Creating Unforgettable Dining Experiences
The perfect food and beverage pairing can turn a great dinner into an unforgettable dining experience.
We believe that our beers can go toe-to-toe with any wine or spirit when it comes to food pairings. Our mixed culture provides a balanced acidity that can stand up to richer food, while not being so aggressive as to blow out a dish possessing nuanced and delicate flavors. Of course, our beers are certainly great on their own, but alongside the right foods they take on a whole new life. For example, we’ve had great results pairing our Blackberry Farmhouse with soy-sesame glazed duck breast and our Standard Farmhouse with truffled French eggs. Beer need not be relegated to sharing the table with pizza, nachos, and wings.
Given this love of finding creative ways to match our beers with food, we explored the idea of a food program at our taproom. Having our own restaurant would certainly give us the most control over pairing our beers, but after consideration, we decided we did not want to take on the burden of running a full-service restaurant during our first several years of operation. We feared that launching both at the same time would result in doing each below our full potential when we would rather provide exceptional beer service at our taproom.
That being said, we still wanted to find a way to showcase our beers next to amazing food. How could we not engage with one of the best food scenes in the country? Just this year, we’ve seen Junebaby win James Beard’s Best New Restaurant and Kamonegi win one of Eater’s 18 Best New Restaurants in America. We have people like Renee Erickson, Ethan Stowell, Matt Dillon, Rachel Yang, and Tom Douglas who have been running collections of wonderful restaurants for years. There are casual spots like Mean Sandwich, Little Uncle, and Il Corvo that focus on executing a selection of dishes perfectly every time. We have restaurants like Tarsan i Jane, Altura, and Canlis that prove that fine-dining can work in Seattle. And we’re lucky enough to have places like No Anchor and the Masonry focused specifically on thoughtfully pairing food and beer.
One way for us to collaborate with the city’s chefs would have been to plan tap takeovers and one-off dinners at restaurants across Seattle. We’ve seen many breweries do this to great success, but it didn’t seem like a sustainable way to ensure culinary experiences for our guests with consistency nor did it offer anything new to the city. Further, we’re committed to the idea of guests getting to experience our beers, at our taproom, on our own terms. Enter our pop-up kitchen.
Our pop-up kitchen at the Fair Isle taproom will allow us to play host to local chefs on a regular basis. Designed to be extremely versatile with a small footprint, our kitchen will have everything a chef would need to visit our space and create a special culinary experience. It won’t be the most expensive kitchen these chefs will ever have worked in, nor the biggest, but it may be the most unique. The kitchen will include portable induction burners, a steam/convection combi oven, a wood-fired Argentinian grill, cold storage, and plenty of extra space for appliances and other equipment. Its versatility means we can hide the kitchen behind sliding doors when not in use to create more space for taproom seating.
Once a month, we plan to invite a local chef to prepare a menu of their choice for just one night at our taproom. We know that not all chefs will approach these events in the same way and we look forward to those who will want to get creative with their structure for the night. Depending on the chef and their vision, these dinners could be anything from an intimate tasting menu for 20 guests to a single dish prepared for 100 diners. Given its infrequency and limited seatings, we don’t envision the pop-up program being a primary revenue generator for us in the same way a full-service restaurant would be. However, that’s not to say it won’t provide tremendous value for all parties involved.
One of the ways we are looking at growing the market for our beer is through food and these dinners provide us an opportunity to reach new audiences and introduce farmhouse beer to those who may never have experienced mixed culture beer before. We understand the pairing capabilities of mixed culture beers, but not all food lovers do. They’re probably more accustomed to wine pairings when eating tasting menu-style dinners. Our diners will leave our events excited about the potential of mixed culture beer.
For individuals with a greater familiarity with farmhouse beer, these pop-ups will provide an opportunity to be exposed to some of the city’s best food in a unique context. We want beer lovers to get excited about the food and chefs we’re excited about. Additionally, the dinners will offer beer drinkers a new context in which to enjoy our offerings.
The pop-up setting provides chefs with a fun and collaborative space to explore cuisine outside the confines of the restaurant at which they work. We aren’t looking to enforce rules upon our visiting chefs, so if someone wants to stick to classic dishes they have honed to perfection, that’s great, but if someone wants to use the dinner as a night to test out new dishes we will be equally excited. Our goal is to support the chef’s vision for the event.
Personally, we’re really excited about engaging with chefs and learning about their approach to flavors. While the two may seem different, there is a lot of overlap between our brewery and the chefs we hope to work with. We’re both interested in unique flavor combinations, sourcing local ingredients, and providing our guests with memorable experiences. We expect that our work with local chefs will have a big influence on the beers we make and flavors we create. We also don’t want these dinners to be one-off encounters with chefs. We hope to create relationships that produce further collaborations in the future.
And last but not least, these dinners will certainly provide a good excuse to dip into our cellar and break out some hard to come by beers for our guests.
-Sam Lehman | Fair Isle Pop-Up Coordinator