If you caught my first article in DGO, you’ll remember that I am a fan of pairing drinks with food. Beer, wine, cocktails, chocolate milk – the drink options are endless. So, naturally, there was no way in hell I was going to miss CRAFT: An Evening with El Moro & Ska Brewing last Thursday (Dec. 7). This was the second time Ska and El Moro collaborated for such a feast, and after the last outing, it was no surprise they were sold out.
I sauntered in about a half hour early to pregame. It’s no secret that I am close with the El Moro crew so they let me in through the back. As Kurt (one of their managers) and I enjoyed shots of Fernet Branca, a group of Ska and El Moro employees began to gather behind me. It was time for El Moro’s executive chef, Sean Clark, to rally the troops. He introduced himself and thanked everyone for coming out to work the event.
“This should be a lot of fun,” he said. “That’s the most important part.”
There was passion in his voice as he continued: “CRAFT. This is all about everything we do. The food we make; we do it with heart. The beer you guys make; you make it with heart. The whole point of this thing is to spread that infection with everybody.”
This is why I love events like this. Seeing local artists (that’s right, beer is an art, too) put their heart and soul into their creations gives me the warm and fuzzies. It’s even better when two of them come together to bring something unique to our little community. The gleaming smiles on all of the El Moro and Ska employees’ faces reflected how this wasn’t a normal work day. This was something special.
At 7 p.m., the doors opened and in came the hungry ticket-holders. There were six stations set up throughout the restaurant, each having a dish along with a carefully selected Ska brew to pair it with.
The first station that caught my eye was near the back. There stood a literal fountain of gravy. I floated over to it like a cartoon character being lifted off his feet by an enticing aroma. They placed a waffle made of stuffing on a plate, topped that with a slice of turducken (layered chicken, duck, and turkey) then drizzled savory gravy all over it. I took a bite much larger than is socially acceptable then washed it down with a gulp of Buster Nut Brown Ale. I was in heaven. The roasted pecan notes and sweetness of the ale complimented the rich flavors of the dish. The carbonation cleansed the fat that had overwhelmed my palate and left only the spices and herbs to intermingle with the nutty finish of the beer.
Take note, future beer pairers: Darker brews like nut brown ales and rich foods generally go very well together. If you’re having turkey and gravy again later this holiday season, bring a brown ale or a porter to go with it.
After the turducken umami bomb, I needed something sweet to change gears. Just past the gravy fountain was a station serving tiny, champagne-poached caramel apples with Maldon sea salt paired with Ska’s Sour Apple Gose. The salted caramel was intense at first, but the astringency of the apple cut right through it. The salted, sour brew cut through it even further, allowing for the next bite to taste as delicious as the last.
I could go on for days about the other four pairing stations, but that’s not what this is about. I want you to get out there and pair items yourself. Start easy and work your way up to adventurous. If you have the means, go to every event like this that you can. It’s not just a great time, it’s a celebration of local craft. We have so many talented professionals making world-class food and beer in this town, it would be a crime not to take advantage of these opportunities.
Sean Moriarty has been drinking craft beer since before he was legally allowed to. He managed and bartended at Steamworks Brewing Co. from 2007-2017 and currently manages their digital marketing.