Austin craft beer fans have become spoiled as of late. Between Austin Beer Week, the Texas Craft Brewers Festival and blowout anniversary bashes at local brew pubs, the discerning hop-head has more choices than ever before.
That said, few events have attempted to pair beer with local chef creations, which is the focus of Saturday's Austin Bacon & Beer Festival at The Marchesa Hall. The festival originated in Boston, and original founders at Eat Boston are co-presenters of the party, which has also been thrown in Denver and Philadelphia. Edible Austin publisher Marla Camp is excited to add this gluttonous fest to the magazine's event slate.
"The genius of pairing two irresistible taste icons like bacon and beer originated with Eat Boston and the over-the-top success of the Boston Bacon and Beer Festival four years ago," says Camp. "Bringing this event to Austin this year has captured the imagination of Austin's culinary and brew communities with a soul-satisfying emphasis on sustainable meat and artisan craftsmanship. But basically, what could be more fun than an afternoon of total immersion in bacon and beer?"
Terms like artisan and sustainable aren't mentioned lightly: local butchers Salt & Time will do a nose-to-tail hog butchering demo at the event, and the meats served are being provided by well-regarded purveyors at Niman Ranch.
The chefs participating are both amused and inspired by the event. Lawrence Kocurek of TRACE is bringing his favorite beer pairings. "We’ve done really successful beer dinners at TRACE and learned that people love our house-made sausages and cured meats with beer. For this event, I’m doing a crispy Spanish-style croquette with a beautiful smoked house-made bacon. It goes really well with a lager," he says.
Meaty main dishes will be abundant, but sides are also in play: The Bonneville's Jennifer Costello will serve Sunday brunch favorite "Bacon Tater Tots" with scallion cream and chipotle ketchup. Continuing the comfort food theme, Andy Philips of Searsucker will riff on pigs in a blanket using three types of pork. Philips says of the dish: "We'll utilize pork belly, pork shoulder and bacon … it will pair nicely with an ale like Independence Bootlegger Brown or a Scottish ale — something with roasted malts but not too overwhelming or heavy!"
Even dessert will porky this weekend, says Philip Speer of St. Philip and Uchiko. "We are excited to pair our smoky bacon-infused homemade ice cream with Convict Hill Stout from Independence Brewing Co. to create a classic 'root beer' float using the beer’s rich and roasted flavors of barley and chocolate malt." Eden East joins the trend with a maple bacon cake featuring dark chocolate ganache and maple bacon sugar.
A number of recently opened and forthcoming spots will showcase their dishes for Austin Bacon & Beer as well. A prime example is Round Rock newcomer Greenhouse Craft Food, who will dish up bacon dumplings with house-made bacon, caramelized onions and a beer cheese dipping sauce. Other new spots to watch for at the event include Little Barrel and Brown and NoVa Kitchen and Bar.
Beer offerings will include Infamous Brewing's IPA, Hijack Cream Ale and Sweep The Leg (peanut butter stout). Saint Arnold will pour Spring Bock and the new Icon Red (a bohemian pilsner). Independence Brewing will feature its ESB and Convict Hill Stout, while Circle Brewing will sample the Smokin' Beech Rauchbier, Blur Texas Hefe and Hop Overboard Pale. Other brewers pouring samples at the festival are Pedernales Brewing Company, Real Ale, Rogness, Shiner and South Austin Brewing Company.
A portion of event proceeds will benefit the Capital Area Food Bank, so you can feel good about consuming copious amounts of pork.
Austin Bacon and Beer takes place at The Marchesa in Central Austin on Saturday, February 22 from 2:30 - 5:00 pm. Tickets are $40 plus service charges and are available via eTix. Guests must be 21 and over to attend.