Ah, the hamburger. Not many foods can run the spectrum from simple comfort food to ultimate culinary masterpiece quite like this little beauty. The hamburger has been a staple of cookouts and barbecues for generations as well as the featured item on menus at most fast food joints. The popularity of the meat patty dressed to the nines with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mayo, and cheese between two buns has sparked the creativity of chefs across America, with many destinations putting the burger center stage to act as a blank canvas through which a world of endless edible possibilities have taken shape.
Then there’s beer; the burger’s ultimate complement. The prom king to its prom queen. And much like the burger, beer has served as the beverage staple at cookouts before cookouts were cool. Washing down a burger with a cold one is one of life’s little pleasures that should never be taken for granted.
As the burger has evolved and taken on new forms with quality ingredients, beer has done much of the same. Craft beer is the today’s drink of choice, with quality ingredients, bold flavors, and creative profiles slowly but surely winning Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Beerdrinker over one sip at a time. Today, beer and food enthusiasts seek the ultimate combination of cuisine and libation and, something once as simple as ordering “a beer and a burger” has taken on new layers of complexity.
The proper beer next to your delectable burger will provide an added element of flavor while also serving as a palate cleanser that cuts through the multitude of rich tastes and textures on your plate. And while you may be accustomed to drinking a specific beer style, you want to avoid the pratfalls of your beer getting lost in the tapestry of burger flavors or vice versa. The bitterness of an IPA, clearly America’s beer style darling these days, can cut through the burger’s richness and clean your palate in preparation for the next bite. But a heavier beer like a stout can be overwhelming when paired with a burger and cancel out some of those incredible burger flavors. A lighter, malt-forward offering can work well as the sweetness will mesh beautifully with the boldness on the burger while the lighter beers, including your domestic staples and hefeweizens, typically can’t stand up to a burger’s richness.
As you can see, burger and beer pairings are serious business. That’s why I’ve teamed up with Bill’s Bar & Burger in Downtown Pittsburgh to bring you Beer & Sear, a new monthly feature that will explore the world of pairing local craft beer and craft burgers and a) tell you why they work so harmoniously together, and b) motivate you to get up off your chair and head to Bill’s immediately to try our recommended combination yourself. We’ll be choosing a new burger off the Bill’s menu each month and pairing it with a craft beer born right here in Pittsburgh.
It’s a tough gig, but someone’s gotta do it. 🙂
So, without further adieu, here’s the first installment of Beer & Sear.
THE BURGER: The Jimmy Krenn Burger
THE BEER: Pious Monk Dunkel brewed by Church Brew Works
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 Church Brew Works
The name says it all. Church Brew Works is based in Lawrenceville and, in case you haven’t heard, operates its award-winning brewpub in the restored St. John the Baptist’s Church on Liberty Avenue. The building itself dates back to the late 1800s as Lawrenceville took shape and became a thriving borough of Pittsburgh thanks to the contributions of Allegheny Arsenal to the Civil War and rise of the steel industry in the area. As more people migrated to Lawrenceville to be close to where they worked, housing boomed, thus the need for churches became more prevalent. Fast-forward to August 6th, 1993, when the church was put under an act of suppression by the Bishop of Pittsburgh. The building was unoccupied and unused until early 1996 when the construction and opening of what’s now known as Church Brew Works took place. Since opening their operations, Church has received numerous awards and accolades, including 2012 Large Brewpub of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival, a 2015 Bronze Medal for their Millennium Tripel at GABF, and countless medals for today’s featured beer, Pious Monk Dunkel.
About the Burger
The Jimmy Krenn Burger is Bill’s Burger of the Month and was created by…wait for it…Jim Krenn, the Pittsburgh comic and radio personality who hosts The Q Morning Show on Q92.9 FM and the Jim Krenn Comedy Podcast found on the Pittsburgh Podcast Network. The burger contains Bill’s Beef Patty, smoked mozzarella, thick-cut bacon, lettuce, tomato, and Bill’s Secret Sauce…all between a pretzel bun.
About the Beer
Pious Monk Dunkel captured a Silver Medal at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival. It’s a dark-style lager whose style was first brewed in Munich, Germany over 150 years ago. Church’s spin on the Dunkel offers a dark color that’s deceptive in that it’s not strong like other dark beers you’ll encounter. It features a mellow body with relatively easy drinkability, plus the alcohol level on Pious Monk is low, tipping the scales at just 5.5% ABV. It boasts a roasty aroma and finishes crisp and clean.
Why You Need This In Your Mouth
As I mentioned before, it’s important to have your beer match up with your burger and have both their characteristics shine bright.
The ingredients of the Jimmy Krenn offer a perfect balance of flavor that captivates the taste buds. The bacon and secret sauce combined with the thick burger patty deliver that salty punch that only bacon can deliver. Plus, the thickness of the bacon adds a welcomed element of chewiness, letting that savory, satisfying bacon flavor stay in your mouth for an extended period of time. The smoked mozzarella is subdued and adds another layer to the overall profile of this burger. The pretzel bun complements the natural saltiness from the bacon perfectly and houses just the right balance of flavor in every bite.
Pious Monk may be dark, but its lighter characteristics make it a beautiful companion for the Jimmy Krenn. Its malt-forward, sweet flavor, as well as light body, make it the perfect complement for a burger bursting with rich, bold flavors. With the smokiness from the mozzarella and saltiness from the thick bacon lingering, the sweetness of Pious Monk is just what the doctor ordered to cut through it, refreshing the palate and getting you ready to dive back in for another delicious bite.
The Jimmy Krenn is a big burger, so make sure you bring your appetite. Bill’s will be serving this special burger with Church’s Pious Monk on tap throughout the month of June at their locale on Liberty Avenue. Be sure to make this burger vanish from your plate before it vanishes from the menu for good!