By total chance, I happened upon a promotional flyer from downtown Hartford’s newest burger joint, Burger Baby, promoting a beer dinner paired with many of the imported offerings from the Heineken USA (we call it HUSA) portfolio. I was thrilled to have an evening off and attend the beer dinner and, now, share my experiences with you so you can recreate this exceptional beer pairing experience at home. Heineken USA has made great strides to put more feet on the street by sending educated draught experts into bars, restaurants and pubs to demonstrate the benefits of serving this portfolio of beers on tap. Here’s the breakdown:
Upon entering Burger Baby and taking up a seat at the bar, I was greeted with a bottle of Sol and appetizer plate of grilled shrimp skewers. The combination of the refreshingly crisp beer and shrimp charred over the grill transported me immediately away from the chaos of the work day and into a relaxed state of mind. The first round with my Sol (other customers were enjoying a Heineken Light instead) was capped off with another set of appetizers; popcorn chicken in two complementing soy and buffalo sauces.
We were then seated for dinner, in a very dimly lit corner (that explains the terrible photos, my apologies!) of the restaurant accented with paraphernalia about from the different HUSA brands – polo and t-shirts, bottle openers, a Newcastle mirror and a cardboard standup of The Most Interesting Man In the World himself embraced us aw we took our seats. Once seated, the next beer presented was a Dos Equis Lager paired with a Burger Baby house salad. The Dos Equis poured a beautiful golden color with a thin foam lace on top and the crisp texture of the beer really played up well with the bright colors and flavors of the salad.
Next out was a draught pint from Heineken, the world’s most international beer brand. This premium European style lager was presented with a seared rare tuna with a wasabi aioli over a daikon radish and carrot salad in a light soy and sesame vinaigrette. The pairing actually gets my vote for the best course of the evening! The mild malt sweetness in the middle (I find you get this more with Heineken served on draught rather than from the bottle) really cut through the powerful horseradish in the aioli and truly made the tuna the star of the dish. I absolutely loved this combination and hope to try something similar again in the near future.
Now I was really geared up for our next course – the burger! – paired with Newcastle’s Limited Edition Winter IPA. Zesty in character and jam-packed with a creamy finish, this British-style India Pale Ale expression is full-bodied, hoppy (far less so than the American counterpart) and holds up quite well against a juicy burger dripping with flavorful toppings and sauces. While the pairing itself was quite
fantastic, I was quite underwhelmed by the burger itself, a Burger Deluxe covered with a hot smoked paprika and chipotle aioli. The burger was far too rare for my personal tastes, especially after having just been served a rare fish course just before, I was hoping for a burger a bit more cooked through. But, again, the pairing itself was really pretty stellar. This is a great beer to introduce your friends to who say they don’t like IPAs – while its has its fair share of hops, its IBU rating is far less bitter than many American-brewed counterparts (not that there’s anything wrong with those – I personally love them!).
Lastly we turned to dessert, where I was presented with “The One and Only” – a draught of Newcastle Brown Ale. Served in a traditional Geordie Schooner glass, this leading imported ale was presented alongside a rich chocolate brownie sundae. I went into the meal assuming this would be my favorite pairing and it certainly met my expectations! The English pale and dark caramel malts together make Newcastle Brown one of my go-to choices for a dessert pairing.
I truly had a fantastic experience dining with Burger Baby and the Heineken USA and hope to see more events in the area again soon highlighting this fantastic portfolio of beers. If you have food pairing questions or advice to share using these or other assortments of beers, please leave me a comment as I would love to hear your feedback!