Beer goes back a long way. Indeed, the fermented version recognizable today is around 3,000 years old. This “liquid bread” was both sustenance and a means by which to avail oneself of safe drinking water. From the outset then, beer was food, and food was beer.
Fast-forward and head a long way west, and we find ourselves in contemporary Fort Worth, a city somewhat rampant with crazy beer and food mash-ups. Most frequently, we find beer with food flavors or ingredients. These pairings can be innocuous and harmonious, like a coffee porter, a honeyed lager, or one of the many centuries-old fruit beers. Things become a little more outré when cookies and cream find their way into a frosty adult beverage, or tomatillo and hatch chile crash a seasonal party.
On the opposite side of the equation, we all love beer cheese, right? There is something elemental about gooey cheese dip infused with flavor-enhancing ale, to which a warm pretzel (roll) serves as a perfect conduit. There are myriad uses of beer to enhance familiar foodstuffs. One of my current favorites is the stack of caramelized onions infused with Billy Jenkins Bock from Wilde Acre Brewing Company found atop the Guajillo Burger at Fred’s Texas Café. West Magnolia Avenue mainstay Brewed twists a Southern staple, slathering biscuits with IPA sausage gravy. Friends insist it is delicious.
There are more recent developments in the story of food loves beer and beer loves food. Out of left field, Renfro Foods gave Rahr and Sons the rose when selecting the brewery’s Texas Red American Amber beer for Renfro’s Craft Beer Salsa. Per Doug Renfro, the president of the Fort Worth salsa maker, the beer salsa has quickly risen to No. 8 of their 30 spicy sauce offerings, outselling many well-established flavors. Doug emphasized the importance of teaming up with a local business that is “only a stone’s throw from our factory.”
August saw the launch of Martin House Brewing’s latest innovative beer alchemy. Not content with simply releasing their latest leftfield seasonal beer, the Fort Worth brewmasters teamed up with pickle kings Best Maid. The result was a simultaneous release of a new beer and a new pickle product. Using fan favorite Salty Lady Gose as its base, the novel Sour Pickle Beer features triple digits-friendly Best Maid pickle juice.
It was August, hot as hell, and the rehydrating properties of pickle juice are well established. My sweaty gose-loving friends and colleagues were highly excited. Then they tasted the beer. I have spoken with many a quaffer of local beers about this latest from Martin House, and nobody likes it. Meanwhile, Best Maid unleashed their Craft Beer Pickle, canned just down the road from the house of Salty Lady. Per the promotional blurb, the new pickle is “modeled after the inclusions in the Salty Lady brewing process.” Accordingly, the tasting notes make claims of “toasted coriander, lemon zest, and added sour” to mimic the flavor profile of the gose. I have tasted the product, and it is just fine. I am most impressed by the effort and the ideas rather than the outcomes, which can change and improve over time.
Across our fast-growing and changing city, beer-focused businesses are working with up-and-coming food-forward outlets to enhance each other’s offerings to would-be customers. It is not a massive stretch to suggest that both Heim Barbecue and Panther City BBQ would not be ripping up meat trees without initial support from the team behind Republic Street Bar. Both Q maestros started in the food truck in front of the bar at 201 E. Hattie St. Panther City recently opened their first brick-and-mortar restaurant on the same plot, and Heim has become a standout on Magnolia and recently opened a second venue. HopFusion Ale Works supports a rotating list of food trucks, while the same can be said for myriad bars, from hipster joints to dives with kick-ass taco vans out front. Beer and food are evidently natural bedfellows.
The wider story here could well be that local businesses are teaming up, realizing that we are stronger together. In the serious business of making a buck, business folks have woken up to the idea that Fort Worth can set its paw print on the consciousness of the nation, hell, the world, by building mutually supportive brands that excel. Quality products flourish under the bright lights of fresh ideas. The results are intriguing. The possibilities, endless.