Founded by chef Jensen Cummings, Denver-based Brewed Food makes its way to cities around the U.S. to collaborate with chefs and brewers, putting together a multicourse, paired dinner at each stop.
But the approach is far from the usual restaurant or brewery beer dinner, as guests will discover on June 4 at the Wrecking Bar Brewpub.
That’s when Cummings joins Wrecking Bar chef Terry Koval and Staplehouse chef Ryan Smith to create a menu highlighting brewing ingredients in dishes that range from the ancient to the molecular realm.
Recently, I talked with Cummings about the ideas behind Brewed Food, and asked him about the Atlanta event.
“Way back when, it was this crazy idea I had to push the notion of beer and food past the kinds of things I had done as a chef,” Cummings said. “I realized that my engagement with beer wasn’t the same as my engagement with food.
“I was doing a disservice to the craft of brewing, especially compared to how engaged I was with the history of cooking, and farmers and ranchers and butchers, all in order to really hone my craft.
“That’s where my paradigm shifted to trying to understand brewing as a culinary art.”
As a fifth-generation restaurateur, Cummings proudly claims he was born into the food business. And he worked in some of Denver’s top kitchens. But after a while, he said, even doing high-end beer dinners became more formulaic than fun.
“Early on in Brewed Food, I made a promise to brewers that I wouldn’t do a dinner that paired an imperial stout with a fill-in-the-blank chocolate dessert,” Cummings said and laughed. “Things like that can be amazing. But I just wanted to push it further, and ask, ‘What’s next? And what else is possible?’ ’’
The search led him to figure out a lot of things for himself, including, sometimes, what wasn’t possible, he said. But, finally, what Cummings came to call a “Food Lab & Culinary Movement” was about taking the basic elements of beer, such as grains, yeast and hops, and using brewing techniques, such as fermentation, to create different flavors and textures.
“There weren’t any resources in books or online, so I just had to experiment,” Cummings said. “And it literally started in a fridge in my garage, where I was making things like kimchi with Brettanomyces. I was too embarrassed to bring the projects into my professional kitchen, so my poor wife was the one who had to walk by that fridge every day with the weird smells coming out of it.
“But after a couple of years, I really started to see some success and some interesting products, and I thought it was time to take it out of the garage and turn it into an educational platform for chefs and brewers to connect in a new way.”
At the dinner coming up at the Wrecking Bar, one of the dishes is a sourdough blini that incorporates milled raw brewing grains into the starter. Another is a take on Japanese ochazuke with wort broth, torrified wheat, grain soy, nukazuke, shio and koji sashimi.
The pairings for the dinner will be split between beers from the Wrecking Bar and Colorado-based New Belgium.
“We work with New Belgium on a national basis, because their beers are everywhere,” Cummings said. “Also, in Colorado, we’ve been really connected with them for a long time, and they’ve been a resource in teaching us about their process, especially about yeast, with their lab and microbiologists.”
Summing up what guests can look forward to at the Wrecking Bar, Cummings said that above all he wants to stress that it’s not a beer dinner.
“We call them brewing dinners because we want people to really experience and taste brewing in every bite,” he said. “We want to challenge and shake people out of their preconceived notions and become part of the experience in an interactive way.”
Brewed Food Atlanta
6-9 p.m. June 4. $75. Wrecking Bar Brewpub, 292 Moreland Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-221-2600, freshtix.com/events/brewedfoodsatlanta.