Flathead Lake Brewing Company – Missoula Perfectly Pairs Beer and Bites at Brewer’s Dinner


Last Friday I was fortunate enough to drench my taste buds in some very fine food and beer pairings at the first ever Brewer’s Dinner at Flathead Lake Brewing Company – Missoula (424 N. Higgins). To say that these specialized dinners and beer pairings are trending right now would be an understatement.

Across the country, breweries are gearing up for American Craft Beer Week (May 16-22) and a major part of the lineup of celebrations will include head chefs and head brewers working together to produce perfectly paired multi-course meals.

Far from a random mixing and matching of ingredients, a true brewer’s dinner, as I experienced at FLBC-Missoula, is an artistic expression that brings out the best in both edibles and fermented beverages. Over a four- or five-course meal, key ingredients on each plate are crafted from the ales with which they are paired or are designed to accompany the subtleties of each beer.

At the FLBC-Missoula Brewer’s Dinner, our host for the evening was none other than the brewery’s brewmaster, Tim Jacoby, who came down from Wood’s Bay to walk us through the evening’s bounty, which looked a little something like this:

First Course: FLBC Saison and Centennial IPA

  • Cowboy Pot Stickers – Charred Bison marinated in FLBC Centennial IPA, caramelized shallots and cranberries wrapped in Asian Gyoza wrappers and served with a Chili Peach FLBC Saison jam.

Second Course: FLBC Wheat Ale

  • Tabbouleh Salad – Bulgar wheat, tomatoes, green onions, cucumber and fresh herbs served with a Poppyseed FLBC Wheat Ale dressing.

Third Course: FLBC Brown Ale

  • FLBC Brown Ale Braised Short Ribs – Served on top of a FBLC Brown Ale mustard sauce with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and a seasonal veggie.

Fourth Course: FLBC Espresso Porter

  • Chocolate FLBC Stout Cake

By dinner’s end my table-mates were begging FLBC-Missoula’s owner, Sandy Clare, for the scrapings of the Stout Cake pan and still licking their forks for any remnants of the short ribs. As Tim Jacoby explained each pairing and the qualities of each of his beers, it was clear to me and the others at the sold-out event that beer and fine food are entering into a new realm of their long relationship – one that had previously been dominated by the wine/food connoisseurs.

Jacoby’s approach to his beers is a truly American one. From an appreciation for the hardworking Belgian farmers who first crafted the Saison, to the American-style IPA quintuple-hopped exclusively with American Centennial hops and brewed in honor of Glacier National Park’s 100-year anniversary, to the unfiltered American-style hefeweizen brewed with American barley and wheat, to the malt-forward Brown Ale that was perfectly paired to the short ribs, and down to the rich, lustrous Espresso Porter that is infused with Montana-roasted Colter Coffee and which everyone sipped in quiet splendor while devouring their jet black Stout Cake.

The evening was also accompanied by fine jazz music and the scene was set with terrific service and an unparalleled view of Missoula from the upper loft of the Sapore building. When and if this event comes back, and owner Sandy Clare hinted to me it would (at least twice a year), tickets will go fast and the food surely be at least as fabulous, so don’t hesitate attend the next one.

A Primer on Pairing Food with Beer

If you want impress your next gaggle of dinner guests, here are a few tips from Craftbeer.com for matching brews with foods.

  • Match strength with strength. A delicate dish deserves a delicate beer, and vice versa.
  • Explore harmonies. If a beer and food share a common aroma or flavor, match them.
  • Consider all things. A food and a beer’s sweetness, bitterness, carbonation (in beer), heat (spice) and richness should balance with each pairing.
  • Go classic. Different country’s cuisines have long been matched to beers. For example, schnitzel and a pale lager is a match made in…Germany.
  • Practice, practice, practice. If something doesn’t work, then you have discovered an excuse to drink more beer and eat more food until you get it right.
  • Consider the seasons. Many beers and all vegetables are seasonal. Think light summers and dark winters.
  • Contrast and complement. Think balance, think hand-holding, think yummy thoughts.

As a final note, beer hop bitterness emphasizes spiciness, sweet maltiness balances acidity, and roasted malts balance fatty foods. For even more on the subject, I highly recommend the book, The Best of American Food and Beer: Pairing and Cooking with Craft Beer, by Lucy Saunders.


Check out the video I shot of the event.


Back to the Drink It blog home page.

Click here to see Ryan’s “Drink It” archive.


Ryan Newhouse has lived in Missoula since 2002 and has tipped his glass in most of the town’s establishments. He is a full-time writer, husband and parent (in no particular order) and a part-time zymurgist. He makes a mean hard cider and pairs his cocktails with dishes from his blog, Cooked Animals: Recipes for Wild Game.