Join me in a belated celebration of Firetap O’Malley’s 10th Anniversary. On Tuesday, November 19 at 6 p.m., I’ll be hosting a Winter Beer and Food Pairing at south Anchorage’s premier craft beer destination.
Although the restaurant celebrated serving great beer and food in south Anchorage for a week in October with beer and food specials, if you really want to feel the pride, why not experience some of Alaska’s finest local beers with specially created dishes just for the event?
More on the tasting in a bit, but why my love for Firetap? My Firetap roots go all the way back to before opening day in June of 2009 when the establishment started pouring an almost exclusively Alaska craft beer lineup from the 36 taps proudly featured behind the expansive curving bar in the open, welcoming environment that defines the space.
There’d been good beer in south Anchorage, but Firetap really brought it into focus in a part of town I thought was sparse in local beer and a lively atmosphere to enjoy it in.
I was very proud to be asked to consult with the organization about what beers might best compliment the signature stone fired pizzas – either off the menu or build your own – an extensive appetizer menu, sandwiches, calzones, wraps, burgers, and a long list of signature dishes that are well above the pub grub you might expect from an alehouse, but still casual and well suited for the whole family.
Ten years ago, there was a lot less to offer in local Alaska craft beer, but we had no problem populating the taps with excellent selections from what was pouring up here back then. Glacier Brewhouse produces a signature Red Hot Mama red ale for Firetap. Right now the beer menu features a solid lineup of everything you might expect in a beer forward establishment.
IPAs are a big focus – as they are everywhere else on the globe – but Firetap focuses more on what people are asking for, according to Diane Thompson, one of the organization’s founders. Don’t expect a big mix of eclectic one-off high end beers like sour ales, big booze bombs or crazy beers; the beers are chosen to compliment the food, just like they were chosen when I trained the staff on an afternoon before the restaurant opened.
Although Firetap serves wine and drinks too, I reminded the staff that proper alehouses feature the beer and good servers should know their suds and be able to quickly recommend one of the diverse beers to pair with the extensive menu items. The servers took this to heart, and ten years later, this hasn’t changed.
Between when the restaurant opened ten years ago and today, growler service has become incredibly popular and Firetap stepped up to the plate to offer what’s undoubtedly the best deal in town when it comes to filling your jug with something to take home.
Any of the beers on tap can be taken out in growlers at $6 for a 32 ounce fill or $12 for a 64 ounce fill when you bring your own jug. I also like it that Firetap doesn’t up-price the premium beers on the growler menu; they’re all the same price. Shop around and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
If you’re just visiting for the bar and don’t want a full meal, don’t miss enjoying one of the latest signature creations at Firetap: the restaurant’s hand-made pretzels are to die for. Arguably, the best in the state, these doughy critters are hand made in the traditional way.
“They’re hand-done,” explains Thompson. “They are pretty unique in Alaska. We make them the old fashioned way. The dough is hand formed. We let the dough rise, then the pretzels are boiled like a bagel and partially cooked. When someone orders one, we finish cooking them so they’re served hot and very fresh.”
Go for the standard Monk’s Beer Pretzel, but if you’re hungrier, maw into a “Sandwich with a Twist,” including a Pesto Turkey Pretzel, Chicken Salad Pretzel, Ham and Cheese, BLT, Club, Beef and Cheddar, Ruben, or “Italian Job” – my favorite – in a split and fill format one on of the signature twists. You won’t be disappointed.
The Tuesday, November 19 tasting is designed to feature seasonal ales paired with special food you won’t always find in the Firetap menu.
The welcome beer will be Alaskan Brewing Company’s Helles Ale, considered a German Style Lager. With any luck, this will be accompanied by the restaurant’s signature pretzel. It wasn’t on the menu at first, but I’m hoping to influence Thompson to add it because it’s something you really need to experience.
Starting out with a local beer is a tribute to the popularity of our own beer up here and Alaskan Brewing Company’s solid presence at Firetap. “We’ve done so well with Alaskan; people know the beer, they’re used to it and they don’t have to guess what they’re getting,” explains Thompson. “We go along with what people request and Alaskan brews remain really sought after.”
Next, King Street Brewing Company’s Belgian Dubbel — King Street’s version of a winter warmer — will be paired with Butternut Squash Soup (gluten free) and Pumpkin Spice Pretzels to get things started.
A traditional winter classic, Samuel Smith Winter Welcome, will be served with a Beet, Spinach, Goat Cheese & Toasted Chickpea Salad tossed with Seasoned Olive Oil and Vinegar.
For the main course, Alaskan Winter Ale is teaming up with a mini Beef Wellington topped with Peppercorn sauce.
Midnight Sun Brewing Company’s Cohoho – the brewery’s slightly bigger and bolder winter version of the famous Sockeye Red will be Served with Assorted Cheeses, Sausage and Crusty Baguette Slices
For the dessert pairing, King Street Brewing Company’s Imperial Stout will be served with Gluten Free Chocolate Royale, or Chocolate Brownie Crust layered with Chocolate Mousse and Rich Chocolate Ganache.
This is a great time to get out of the house for some early holiday festivities and nothing warms things up like great local beer paired with hearty food. This will be a sell out event, so get your tickets at http://firetapalehouse.com/winter-beer-food-pairing/ or call the restaurant at (907) 561-2337 for more information. I hope to see you on Tuesday night.