Denver-based burger chain Smashburger is doing something a little different when it comes to serving beers in its fast-casual string of restaurants. The folks behind Smashburger have started introducing burgers with beer pairing options, using local craft beers in six of their operating markets around the country. In the Twin Cities, Smashburger has joined with the local craft masters at Summit Brewery.
Twin Cities Smashburger locations now offer up eight burger variations that can be paired with one of six Summit beers. Smashburger founder Tom Ryan flew up from Denver to give a press preview of the pairings, and Summit head brewer Damian McConn gave the rational behind each pairing. We were invited to taste samples of the new pairings.
The Smash Burger paired with Summit's Flagship EPA
The pairings are diverse and for the most part very well thought out. You can expect to see Summit's main line of year-round brews on the menu, including the EPA, Great Northern Porter, Pilsener, Horizon Red Ale, IPA, and Saga.
The more successful pairings tended to present themselves in the simpler burgers. The Smash Burger with Summit's EPA was a classic beer and burger pairing, whereas Smashburger's Mushroom and Swiss Burger paired exceptionally well with the Great Northern Porter. The rich, chocolaty malt flavor in the beer paired very well with the earthy tones of the mushrooms and the nuttiness of the Swiss cheese. The beer finishes light, which helps to wash down the richness of the burger. Smashburger's Twin Cities Burger, which comes smothered in rich, tangy bar cheese, also pairs very well with the EPA.
A few other pairings were somewhat less successful, but when you're talking beer and burgers you're never really going to come across a total train wreck. Smash Burger's Avocado Club burger left a little to be desired when paired with Summit's Pilsener. The burger lacked a certain level of acidity that should have tied the whole thing off in a nice little package, but instead it fell a little flat. The Pilsener helped, but it couldn't quite give the burger the oomph it seemed to need. The Spicy Baja Burger, with pepper jack cheese and fresh sliced jalapenos, had a similar problem but was better masked by it's Saga partner. The hoppy, citrusy flavor of the Saga helped to elevate the burger. Perhaps it could have benefited from a little squirt of lime juice.
Smashburger's Mushroom & Swiss with Summit's Great Northern Porter
Overall the new beer-paired menu is fun. It adds a little dimension to the fast-casual burger concept, and founder Tom Ryan is excited about the idea of making the chain suitable to its surroundings. In his home state of Colorado, Smashburger has teamed with New Belgium Brewing, in Chicago it's Goose Island, and in Texas the craft beer of choice is Saint Arnold.
Summit's head brewer Damian McConn also spoke to the rise in Twin Cities craft breweries, saying, "a high tide floats all boats."
For a little extra fun, watch the video below of Smashburger founder Tom Ryan teaching us how to make a Smashburger.