In mid-March, when the coronavirus threw everyone for a loop, Utah breweries pivoted in a variety of ways. A six-week shutdown to help slow the spread of COVID-19 meant business-as-usual, well, wasn’t.
For Bewilder Brewing, which opened its doors just three months prior to the March 2020 shutdown, that meant a quick shift in strategy. It suddenly became more difficult to sell “beer across our own bar,” as brewer and founder Cody McKendrick had envisioned.
Creativity won the day, and Utah’s craft beer drinkers and fresh food enthusiasts became the ultimate beneficiaries of the shift.
The downtown Salt Lake brewery refocused its website to emphasize curbside food to-go. Growlers and Crowler® cans became staples for beer purchases. And Bewilder packaged its popular sausages for customers to cook at home.
Once spring turned to summer, Bewilder began creating a calendar of socially distanced events. Its flagship offering proved to be intimate monthly beer pairing dinners.
Started in June and usually held the last Tuesday of each month (check Bewilder’s event calendar for scheduling during the holidays), these small gatherings help to showcase the brewery’s craft beer and its gourmet menu.
For diners, it’s a delicious way to learn more about flavor profiles and how different beers complement various dishes.
Beer Pairing: Blending Science, Art
“The theme of tonight’s dinner is goodbye summer, hello fall,” chef Justin Field explained ahead of the October beer pairing dinner.
Scroll to see the full beer pairing menu served at October’s event. And learn more about the Bewilder Brewing story here.
The first course featured tilapia ceviche bursting with bright flavors reminiscent of summer. But with the next dish, a beer soup, the palate transitioned to fall.
A specially selected beer accompanied each course, of course. For Round 1, Bewilder’s Hazy Boi — a fruit-forward pale ale — aimed to cut through the ceviche’s acidity.
“The hazy IPAs (are brewed with a) water chemistry that allows the bitterness to be softened,” McKendrick explained. “They’re brewed with late-hop additions to preserve aromatic qualities.”
The perfectly paced meal featured a pork loin cutlet with lemon butter caper sauce as its main course.
Between the final courses, McKendrick offered to give diners a tour of the 10-barrel brewhouse. He highlighted some of the brewery’s differentiators, including a reverse osmosis water system and, as a homebrew shop owner, the ability to source a wide variety of ingredients.
“An RO water system allows us to replicate the exact water profile for different beers,” he says. “Historically, beers became what they are because they were brewed with ingredients that were regionally available. We want to showcase those as much as possible.”
Bewilder Brewing Dinner, October 2020
Here’s the menu offered in October. It included five courses and four eight-ounce beer samples ($50 per person, or $40 without beer).
Of course, each month will feature different dishes and beers. A vegetarian option is available, which diners may request when making reservations.
Keep an eye on Bewilder’s website for upcoming events.
- First Course: Adiós al Verano, Hola al Otoño. Plantain tostada with tilapia ceviche, fennel and beetroot, with roasted corn and pepita salsa. Beer Pairing: Hazy Boi IPA
- Second Course: Biersuppe. Bewilder Kölsch, Beehive Promontory Cheddar and caraway grissini. Beer Pairing: Patersbier
- Main Course: Scallopini. Pork loin cutlet with lemon butter caper sauce served with saltbox potatoes and winter squash risotto. Beer Pairing: Amber Ale on Nitro
- Palate Cleanser: Raspberry Sour Sorbet.
- Dessert: Calabaza en Tacha. Candied pumpkin in caramel sauce with cream. Beer Pairing: Pumpkin Spiced Mild
Elsewhere Around Town…
Beer pairing dinners aren’t new to the Utah craft beer scene. Avenues Proper hosted a series of popular “cellar” dinners pre-COVID. In fact, its latest outpost — Stratford Proper — is celebrating its two-year anniversary with a pairing dinner of its own.
And, Bewilder’s chef Field will temporarily share his talents with Hopkins Brewing for a pairing dinner at the Sugar House brewery on Dec. 20, 2020.