail-obsessed pair make curry paste and Sriracha from scratch, and use a Vietnamese rotary grater to produce their coconut milk. It’s no surprise, then, that the duo’s dedication extends to the beers they serve. When they couldn’t find anything similar to Bia Hoi, the rice lager they enjoyed in Vietnam, they decided to learn how to brew it themselves. They now have a handful of in-house creations that feature the flavors they love, including the Thai-P-A with notes of lemongrass, kaffir lime and galangal, and a Viet Coffee Stout.

Cruz Blanca, Chicago

Chicago is a hotbed of culinary brewing, largely thanks to Moody Tongue’s Jared Rouben — a Culinary Institute of America graduate and former head brewmaster for Goose Island — who has helped more than 50 chefs create beer for their restaurants. Many of them have gone on to start breweries of their own, including Chef Rick Bayless, who has poured his renowned talents with Mexican flavors into Cruz Blanca, a Mexico City-inspired brewery and taqueria. A handful of the suds brewed on-site pull in the traditional tastes of Mexico. For instance, cocoa bean husks from the chocolate program at Xoco (another Bayless establishment) are used to create a rich porter known as the Winnow. Local flavors come into play with brews such as La Guardia Rubia, a golden ale made with Illinois honey.

Photos courtesy of Arts District Brewing Company, Kevin Marple and Huge Galdones