Put together a do-it-yourself beer dinner with local craft brews
by Stephanie Burt

Years ago, Natty Light was advertised as the beer “with the taste for food.” One of the campaign’s television commercials featured a humanized beer bottle leaning over a plate of pasta and slurping up a spaghetti noodle.

Beer commercials, and beer pairings, have certainly evolved since then. Beer dinners are becoming more and more ubiquitous in the city, and with good reason: Cocktail pairings can be tough with all those strong flavors, and wine dinners can be long and very fancy, which isn’t always quite the thing. The beer dinner is the Goldilocks middle-of-the-beverage dinner genre: Approachable, but with plenty of interesting flavors, and more than often, just right.
The Lowcountry is in the middle of a craft beer explosion. The hard lobbying from

Pop the Cap SC (now the S.C. Brewers Association) to change laws, coupled with the growth of Charleston and its culinary scene, have helped fuel the creation of more than 10 breweries, with more in the works.

And fall marks the start of craft beer’s high season, the time when beers with a little more body and bite make sense. Perhaps an appropriate way to celebrate the arrival of the season is throwing a beer bash of your own.

Getting started
The idea of pairing can be intimidating. Many menus feature suggested beers or wines below a dish, and there definitely seems a “right” and a “wrong” way to pair food with alcohol. But when it comes to beer, Brandon Plyler, certified cicerone and manager of the downtown Charleston Beer Exchange, would prefer that people used phrases like “better” or “not as successful.”

“Food and beer is a wide-open universe,” says Plyler. “There are many ways to put together pairings.”

But where to begin? You should definitely start with the beer, says Bob Cook, chef de cuisine of Cypress and Artisan Meat Share and beer dinner enthusiast.