|Getting a bite at Smashburger|
Smashburger has always had beer on its menu, but now it's making it even more obvious by rolling out beer pairings on its menus. Colorado is first up, with Denver-based Smashburger and Fort Collins-based New Belgium Brewing teaming to come up with pairings.
Smashburger founder Tom Ryan says the chain hopes to get its name out there, emphasize that it has beer available, and emphasize the concept of "the beer and burger." His idea is to sway people choosing from all the chains that position themselves as "Better Burger" outfits by using beer.
Ryan envisions spreading the idea around the country, with locally based beer companies teaming with restaurants in various cities to work on pairings for localized menus. (He already plans to work with Goose Island on pairings in Chicago)
Here's a look at some of the pairings on the menu at the 16th St mall location in Denver (just a block from Ryan's new venture, Tom's Urban 24, a 24-hour diner that will open this fall in the old Samba Room at 15th and Larimer), with comments from New Belgium sensory specialist Lauren Salazar.
_ TRUFFLE MUSHROOM SWISS BURGER ::: FAT TIRE AMBER ALE
The hops in Fat Tire is understated, so the beer brings out the secondary and tertiary flavors of the burger, Salazar says. Anything with shrooms she generally likes to pair with Fat Tire.
_ BBQ, BACON & CHEDDAR BURGER ::: 1554 BLACK ALE
1554 is actually a black lager, so it's smoky but light-bodied, allowing it to balance rather than outshine or get outshadowed by the burger. "The worst thing you can do in a beer pairing is for one to win and one to lose," Salazar says.
_ COLORADO BURGER ::: RANGER IPA
The hoppiness of Ranger enhances heat, like the chiles in this burger, Salazar says.
_ SPICY BAJA BURGER ::: SUNSHINE WHEAT
In this case, the refreshing taste of Sunshine Wheat lends a "helping" hand to the beer. If you're deciding whether to take another bite of spiciness, this beer can help you with that, Salazar says. Pairing this burger with Ranger would've been .... interesting, she says.
_ SPINACH AND GOAT CHEESE CHICKEN SANDWICH ::: SHIFT PALE LAGER
Terrific pairing, in our opinion, that makes both the beer and sandwich taste better. Goes so well with the goat cheese and Mediterranean flavors.
_ CRISPY BUFFALO CHICKEN SANDWICH ::: RANGER IPA
Salazar likes pairing Ranger with bleu cheese, especially the stinky ones.
(This actually isn't our first choice for getting burgers. Cherry Cricket, City Grille and Yard House all have options that we like plenty. But if you're interested, the burgers here start as meatballs that get liberally seasoned with salt, garlic and pepper and smashed to get a sear on the bottom that Ryan says seals in flavor. Buns are buttery and toasted. Really, that's enough ingredients for us at that point, maybe throw in some mushrooms, avocado, cheese or sweet onions every now and then. But there are plenty of Smashburger fans who like the burger offerings here, just proving that taste is personal.)