Beer and bacon! Beer and barbecue! Announcing our special beer dinner with four courses of pork! Sounds great, except … I don’t eat pork. Or any meat.
Craft beer culture is in full swing, and with it is a heavy focus on meat. Beer festivals serve not only tasty brews, but an abundance of red meats and sausages. Beer pairing dinners feature several courses where the only dish without meat is dessert — unless, of course, they found a way to add the ever-ubiquitous bacon to a sweet treat.
I’ve been a beer fan for quite some time, and a vegetarian for even longer. I eat no meat or seafood. While I choose to not indulge in meat myself, I don’t expect everyone to drop their hamburgers in my presence. I respect your food choices, you respect mine, everything is good.
But as a vegetarian beer lover, I am curious about the seemingly locked relationship between beer and meat. Brewpubs have menus loaded with meats, and beer pairings often revolve around meats and cheese (I do eat cheese, but that’s not the only thing I want to eat at a beer festival). However, I doubt that everyone enjoying craft beer is also chomping at the bit for all meat, all the time. There are lots of vegetarians and vegans who drink more than kale smoothies — we love a good beer with our black bean burgers. And with more and more people eating less meat and adopting “flexitarian” diets, maybe it’s time for more brewpubs, festival organizers, and brewers to think beyond the butcher’s block when it comes to pairing beer and food.
The tide is turning, and craft beer culture is starting to consider those of us who love rabbit food. In 2013, Oktoberfest — arguably an epicenter of beer and meat combined — introduced vegan food and drink options. And it wasn’t just for tourists — the festival was also catering to the “800,000 of [Germany]’s 7 million vegetarians [who] forego all animal products.”
I was also very excited to see a local brewpub, Mad Fox Brewing Company, offer a beer dinner that was entirely vegan. The dinner took place in August and featured Asian-inspired dishes, including tofu pad thai and Sweet & Sour Goi Chay, a Vietnamese salad. Unfortunately I was unable to attend, but if they have another one, I plan to book a table. I hope more breweries will be similarly inspired.
Craft beer culture provides many inclusive spaces where I’ve always felt welcome and enjoyed meeting new people. I would also enjoy something to eat in these spaces. I hope that brewers, brewpub chefs, and festival organizers continue to expand options for those of us who choose tempeh over bacon.
On a final note, if you’re looking for an excellent vegan beer dish, I recommend this beer mac-and-cheese (I normally leave out the brats). I usually make it with a pale ale and replace the water with more beer (because the answer is always more beer). My meat-eating husband loves this dish, and we both enjoy it alongside buffalo tempeh strips.