There are, of course, exceptions where the food aspires to the quality of the beer: Hopleaf in Chicago; RFD (Regional Food and Drink) in Washington, DC; beerbistro in Toronto, or Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia. These are “beer-centric” restaurants, whose owners appreciate that wonderful beers deserve great food.
But what about the opposite: how often do restaurant owners realize that great food deserves wonderful beer?
Beer and the Restaurant Experience
Many fine restaurants play up their wine selections, but hide their light under a beer barrel when it comes to other beverages. Patrons may not realize that good beer is even available, or that it would make an excellent choice with the fare. Food lovers are so accustomed to wine with a meal that diners and restaurant reviewers alike may not expect or notice that an excellent restaurant has—in addition to fine food and an extensive wine list—a strong beer selection. Restaurants don’t help when they make no mention of beer as an alternative.
Boston’s No. 9 Park, owned by Barbara Lynch, touts its wine program, yet it has attracted attention from beer lovers in the know for the quality of its beer selection. Ryan McGrale runs the beer program, which he admits is a fraction of the restaurant’s business.
But the dozen beers he stocks are all sought-after examples of the dozen different styles they represent. Diners asking for a Budweiser will be steered to a Jever pilsner, with its bitter finish, or a Brooklyn Lager. McGrale stocks the hefeweizen from German brewer Aventinus (“a richer, yeasty wheat beer”), Harpoon’s well-structured IPA, Maudite from Unibroue (“wonderful with hearty meats or sirloin”), Duvel (“what a wonderful food beer”), and Saison Dupont.
Large bottles of Cisco Whale’s Tale Pale Ale or Chimay Grand Reserve make an elegant statement that is completely at home in No. 9 Park’s Beacon Hill setting. And diners looking for unusual flavors to finish the evening can choose between a stout from De Dolle Brouwers, Lindemans Framboise, or Melbourn Brothers Apricot Ale.
“Lots of bars in this city have amazing beer lists. People come here to a famous place because they’re into the restaurant experience. The kitchen is preparing amazing food, our wine list is excellent: our beer selection should be, too.”