Pomo 0517 beer in bloom dz1no9

Beer goes great with spring produce. And, Lucy Burningham adds, it "looks beautiful in stemware."

Image: Michael Novak

Lucy Burningham describes her first sip of “good” beer—a Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout cracked open at a friend’s house in 1997—as feeling like an induction into a secret society. Fifteen years later, the Portlander discovered that there is an elite tier in the beer world. To become a certified cicerone, hopefuls take a beer “bar exam”—one requiring expertise in brewing history and fermentation science, along with a sommelier-level palate. The fail rate is 60 percent; only around 2,800 have passed in the world.

Burningham is now in that club. She detailed the journey in her 2016 book, My Beer Year, traveling from Yakima hop farms to Kölsch-soaked Cologne, studying everything from off flavors (“creamed corn,” “circus peanuts”) to high-end pairings at Belgium’s Michelin-endorsed Restaurant ’t Hommelhof.

Now, she’s bent on matching her new know-how with Portland’s informal food culture. In contrast to our restaurant scene’s baked-in penchant for wine pairings, Burningham observes that the way we drink beer has little to do with what’s on our plates. Sure, you can get totchos with a farmhouse ale, but there’s no beer-centric equivalent to a considered wine bar. (And, she adds, “Beer looks beautiful in stemware.”)

Recently she’s honed her skills as a private “beer somm.” But plans are in the works to team up for more public pairing events—potentially with Jackrabbit chef Chris DiMinno and others. In the meantime, Burningham offers five Oregon pairings to go with spring produce and fresh catches, for DIY tastings at home.

 

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Crux PCT Porter

$13 for a six-pack
“Roasty chocolate and a wisp of smoke delivered with smoothness and a light body.” 

  • Pair with sautéed morels on toast

Baerlic Eastside Oatmeal Pilsner 

$3.99 per bottle
“A touch of sweetness and roundness from oats with grassy and fruity hops character.” 

  • Pair with grilled fava beans

Alesong Saison du Vin

$16.50 per bottle
“Made with muscat grapes and aged in oak, it’s complex and lush but utterly versatile.” 

  • Pair with plank-fired spring chinook

pFriem Belgian Strong Blonde

$3.99 per bottle
“Pear juice and a bit of coriander in a beautiful interpretation of a classic Belgian style.” 

  • Pair with strawberry-rhubarb pie

Zoiglhaus Zoigl-Kölsch

$3.99 per bottle
“Stays true to the German style. Malt roundness creates softness with a touch of honey.” 

  • Pair with radishes, butter, salt 

Check for availability at Belmont Station and other local bottle shops.

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