We love storytelling. So when we were approached to the help the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago tell the stories behind some participating breweries at their Craft Brews at the Zoo beer fest, we grabbed our cameras and pens and just said, "Uh, yeah!"


Brews & Bites: Band of Bohemia To Bring Beer and Food Pairings to Craft Brews At The Zoo

Band of Bohemia is a different kind of brewery. For one, it’s the only brewpub in the world to have earned a Michelin star. That’s because everything they do - from the food, to the service, to the beers, to the coffee and cocktail program is elevated well beyond the typical brewpub experience. They also brew beers that are complex yet delicate, taking notes from the wine world by using subtlety and seasonality to accentuate flavors in the food they’re served alongside.   

We sat down with Band of Bohemia’s Director of Sales Dane Lewandowski to learn more about their beer and food, and get a sneak peek at two of the beer and food pairings they’ll be bringing to Craft Brews at the Zoo on June 16th.

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“We are what we like to call a “Culinary Brewhouse.” A place where beer and food come together as a marriage, with a singular purpose to please the guest with subtle nuances of flavors derived from seasonality and simplicity. It’s about creating a sense of tradition, slightly obscured.  When you walk into Band of Bohemia, the idea is to take away what you think a brewpub should be.  Initially you walk into our parlor, a small space somewhat reminiscent of grandma’s house, and then into a much larger space, that has the feeling of openness, but at the same time a feeling of great comfort, like a friend’s living room. You are meant to feel welcome, to feel at place, to feel at home.”

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“The beers we make are what we call “culinary ales.” These are beers that begin by thinking about seasonality and food. From there we can start the process of what is in seasonally and where we want to take the food menu. When we brew, we like to keep our flavors intricate but subtle, again thinking of wine and it’s nuances. As we are looking to pair our beers with food, it is important to keep this aspect in mind, this way we can now create that marriage that wine has always had with food by manipulation of flavors in the brewhouse and then going back into the kitchen and creating the dishes after the beer has been tasted. This allows us to be free to create that marriage of perfect harmony between food and beer.”  

“We don’t use a lot of hops in the brewhouse. For us, hops are a seasoning like salt. Too much salt is just salty and knowing how and when to add hops is a delicate art. In olden times, brewers used ingredients that were on hand within their environs, holding to the ideals that you can only use what is readily available to you, be it herbs, roots, flora, vegetables, or fruits. Hops came about as a mainstream ingredient many years later as a preservative and it kind of stuck with the masses.”

“All beer doesn’t necessarily go with food, it depends on what kind of beer you’re drinking. It’s not universal. Some people will tell you a certain beer goes with fish or chicken, which isn’t necessarily true because it depends on the sauce and seasoning. Chicken with soy sauce versus a curry will completely change the flavor and the pairings. Those are the elements you have to consider when pairing, not so much the main protein. We brew beers that intentionally go with particular dishes.”

Dish 1: Duck Rillette and Liver Mousse with Fennel Crackers & Pistachio Paired With Cherry Kyoto

 “Cherry Kyoto is a beer made with cherry blossoms, sweet cherries, green tea, and fresh thyme.  We use a little rye malt in the beer mash to give the beer a bit of lingering spice to the finish.  We then created the dish of Duck rillettes with fennel crackers and pistachio.”

Dish 1: Duck Rillette and Liver Mousse with Fennel Crackers & Pistachio Paired With Cherry Kyoto

“We go about pairing with this philosophy or idea… you take each flavor from the beer, in this case cherry, floral woody thyme, and green tea. We separate the ingredients and write down what we think would go with it. With cherries as a flavor we can pair it with fennel, tree nuts, fowl, game meats, some grains (quinoa, basmati rice), herbs and so on. With the floral woody thyme, well there are a lot of ingredients that go with thyme, more so than not. And green tea, which is very earthy and herbaceous, adds a nice accent to all of the above. Once we have a good list, we can then start considering dishes by piecing these ingredients together. We rarely double up on ingredients in the dish itself, so no cherries, or green tea in the dish itself, the beer and represents an ingredient to the dish and vice versa.”

Dish 2: Tea Sandwiches With Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Paired With Peony Starflower

Peony Starflower uses starflowers, or borage, which has an interesting cucumber flavor to it to accent a very light and delicate beer that we added some equally delicate white tea, or peony, that has a slight hay and honeysuckle note to it. Together with a really light malt base, these ingredients create a refreshing ale. We pair this beer with chamomile tea sandwiches, smoked salmon mousse, and cucumber. This is one of those rare moments in which we will add cucumber to the dish itself to truly bring home the element of the starflowers cucumber-esque quality. The chamomile tea brings out the peony tea, and the delicate smoke and salmon round out the experience.

Dish 2: Tea Sandwiches With Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Paired With Peony Starflower

“Sandwiches made from house made chamomile challah, with smoked salmon and cucumber. They start with little loafs of bread which we take slices of, so they’re a full slice of bread in miniature. We infuse a little bit of chamomile by grinding them in a spice grinder and making a traditional challah. The chamomile works very nicely with the smoked salmon, cucumber and peony tea.”

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