Jared is the man behind the masterful design of delicious beer dinners. He was groomed to be a foodie early in life and later came to be fellow a craft beer enthusiast. He is the General Manager for Fiddlers Crab House on River Street here in Savannah, GA.
Join me as I ask Jared a 12 pack of questions!
1)What is the best thing about being in the food industry?
I would have to say it is interacting with different patrons and listening to and learning from each of their experiences. I love seeing the joy on people’s faces knowing that I had a hand in a great food experience!
2) How did you get your start?
It started when I was 12 learning from my Mom and Grandma, which then took a winding trip through schooling at Georgia Southern for something in
the medical field, and a short stint at trying to become a rock star with my band. After touring the country and being short on money, it was time to find a steady paying job. That is when I worked in a few kitchens around town here in Savannah and learned all aspects of the food service industry. Also along the way, I practiced at home with different recipes and read a number of things related to food. Alton Brown was a big influence of mine with his take on the science behind food.
3) I also love Alton Brown and the science behind food! How did you get your interest in craft beer?
Oddly enough it was while touring with my band [Jared played Drums]. I found Sierra Nevada on tap at a place we were playing in Reno and stuck to the Pale Ale all night long. Those long nights spent exploring new tastes also led to some long and painful mornings. A few years later, while in the Schlafly tasting room, my interest was piqued with the flavors I’ve never had in a beer before in their Pomegranate Saison.
4) Where did you get the idea for hosting the beer dinners?
At first I was approached by a local beer sales rep to assist with getting the name of a particular brand out there. I asked my bar manager [another craft beer enthusiast] if he thought we could pull it off and he said, “Hell yes!” The opportunity with that beer rep fell through, but I was still really excited about the idea. Then in December of 2013, I approached a different beer rep and we launched the first beer dinner with Ballast Point. This was followed by a Southbound beer dinner in February of the following year, then Sweetwater in May, Sierra Nevada in October and Terrapin in January 2016.
5) What inspires you to come up with the incredible pairings? Are there any certain flavors you like to pair up with food and beer?
I like to taste the beer and try to gather the overall theme and tasting notes from it before coming up with food to go with it. Almost all of the recipes I have done for the beer pairings are ones I have previously done at home and play off the flavors in either a complimenting or contrasting way. One of the flavor pairings I like to hit is salty and sweet. For example, at the Sweetwater beer dinner everyone thought that the Blue would go with desert. I paired the sweetness from the blueberries in the beer with the saltiness of the prosciutto in the berry and melon salad. Also, what people might not know is we use the beer to cook with much of the time. Again with the Sweetwater beer dinner, we used the Georgia Brown in the butter pecan brown ale ice cream. Side note: I had it, it was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.
6) That is really impressive! You obviously know what you are doing. Would you say you have a refined palate?
No, not really. I have a friend that is a level one sommelier and I had the pleasure to experience a bourbon tasting with him in real time. He would call out notes that he tasted and it really helped me to be able to immediately sip the bourbon and find those same notes.
7) Would you say it’s harder to pick up different tastes in beer rather than food?
Yeah, I can totally relate to that. I can change the texture of the food which can impart a different taste than what you are expecting. Take a steak that is a slab of smoked pork butt and sear it on the flat top. You are going to get different flavors as compared to having the pork pulled. It gives you a different mouthfeel as well. The first time I experienced this in a beer was with Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s on nitro. The mouthfeel completely changed the notes in the beer, making it very creamy and less bitter.
8) I have heard that some of the best brewers were chefs. You are very into different tastes and different foods, so do you brew or have any interest in brewing your own beer?
Funny you should ask. I received a gift of a Mr. Beer a little while ago but have not gotten around to playing with it yet. It would be a dream come true to create 4 different beers to pair with 4 courses for a beer dinner with a local brewery or a couple of breweries. I could create exactly what notes I want to pair with the food in the beer, with much help from the brewers!
9) What is your favorite style of beer?
IPAs. I really like the citrusy ones and I’m always picking up some grapefruit sculpin from Ballast Point. Sours are also another style that I am big into. Also, I really like pairing beer up with the weather. I’ll drink a nice session IPA or sour after putting in a few hours of landscaping my front yard in the summer.
10) What is your favorite beer right now?
Again, it really changes with the seasons. I really like the pumpkin and roasted malt notes in Southern Tier Warlock. As I mentioned before, Grapefruit Sculpin is always a go to, but so is the Even Keel from Ballast Point. I am really looking forward to the upcoming Mango version. In the cooler months, I enjoy Burnt Hickory’s Big Shanty [Graham Cracker Stout].
11) Where do you see the beer dinner program going in the future?
It would be nice to get more people interested in it and be able to sell out tickets within the first few days of it being announced. Currently, it is $50 for 5 beers and 4 courses and really is good for the restaurant on a slow, typically Wednesday, night. I have been looking into different companies to use to make this a ticketed event and recently found one. Some of the breweries I would love to pair with are Orpheus, Monday Night, and Service.
We are working on an upcoming beer dinner where each course will be paired with a different beer from a different brewery. That would really open up the options of tasting notes to hit! I do this out of love for food and beer and want to share it with my patrons. I did a dessert once that used pecans from my mom’s backyard. I shook the trees, picked them up, and spent an inordinate amount of time shelling them.
12) Other than beer, what is your drink of choice?
Again, it really depends on the seasons. Right now, with a little chill in the air, I love great bourbons. However, after working in my yard for 2 hours in the summer and nice gin & tonic with freshly muddled mint really hits the spot when I sit back and look over my perfectly manicured lawn.
All photos property of Jared Wilderman and used with his consent.