Last month, I had the opportunity to attend a Goose Island beer dinner at iNG Restaurant. While there, I realized that the folks at iNG, particularly Executive Chef Tim Havidic and General Manager Trevor Rose-Hamblin, were embracing craft beer as well as any high-end establishment could. Though their draft menu is on the smaller side, it was filled with great options like Evil Twin Brewing "Yin." But, above and beyond that, Tim and Trevor were both visibly excited to be working with beer people and creating experiences that brought fine dining and beer together harmoniously.
After finishing what I regard as one of the best beer dinners I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying, I decided that I needed to learn more about how it came about. I wanted to pick Tim and Trevor's brains regarding fine dining and how they felt beer fit into it. I peppered them both with a handful of questions so that we could all learn a bit from the perspective of an Executive Chef and General Manager in the industry. Read on to see what Tim and Trevor had to say about beer, fine dining and how to two can continue coming together.
Why do you think it has taken so long for high-end establishments to embrace the craft beer movement?
Tim Havidic: I believe that most every restaurant has been in the mind set that food should only be paired with wine. Along with that, I grew up thinking wine was meant for special occasions and beer was for the everyday consumption. I think that this is crazy because beer can be just as complex and interesting in its flavors, aromas, sweetness, and acidity levels. In my opinion, it's well overdue for beer to be show cased in restaurants alongside wonderfully flavorful dishes.
Trevor Rose-Hamblin: Believe it or not, a lot of fine dining establishments have been embracing the beer movement, but in small ways. It might be one of the pairings on a fine dining beverage progression, or maybe it’s a nice beer list. I think it’s taken a long time to get to this point, because beer suffered post prohibition with yellow, fizzy stuff in the states which gave beer a bad name. In the past 20 years craft beer has been on the rise, and different beer fads have come and gone and now we have a cornucopia of beer styles and brewers right in our own back yard. I think that high-end restaurants have no choice but to embrace the inevitable fact that beer is here to stay.
Where do you see craft brewers best fitting in with high-end establishments going forward?
Tim Havidic: I see craft brewers being approached to brew beer specifically for certain menu items or seasons. It would be a great opportunity for both companies to collaborate and reach out to the beer lovers of the world.
Trevor Rose-Hamblin Fine dining/high end restaurants want quality at the end of the day. I think these restaurants are going to start putting more local, fresh beer on their lists as the market keeps expanding because we now have access to fresh beer. There are so many breweries popping up in Chicago, that the choices for any kind of beer are right here! If you want high-end aged sours, or if you want a simple, proper lager, Chicago brewers are making those and everything in between. Furthermore, there are some foods out there that beer is better suited for as compared to wine.
How do you think craft brewers should approach establishments they would like to collaborate with?
Tim Havidic: I think the two companies should treat the collaboration like menu development. Get together to discuss ideas and find out what flavors the brewer likes or is accustomed to as well as the chef. More ideas exchanged will create an environment where possibilities would be endless and everyone has gained knowledge.
Trevor Rose-Hamblin Most of the brewers are usually too busy to reach out to restaurants. I personally reach out to the brewers myself for our collaborations. I don't just offer ideas, I offer my labor as well. When we do our collaborations with these breweries I am in the brew house throwing down. They enjoy the extra help, and the collaboration becomes more special for myself and our team. For brewers, give us a call, tell us you're interested and I will come to you!
Are there key attributes in the beer you're looking for before you're willing to collaborate with a brewer (creativity, variety of styles produced, etc...)?
Tim Havidic: Creativity, and the willingness to experiment with new or unexpected ingredients. When you experiment the possibilities for creativity are endless. When you are creative, I find that more people are interested in your brand.
Trevor Rose-Hamblin: I think brewers are naturally creative, but at the end of the day it is a craft first. I am a beer fan-boy and I know which breweries that I want to work with through extensive research at my home, brew-pubs and bars :) If the beer is good, I like to embrace what makes their brewery special and highlight this for our events. Each brewery tends to have its own personality. We are currently working with Pipeworks Brewing for a collaboration and those guys have BIG personality! I like risk-takers like them, but I also respect the brewers who focus on classic styles and making them with a tip of the hat to the past while using technology to improve on what is already good.
Is there a local brewery that you would love the opportunity to work with?
Tim Havidic: 5 Rabbit Cerveceria. Really any local business I would love to collaborate with. Local businesses should really help each other out and build relationships. It's good for business and the community.
Trevor Rose-Hamblin Many! And we are! We have worked with DryHop, and we are currently working with Pipeworks, Temperance, Goose Island and Ale Syndicate. I have my sights set on Begyle, Local Option, Spiteful, and 18th Street just to name a few.
What have you been drinking lately? Anything new or interesting that has been a go-to beer of late?
Tim Havidic: Lil Sumpin Sumpin by Lagunitas. Any sour ale, I've been going through a sour ale thing for the past month. It's really unique to me in terms of beer.
Trevor Rose-Hamblin: I have been drinking Spiteful's Alley Time Pale Ale out of the can, and I have been working my way through the single hop Ninja series by Pipeworks as well. I dig the small, self-distributing companies. I usually go see my buddy, Freddy at Capone's. He likes to carry super local beer that is hard to get. I just ask him what he's loving and he always puts together an interesting mix for me.
Extra Commentary from Tim & Trevor
Tim Havidic: Beer lovers should be ready for some unexpected flavors and techniques in the new menu. I made a sour dough bread starter from a beer yeast and beer that will make an appearance on the menu and I am rather excited about it! Go beer!!!
Trevor Rose-Hamblin: There will be as many beer collaborations with this beer menu. Everything will be cooked with beer and there will be 8 pairings in total. A couple beer cocktails and craft beer. If it’s not from Chicago, or Chicago-land areas, it won't be on the pairing. We are honoring beer in its totality by embracing the local community of brewers. Each collaboration we do, the beer that we brew is going to be brewed specifically to be paired with one of Chef Tim Havidic's beer menu items. So far, the brewers that I have on board are very excited and I am doubly excited to be working with them. We will have many nights where these local breweries bring in their portfolio and we celebrate their beer by only featuring their beer plus the collab that we worked on together. It’s going to a lot of fun!
iNG Restaurant can be found at 951 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607. They offer dinner service Wednesday through Saturday, and they've recently decided to start doing a Sunday brunch.
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