Interview: Chef Adam Dulye of the Brewers Association (@ SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience 6/1-6/2/18)

Chef Adam Dulye
Adam Dulye (Photo courtesy the Brewers Association)

The Brewers Association will present the 11th edition of SAVOR as the premier craft food and pairing event in the United States at the National Building Musuem, Friday, June 1, and Saturday, June 2. With each brewery offering at least two beers, SAVOR 2018 will feature more than 180 beers from across the country. (VIP tickets have sold out, but general admission tickets remain for both nights.)

And each of those beers is accompanied by a food pairing, devised by Chef Adam Dulye and his team. SAVOR recently published the list of food and beer pairings, and Parklife DC caught up with Adam to get more insights into how food and beer come together to make SAVOR such an exciting experience.

Mickey McCarter: I’ve been to Savor for the last few years, and I thought last year was the best one yet! What’s your perspective on that?

Adam Dulye: We make a lot of little changes every year. Last year, those changes culminated in something really notable. This year is going to do the same thing.

We have more menu items, and more flavors happening in the menu this year, than honestly we ever really have before. Part of that is due to the diversity of beer styles that are coming out at Savor. And that gives us the ability to start pushing a lot of different flavors and spices and seasonings and dishes. So we are going to be even better this year than we were last year.

MM: Interesting! Can you give us a sneak peek of some of those flavors and dishes?

AD: For sure! We got a lot of great stuff thrown at us this year at Savor. We really have some hazy IPAs coming into play. We have some interesting barrel-aged blends coming around. And historically a lot of people have either brewed a one-off beer for Savor or scheduled a release around Savor.

With hazy IPAs, we have a different approach than regular IPAs. We are going to use things like a green mole instead of approaching it directly with pepper. The heat works with the haze of that beer style. We are using a lot of pickled and fermented foods, and we have some dishes that are moving in different directions. We can appeal to the masses with some poultry dishes. We are going to bring in some Thai green chilies, and we are going to work with sugar cane instead of sugar. We are going to be smoking a few things from boar shoulder to celery root.

And we usually try to do a couple of things raw every year, whether it’s a tartar or a poke. This year, we found a supplier that enables us to do a venison carpaccio dish.

MM: Beers come in and out of style, don’t they! There at the Brewers Association, you have your finger on the pulse surely, but I was caught by surprise by the rise of sour beers a few years ago. When it comes to thinking ahead for food at Savor, are you ever surprised by the beers or are you always prepared?

AD: There’s always new things. With a lot of the new styles, sometimes we will push the envelope with things. But often, we will try to do something that’s a little bit more familiar to people. For a beer that has a lot of fruit notes, for example, we will draw a dish that is cleaner with it. The beer style is going to be new to a person’s palette, so we want to offer something familiar to complement it.

I can never go into Savor answering the question of what my favorite pairing is. We never know what the room is going to latch onto and we never know what’s going to take off because there’s always a different beer and a different bite that become popular. There’s such a range over the years that there is no way you could guess. That’s what makes it fun to do! But we do try to prepare as much as possible and communicate with the breweries and taste as many of the beers as we can so that we are more prepared. But there are definitely a few that catch us off guard.

MM: I recognize you cannot predict what will happen this year, but has there been a pairing that stood out to you in previous years? Something that you put together and then thought, wow, that worked really well!

AD: Of course, we’ve always had those. There’s one that caught us off guard a few years ago! Traditionally, desserts aren’t a big hit as a pairing item. People will go through them, but they have never been among the more popular ones. But two or three years ago, we did a strawberry-rhubarb tart, and we did it with a sour, a fruited wheat beer, and a couple of other beers. Midway through the night, everybody was buzzing around the room about that dish and the beers. I never would have guessed that would happen.

Looking at this year’s menu, there are a few dishes that I know are going to be a hit. We are doing a miniature version of a chile relleno to pair with a couple of beers that can take that spice. If you walk by and see a well-stuffed pepper, most people are going to want to eat that. We have a couple of different things that we are going to try differently like a poke. We are going to bring some dumplings into the menu also this year. So we will see where it goes. It always catches us a little off guard as to which pairing is a big hit each night. And there’s a difference between Friday and Saturday in what the room tends to like.

MM: Food and beer pairings and the idea that certain beers go well with certain foods really has gotten a lot of traction over the past few years, but people still don’t think of it at the level that they think of food and wine pairings. You see restaurants now that recommend beer pairings.

What do you do at the Brewers Association to promote the concept of pairing beer with food?

AD: We do a lot. We do Paired at the Great American Beer Festival. We are breaking Paired out as its own event in Los Angeles [in October].

It’s a constant conversation that we are having with our members. One of the places for significant growth with craft beer is in restaurants that have small beer lists and have room to grow them.

As American cuisine is becoming more and more defined, you now need to have a complete beverage program because people want the option of beer, wine, and spirits. You have all of these restaurants that are looking to increase their beer program, and the last thing we want is for somebody to go out and try a beer and then have a bad experience.

We really work to do a lot of education with our members and also with chefs and restaurants and with the public as much as we can about how and why beer goes well with food. And here are some places that can be great a-ha moments for people.

As we are coming into spring, for example, asparagus works well with beers as well as wine and spirits. A lot of the stone fruits coming into play really work well with the carbonation in some beers. So there are some things that work well.

One of the biggest things we emphasize: When you are bringing in somebody new to the beer, have something familiar for them to latch onto. With asparagus, most people may know what asparagus tastes like, but they may not have had a saison before. In order for them to experience what a saison can do, you want their brain to have the familiarity of what asparagus is because if everything is new, the chance of them liking it is a little bit less.

MM: Well, it sounds like we are in for a great Savor festival this week.

AD: We’re really looking forward to Savor this year. We’ve increased the number of breweries from last year. We have 90 breweries there. There will be 181 beers on the floor if we include the collaboration beer with Crux and Port City. We’re pushing the menu more, and we’re looking at what the breweries are pushing insofar as beer styles. This might be our most diverse year yet not only in terms of menu but in styles of beer that are going to be on the floor.

***

For more information, visit http://www.SavorCraftBeer.comBuy your tickets online.

SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience
National Building Museum
Friday, June 1
Saturday, June 2
Doors @ 7:30pm
$135 GA
21+

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