Welcome to On Tap, a weekly column that explores the brews and beer trends that are currently being served at restaurants and bars across the country.
This week, we’re chatting with Ben Ripani, the craft beer curator at Makeready Libations & Liberation in Nashville, Tennessee. With the tagline “work like a dog, drink like a fish,” this beer hall and restaurant serves seasonal American tavern cuisine along with cocktails and a rotating selection of craft brews. We chatted with Ripani to find out how he chooses beers for the beverage program and which current on-tap brews are best paired with dishes from the food menu.
When choosing beers for your on-tap program, do you always go to the same brands, or are you constantly looking for new breweries to feature?
I mix it up and try to get a healthy mix of local and regional breweries. There are a lot of great breweries out there, but you also have to cater to people’s tastes. Not everyone is interested in trying something they haven’t tried before. For that reason, I focus on good a representation of seasonal styles from different breweries.
How often do you rotate your tap selections and why?
I only have seven taps, so I keep all of them rotating. I always have one line dedicated to a sour style and one or two lines with an IPA, as these are among the most popular styles of beer in Nashville and nationwide. If I had more taps, I’d keep the local favorites on all the time and rotate six to eight of them. It is important to change selections seasonally because much like it is with food, people have different drinking habits throughout the year.
What is your favorite beer that’s being served on tap right now?
The newest one. I get bored easily.
In addition to their always rotating beer selection, Makeready serves hearty food that ranges from country ham plates to roasted oysters to a double elk chop. Ripani talks about how to pair some current on-tap beers with dishes from the menu.
Smith & Lentz German Pilsner with Pork Schnitzel
Classic beer pairing in the world of beer. Fried pork schnitzel plays nicely with the high carbonation and hop character of a German Pilsner, which tends to be drier, woody and earthy when compared to other similar styles like a Munich Helles or a Kolsch.
Blackberry Farm Screaming Bock with Fettuccine “Bolognese”
Screaming Bock is a Wiezenbock with banana, clove, raisin esters from the Belgian yeast and roasted caramel hints from the unique malt build. These flavors should sit nicely with this tomato-based, vegetarian pasta dish. It sounds simple enough, but it is bursting with flavor and complexity. They should match intensities while providing some intriguing contrast and resonance.
Revolution Brewing Hazy Hero with Shrimp & Avocado Salad
I really like playing with Northeast-style IPAs with salad dishes. They can be really fun as the intense floral, citrus and juicy hop aromas and flavors complement the dish like an actual salad dressing. Resonance would be the defining characteristic of this pairing as the tart, acidic shrimp will reside with the acetic acid character of the beer. In addition, the subtle bitterness of the beer should contrast with the savory ingredients in the salad.
Anderson Valley Briney Melon Gose with Shrimp Cocktail
Classic, wheat-based Gose is a great beer to pair with shrimp cocktail or oysters. It is mildly salted and soured by fermentation with a wild yeast strand called brettanomyces. This hint of tartness begins to act the same way as squeezing a lemon would over whitefish, shrimp or oysters. It is the perfect complement or, in this case, flavor addition as it relates to the relationship between the food and beer. The Anderson Valley Briney Melon Gose has hints of honeydew and cantaloupe in addition to the flavor characteristics of the base style. Could make it weird or magical. Let’s try!