Beer & Sear is a special feature brought to you monthly by Bill’s Bar & Burger in Downtown Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Network. Each month, we take a burger appearing on Bill’s menu and pair it with a local Pittsburgh beer to discover how well they work together. Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and you damn well should): Get to Bill’s pronto and test out the pairing for yourself!
As we get ready to wind down 2016 and roll into the Christmas season, it’s only fitting this month’s Beer and Burger Pairing in collaboration with Bill’s Bar & Burger features “a few of my favorite things,” to use the parlance of our times.
First of all, let’s talk about what’s in between the buns. Venison. The only time I’ve ever encountered a deer I didn’t like was when I had to shell out my insurance deductible when one of these graceful creatures decided to go on an early winter rogue suicide mission against the front end of my car. Outside of that, deer meat has always been near the top of my list of favorites (never to surpass bacon and beef, but making a strong push). I’ve never once been hunting, but have had connections that have provided venison for steaks, stews, and more throughout my life. And this month, Bill’s has a venison-inspired burger center stage. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is enough to make anyone jolly.
Next, Troeg’s Mad Elf. I honestly can’t pinpoint the first time I experienced this holiday classic, but that’s probably because I experienced it in way too much excess. Yeah, so what…it’s the holidays! Tipping the scales at 11% ABV and chock full of all the flavors and spices that makes Christmas Christmas, Mad Elf is a beer I find myself pining for as the frigid winter air starts to blow. Each sip warms the blood and, for whatever reason, makes me spontaneously quote National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation lines.
“That’s pretty low, Mister. If I had a rubber hose, I would beat you…”
Finally, I love Christmas. Since my Grandpa passed away in 2007, I’ve taken over the responsibility of cooking Christmas dinner: Manicotti, homemade sauce, and meatballs. To me, just the preparation of this dinner and knowing I’m carrying on my Grandpa’s holiday legacy in the kitchen is better than any gift I could ever receive.
In addition, every Christmas Eve, my family gathers around the TV with shrimp, calamari, and other fish (this year I’m introducing octopus to the fold) and watches the aforementioned Christmas Vacation. It’s the traditions and the memories that make this time of year so special. Not the gifts, not the Hatchimals, not the Tickle Me whatevers.
So…a burger and a beer that captures the essence of the season? You’re damn right I’m going to get excited about that. And thankfully, you get to enjoy it at Bill’s the rest of this month and get excited about it, too!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Let’s talk beer and burgers. Save the neck for me, Clark.
The Burger: Santa’s Burger
The Beer: Troeg’s Mad Elf
Bill’s Bar & Burger in Pittsburgh is one of five locations in the Bill’s family and has been part of our community for just over a year. They also have destinations in Downtown New York, New York’s Meatpacking District, Rockefeller Center, and Atlantic City, as well as a high-end steakhouse in Las Vegas. The theme behind Bill’s is to present approachable, yet elevated food items with burgers leading the charge combined with a laid-back, “every-man’s” approach to adult libations. With over 1.9 million burgers sold, Bill’s is dedicated to consistently creating memorable experiences for their guests while offering the best our local beer scene has to offer. They source locally as much as possible and feature an extensive lineup of local beers and spirits for your enjoyment.
About The Burger
Santa’s Burger consists of a venison patty topped with provolone cheese, cranberry ketchup, shredded lettuce, tomato, red onions, and herb mayo. This burger is served with roasted carrots and verde salsa.
About The Beer
Mad Elf is one of my Christmas time favorites and one I seek out every time the temperature dips below a certain point. The ruby red color and notes of cinnamon, allspice, and clove absolutely capture the essence of the season. In addition to pairing Mad Elf with Santa’s Burger, I’ve found Mad Elf works wonderfully with repeated screenings of Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Elf, A Christmas Story, and, the greatest Christmas movie of them all: Christmas Vacation. As if I hid that preference up to this point…
Why Your Holiday Isn’t Complete Until You’ve Had This Combo
OK, so not every reindeer can be so lucky to guide Santa’s sleigh through cold, wintery mixes or even go so far as playing a supporting role in the dubious job of worldwide toy delivery in one night accomplished. Those deer not working hard Christmas night help bring us delicious nourishment, much like the Santa Burger you absolutely need to enjoy.
The venison patty in Santa’s Burger is a bit more firm than your typical beef patty, most likely due to venison being a much more lean meat. But, at the same time, it’s very juicy and extremely tasty. The thick slice of provolone melted over said patty put this burger over the top and the cranberry ketchup was IN-CRED-I-BLE. It plays perfectly off the herb mayo and delivers an amazing flavor punch.
The red onions are powerful and any fan of onion will be impressed with the flavor it adds to this creation. However, there was a point where I had finished the onion, but still had a few bites of burger left. The true flavor of the venison shined sans the onion balance. Mild saltiness, savory texture, lean burger goodness. Definitely a winner, with or without the onion.
Believe it or not, I’m in weight-loss mode. So, a side of roasted carrots and verde salsa was a welcome compliment as opposed to the fries I’m accustomed to consuming. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my fries and highly recommend any that Bill’s has to offer (Sweet Potato Waffle Fries are sent from Heaven…just saying), but the carrots are simply glorious! Light sweetness and balanced nicely with the mild salsa makes for an exceptional alternative to your traditional burger side.
Now, the beer. Mad Elf compliments many things, and Santa’s burger is no exception. The malt-forward sweetness and aforementioned Christmas spices found in each sip of this beer cleanse the palate well. Santa’s Burger delivers the perfect amount of savor and salt, Mad Elf counter-punches with the sweet. If you could put a bow on this tandem, every person on your shopping list would be smiling around the tree Christmas morning.
Santa’s Burger and Mad Elf will be available through December 31st at Bill’s. On behalf of everyone at Bill’s and the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Network, have a tremendous holiday season and we’ll see you again in 2017!
And I’ll give Audrey a quarter, too, Audrey!!