As prestigious as the New York restaurant scene is, one thing that stands out in a glaring way for beer lovers is a lack of great beer and food pairing options. Sure, it’s nice enough to have a massive craft beer menu to go along with dinner but when you’re going to spend hard-earned money on an experience, don’t you want the bartender to at least be talking to the chef? Enter Jacob’s Pickles on New York City’s Upper West Side, where some of the best beers in the world get paired with delicious food, especially pickles.
Fermentables are serious business at Jacob’s Pickles, where owner and native New Yorker Jacob Hadjigeorgis has created an ode to comfort food, as well as “pickles for a new generation.” Hadjigeorgis, along with Alex English, director of the beer program, work closely to keep the tap lists fresh and lively, which includes tap takeovers and pairing dinners. Tap takeovers at a bar might not be anything new, but they take it to another level finding a way to pair each item and pickle on the menu. The two times I visited the restaurant, they featured nearly the entire line up of Maine Beer Co., including their famous Lunch Double IPA, and Oceanside, NY’s Barrier Brewing Company.
Hadjigeorgis’ interest in beer came from studying abroad in the Czech Republic. Unsatisfied with European beers, he turned his sights on the fresh, new flavors and techniques used in brewing American craft beer. He learned to appreciate pickles through his grandparents, who would preserve tomatoes, carrots, beans, beets and other seasonal vegetables.
Jacob’s Pickles has become one of the go-to spots for dinner and brunch in upper Manhattan, so it might surprise you that on the day of the restaurant’s opening he actually turned people away. “I was so nervous to let people dine with us; I told them it was still a soft opening. But my father said it wasn’t good for the restaurant to be empty, and before long it was completely filled. I realized how much people appreciated comfort food, pickles and beer.” I sat down with Jacob and Alex to try their best-selling pickles paired with some excellent selections.
Bells Brewing Company: Two Hearted Ale with Hot Sour Pickle
If you like heat, this is an awesome pickle with a spicy kick that won’t totally blow your face off. The hoppiness of the beer played off of the spiciness, which didn’t overwhelm the citrus and malt flavors of Bell’s classic Two Hearted Ale.
Avery Brewing Company: Joe’s Pilsner with Big Dill Pickle
The light, crisp flavors of both the beer and the pickle complemented each other so well. There was also a good kick of garlic that worked nicely with the light, grassy hops of Avery’s Joe’s Premium Pilsner. This was by far the most refreshing combination – perfect for the summer.
Barrier Brewing Company: Green Room Pale Ale with Pickled Green Beans
Another refreshing combination, these crunchy green beans had a delicious fiery kick from red pepper flakes. A pale ale like Barrier’s Green Room was a great fit for the garlic and pepper flavor with its citrusy hop flavor. If you tasted the beer first, the hop flavors remained in the back of the palate while the sweet and sour really came out in front.
Brooklyn Brewery: Sorachi Ace: Candy Red Beets
These sweet beets are pickled with clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. They worked beautifully with the spicy Belgian yeast and floral Sorachi Ace hops of this standout Belgian from Brooklyn Brewery.
Stone Brewing Company: Matt’s Burning Rosids with Pickled Carrot
If you don’t like smoked beers, this one might not be for you but if that’s your thing, and it’s very much ours, this pairing was incredible. There’s smokiness from the beer, but as it is a saison, the light texture melded with the carrot’s natural sweetness and a combination of cumin, cinnamon and chiles. This might sound like a case of too much going on, but it was just right.
Barrier Brewing Company: Frau Blucher Rauschbier with Pickled Jalapeño
As a spice and pickle enthusiast, this was heaven for me. The beer’s heavy smokiness worked so, so well with the jalapeño. There was a certain meatiness to the pepper that, when combined with the beer’s smoke, came off as a liquid Italian sandwich. Pickled beer pairing bliss.
So grab a jar of artisanal pickles at a specialty food store or farmers market and update your beer snacking routine.
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