Food and Beer Pairings from Eden Prairie, Chaska, Waconia, Victoria, and Chanhassen Restaurants

Find the ideal local brew to accompany your next meal at these restaurants.

The world of food and beer pairings is reaching new heights. It’s a fun experience for both brewers and restaurants, and there are many approaches to making the food and drink experience go hand in hand. Some chefs try to match flavors already in the beer, while others adopt a contrasting approach to highlight specific nuance or spice. Another frequent approach is pairing by geography: say, an English beer with fish and chips. Whatever the approach, it means each meal offers a new experience where an India Pale Ale can highlight a perfectly seared steak while a saison gives a salad an extra fruitiness.

“Over the last five to 10 years the beer business has totally changed,” says Rob Gregg, general manager at Prairie Tap House. “People want to drink beer with their meal. Whether it’s an employee recommendation or just the customer’s personal awareness, people are interested in drinking beer with food.”

Taking a creative spin, here are six local dishes and six local beers, connecting the dots between the different pairing methods.

Chicken Pot Pie, Tater Tots and a Chocolate Chip Lucy with Surly Bender

Crooked Pint Ale House
A Midwest classic, pot pie is comfort food at its core, blending flavors without any one item overtaking the whole. The same goes for Surly Bender, a brown ale that’s neither too sweet nor too bitter, says John Hinz, chief marketing officer for Hightop Hospitality. “The reason these pair well together is they have unique flavor profiles, but they’re not overpowering, either of them.” The caramel sweetness of Bender’s malt build plays well with a heavy pot pie gravy, elevating the sugars to the tip of the tongue as the hoppy bite at the back end cleanses the palate and relieves the heaviness. For the full experience, Hinz suggests upgrading from fries to Crooked Pint’s specialty jumbo tater tots, made with serrano peppers, bacon and cheddar, where the stronger cheese and pepper flavors are washed away in a creamy swig of Bender. For dessert, he says, add a Chocolate Chip Lucy (an ice cream sandwich made with chocolate-chunk cookies), where the chocolate, cream cheese and ice cream combo makes Bender’s sweeter malts take center stage, mixing a natural grain sweetness with sensual chocolate.

Thai Chile Chicken Wings with Bent Paddle Bent Hop

Houlihan’s
Houlihan’s Thai Chile Chicken Wings have taken flight, with the sauce often requested with other dishes on the menu, says Kris Von Busch, Houlihan’s operations manager at their corporate office. The sauce itself is made from reduced soy with serrano chilies, a touch of sugar, and a secret house blend of Asian spices. It pairs well with a Bent Hop Golden IPA from Duluth’s Bent Paddle Brewing Co.; the non-traditional IPA has more floral and citrus hop aroma that accents the spice as the citrus cuts through fatty wing meat. Meanwhile, its smooth malt base defines the drinking experience and eases the peppery fire. Thai chile sauce also appears on the menu with char-crusted ahi tuna, chicken tenders with sauce and select seasonal offerings. It’s beer and wings, both bending expected style.

Thai Dragon Pit Pork Sandwich with Insight Brewing Sunken City

Prairie Tap House
One of Prairie Tap House’s top selling sandwiches, the Thai Dragon, takes a little Asian kick and applies it to a roasted pork sandwich that comes with peanut sauce, a Thai chili sauce, bacon, red onion and cilantro. There are many flavors within, and it takes a special beer to highlight the different aspects, says Rob Gregg. “The sandwich isn’t 4-alarm hot, but it has a little spice,” he says. Sunken City from Insight Brewing in Minneapolis is a unique saison made with Sauvignon blanc grapes, which give it a unique flavor, instead of a normal beer strain. It’s a twist on a style often paired with food, and it adds a new layer of complexity. Sunken City contrasts with the bacon and peanut sauce, Gregg explains, giving it a palate cleansing role that lets that grape yeast jump to the front. “The zinginess of the saison is a clean, crisp finish that cuts through the richness,” he explains.

Tavern Lobster Mac + Cheese with Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss

Tavern 4&5
This pairing is so natural it comes together on the menu. Tavern 4&5 serves its lobster mac with a side shot of Leinie’s familiar Honey Weiss. “It works really well because the Honey Weiss is a lighter beer with hints of lemon and citrus,” says sous chef Grant Nelson. That lemon brings out the seafood flavors and cuts through the thick creamy cheese. A lighter beer with a heavier dish is also a helpful contrast. Lobster Mac + Cheese has house potato chips added to the dish for crunch, then is baked in a wood fire stove. Though it is served with the small side of beer, Nelson suggests upsizing to a regular pour for the full experience

The Big Tom Brisket Sandwich with Barley John’s Wild Brunette

Iron Tap
A signature brown ale from Barley John’s Brewery in New Brighton and a signature sandwich from Iron Tap. The sandwich itself is smoked brisket covered in poblano honey BBQ sauce, white cheddar cheese, bacon and a single onion ring. Made with Minnesota wild rice, Wild Brunette has vanilla overtones that add a sweetness complementary to the BBQ sauce. Meanwhile, the smoky element of the brisket pairs with the nuttiness of the brown ale as the salty bacon and beer-battered onion ring give a zesty crunch.

Best Of the Wurst with Lupine’s Rout Brown Ale

Floyd’s Bar
The diverse Rout ale enhances different aspects of each of the wurst—including grilled Italian, Andouille, and Maharlika sausages—in the Best of the Wurst, which has been a popular menu item at Floyd’s Bar since being introduced in 2007. Its chocolate note highlights the Cajun spices in an Andouille sausage, while the mid-body earthiness stands up to the sweet pineapple and garlic of the Middle Eastern Maharlika. Paired with the Italian, the mid-body beer offers a palate-cleansing nuttiness that works with the zip of the Italian spice.