Of the Oregon Beer Growler
It’s the time of year when thoughts turn to that momentous meal. The food is warm and filling. There always seems to be enough servings to feed a platoon because you never know when an unexpected guest will drop by. People we love are invited, but those we despise never fail to show up as well. Sometimes the day ends with wide smiles and robust embraces. However, it’s not uncommon for the occasion to slide into a disappointing funk — heads wearily resting on palms, eyes welling and enough cuss words clouding overhead you could almost choke on them. But no matter the outcome, you vow to do it again. It’s tradition, after all.
While Thanksgiving also happens during November, the meal we’re really focused on is the tailgater. Every week, millions of fans across the country stake out a patch of parking lot, lay claim to it by erecting E-Z UPs and lawn chairs, then prepare to do battle with a platter of ribs and any supporter of the opposing team who might wander into their territory. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat is what drives the tailgater. Luckily, either outcome is aided by a steady supply of craft beer.
The food at this somewhat simple form of recreation has traditionally been undervalued, perhaps because tailgating itself hasn’t been seen as the community-building activity that it really is. A day devoted to eating and bonding shouldn’t revolve around bean dip and Bud Light. This ain’t no weenie roast. Elevated menus are now becoming more common at these asphalt buffets outside of football arenas everywhere. And just a little more than a mile from Oregon State University’s Reser Stadium, there’s a brewery offering up some unique game day ideas that will fill your stomach and surprise your tastebuds no matter what goes on record as the final score.
Flat Tail Brewing is settled in the heart of downtown Corvallis along the Willamette River. Inside on a Saturday during football season, you’ll undoubtedly find the Beavers on the big screens and fans decked out in orange and black in the seats. Co-owner/brewer Dave Marliave describes Flat Tail as a brewery with homey, sports pub roots that also happens to serve boundary-pushing beer styles and food. The menu gets seasonal makeovers and saw its most recent update in late October. Given the brewery’s attention to not only beer but also food, along with its enthusiasm to root for the home team, Flat Tail seemed like the perfect pub to ask for advice about creating the perfect tailgating meal. Marliave and co-owner/chef Iain Duncan chose a mix of dishes from the new and traditional menus: halibut tacos, the Fricken Chicken sandwich and The Monty.
The action on the field hasn’t yet started, but the festivities are well underway. You don’t want to fill up too quickly, so tacos with a light fish as the primary protein keep the energy levels up as you build to the main course. Savory, deep-fried halibut and creamy avocado slices temper the pucker on Flat Tail’s Cucumber Session Sour, which was Marliave and Duncan’s suggested pairing. A unique and refreshing choice for a tailgater, this beer is crisp and tangy, which cleanses the palate after each bite of the taco’s spicy pico de gallo. The Cucumber Sour’s flavors are so bright it tingles and that helps to highlight the fresh tomato, onion and jalapeno topping.
You’re likely several beers in, so it’s time to refuel with some hearty fare. Marliave and Duncan wanted to depart from the traditional hamburger or hot dog for the main course and instead recommended the Fricken Chicken. It’s a dish that’s familiar in format but edges out of bounds with the flavors. Flat Tail’s effervescent Tailgater Kolsch is the perfect partner as the sandwich’s Sriracha ranch/mayo and chimichurri marinade pack a middle-of-the-road heat that slowly builds with each bite. The clean and crisp beer underscores the satisfying layers of crunch in the dish — from the breaded chicken to the sliced red onion to the deep-fried-to-a-golden-brown pickle chips. Bobbing between tangy and sweet, the spread and frickles add a twist to what could otherwise be a run-of-the-mill sandwich. Marliave described this as a “slam a beer with your buddies kind of meal.”
Whether you’re throwing high-fives to anyone within arm’s reach or cursing the final score, The Monty is going to help you celebrate or console. Flat Tail managed to find a way to improve French toast by using the buttery bread as the building blocks of a breakfast sandwich. Marliave and Duncan went with an analogous beer pairing — the 6 a.m. Stout. The creamy, smooth beer has hints of sweetness while roasty coffee notes balance out the dessert-style final course. Additionally, the stout can stand up to the rich and savory white cheddar and ham tucked in between the slices of bread. And if you end up having one too many on game day, The Monty might be your morning savior. It’s no surprise, then, that this dish is on Flat Tail’s “Hangover Fix” menu where you can get what’s truly the breakfast of champions all day, every day.
With months still left before this football season comes to an end, you have an opportunity every single week to create a menu and experiment with beer pairings. The food is approachable and you don’t need to be an expert chef to elevate your tailgating grub. Marliave noted that a trip to the local grocery store is all it takes to craft an interesting dining experience: “You can go to Safeway and make a pretty amazing meal and get some pretty incredible beer, you know? Unlike spending 30 bucks on a nice bottle of wine and going out to dinner and spending another 80 bucks on food is kind of the traditional way that people have looked at pairing. Now you can do it in your kitchen or even, you know, as we’re talking about today, you can do it tailgating.”
Paired with Flat Tail Tailgater Kolsch
By co-owner/Chef Iain Duncan
4 boneless chicken breasts, 5 ounces
4 favorite sandwich buns
4 slices swiss cheese
24 sliced pickle chips dill or sweet-fried
2 ounces Sriracha sauce
6 ounces favorite ranch dressing
sliced tomato and red onion
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
3 minced garlic cloves
1 chopped shallot
1 chopped jalapeno
1/2 cup minced cilantro
1/4 cup minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced oregano
3/4 cup olive oil
Sriracha ranch sauce:
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1/2 cup ranch
1/2 cup mayo
— Marinate chicken breast overnight in chimichurri mixture.
— Grill chicken breast.
— Frickles: beat eggs and milk, dredge pickle in flour and cornmeal mix, deep fry until brown.
— Layer on bun with frickles, Sriracha ranch, lettuce, tomato and onion. Makes 4 sandwiches.
Paired with Flat Tail Cucumber Session Sour
By co-owner/Chef Iain Duncan
1/2 pound fresh halibut cut into bite-size pieces
2 limes, juiced
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 cup cornstarch
For pico de gallo:
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
7 jalapenos, diced
1/8 cup cilantro chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lime juice
Toppings: pico de gallo, avocado, sour cream, taco-sized tortillas
— In a bowl, whisk eggs, lime juice, ancho chili powder, salt.
— Add cut fish and let sit for 10 minutes.
— Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl.
— Toss marinated fish in flour mixture, sift out fish, and deep fry in oil until brown.
— Assemble tortilla, halibut, top with pico de gallo, avocado and sour cream. Makes 8 tacos.
Paired with Flat Tail 6 a.m. Stout
By co-owner/Chef Iain Duncan
4 slices of favorite bread
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound sliced ham, turkey or bacon
16 slices of white cheddar
— Heat oven to 400 degrees.
— Beat eggs, half-and-half, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in bowl.
— Dip bread in egg mixture and fry until brown on both sides.
— Build a sandwich with 2 slices of cheese on each piece of bread and put meat in the middle.
— Bake for 10 minutes. Slice in half, sprinkle powdered sugar on top and serve with syrup. Makes 4 sandwiches.