How do you approach pairing beer with food?
You have to let your own palate be your guide and if you like something then that works. When I’m doing it I’m looking for the beer to cut, compliment or contrast the food. Cutting it would be when you have a really big, really flavorful cheese with a Sam Adams lager for example or a lighter cheese with pale ale. Where you’re using the sweetness and the nuttiness of the malt to compliment the cheese and the effervescence and the carbonation to cut the fat. There is a lot of fat in cheese and the carbonation helps cut through that and clean your palate. To compliment, a cherry wheat beer with a vinaigrette sauce, the cherry wheat is a very nice compliment to raspberry vinaigrette. Sometimes it is a contrast, one of my favorite pairings is pizza and Sam Adams lager. There is a nice contrast between the acidity of the tomato sauce and the spiciness and basically the sweetness and the body of the malt.
Who are some of the beer professionals that have inspired you?
The first one would be Dr. Owades. He was probably the best brewmaster in the world from the ‘80s until he passed away in 2005. People called him Joe or Dr. Joe. He worked for most of the microbreweries that were successful, and he was a great brewer. He brought not only a passion for the brewers’ art, but also a passion for quality control, process control and making the beer in a real world environment. He was just incredibly knowledgeable about beer. He started brewing in the late ‘40s, so he had almost sixty years of brewing. He worked with Anchor, Sierra, Sam Adams, Red Hook, people that were very focused on quality he was always an inspiration.
What is your favorite style of beer and why?
I like a big flavorful balanced beer and to me that finds its best expression in the classic 19th century central European true pilsner. It’s hard to find anymore because those breweries have lightened up their beers a bit. A 19th century classic pilsner with 30 IBU’s [International Bitter Unit], 13 OG [original gravity], and an explosion of hop character.
“To this day I still remember opening a bottle of the first batch of Sam Adams and I said, ‘Wow, this is it.'”
What is your favorite memory involving beer?
To this day I still remember opening a bottle of the first batch of Sam Adams and I said, “Wow, this is it.” We had a number of them that were close, but not exactly right, but I remember opening the bottle of one that was right.
Do you have a signature hangover cure?
No. I try to drink a pint of water when I know that I’m headed for a hurting in the morning. That really mitigates it.
Who is someone, dead or alive, that you would like to sit down and share a beer with?
I would really love to sit down and share a beer with my great-great-grandfather and ask him how he developed the recipe.
What is one thing that people don’t know about Jim Koch
Gosh, people are usually surprised to know that I am a vegetarian; not a fanatic, but I am most of the time.