Name: Switchback Brewing
Location: Burlington, VT
What you need to know: Switchback Brewing was founded in 2002 with a focus on unfiltered, flavorful beers that defy categorization. Year after year, they have been growing in popularity, and as a result, have added bottling and canning lines. In 2014, they opened their new tap room, where they release small batch and experimental beers in addition to over 20 year-round, seasonal, and limited yearly releases. One collection of these experimental beers is their Flynn on Fire Smoked Beer Initiative, which includes their three SAVOR offerings.
Beer/Food Pairing #1: Bisou (Smoked Saison / 7.8% ABV) paired with Deviled Egg with Parsley and Potato Chip
Notes/Thoughts: Bisou is a French-style saison brewed with oak smoked wheat malt and beechwood smoked barley malt. It also features pink peppercorns and orange zest to provide balance to and complexity with the smoke flavors. The bold flavors in the beer present a challenge for a food pairing, but eggs with smoke and citrus has a pretty good chance to be up to the challenge.
Beer/Food Pairing #2: Smoke 40 (Smoked IPA / 5.9% ABV) paired with Dry-Aged Ribeye with Mushroom Crust and Shallots
Notes/Thoughts: Smoke 40 combines 40% smoked malt and Mosaic hops to create a smoked IPA akin to enjoying grilled pineapples. The reviews suggest that the combo is working nicely to produce a unique, flavorful beer. The pairing leans into the grilling theme, as the beer could easily be seen as a side dish to the steak, and should provide a nice contrast.
Beer #3: Blackstrap Ale (Smoked Dark Ale / 5.9% ABV)
Notes/Thoughts: Blackstrap Ale is inspired by founder Bill Cherry’s time enjoying Kansas City barbecue, and features a combination of smoke and sweetness. They aim for this with smoked and roasted malts, along with some dark brown sugar. There are not a lot of reviews for this beer, but the few I found rate it extremely highly, and complement its smoky flavors and sweeter finish, so it seems like they have accomplished their objective. There’s no pairing on the menu for this beer, but grabbing another round of the ribeye described above, or taking this beer off towards the charcuterie table sounds like a pretty good plan to me.
Overall Impressions: Switchback has built a solid reputation in the Northeast over a long time in craft brewing, and they keep looking for ways to produce innovative beer styles. Their selections for SAVOR are some of their recent experimental beers, and definitely stand out as unique choices on the beer list. Smoked beers can make for interesting, challenging food pairings, but I like the two pairings in theory, and am excited to give them both a chance. For smoked beer fans, these three beers represent three-fourths of the smoked beer options available this year, and should definitely be in your plans, but I think anyone looking for bold flavors should have this table in mind.