There are times that call for elevated cuisine. Then there are times when, in the words of Garrett Oliver, you “murder a bag of White Castle Cheeseburgers at midnight.” Today, we celebrate the latter.
This morning, Serious Eats Managing Culinary Editor and James Beard Award-nominated Food Lab writer J. Kenji López-Alt (pictured below) released “Kenji’s Best Fast Food Awards (A Totally Biased, Completely Incomplete List.)” The article has already ignited controversy across Twitter and around our own office, with many at our desks wondering “Well, what are we supposed to drink with all of this?”
Here on the Brooklyn Brewery blog, I proudly offer my list of pairings for Kenji’s award-winning fast food offerings. I freely admit that my list is just as biased and a great deal more incomplete than Kenji’s with nothing approaching his credentials. I’m just Tim: Brooklyn Brewery copywriter, bartender and tour guide, sweatshirt model, and the kind of guy you’d approach at random for cheeseburger recommendations. I stand behind every entry. Argue it out with Kenji or myself on Twitter, or send positive affirmations at the Brooklyn Brewery.
Tim’s Beer Guide to Kenji’s Best Fast Food Award (A Stunningly Biased and Rather Truncated Pairing List)
Kenji’s Best Burger: The Original Smashburger with Cheese from Smashburger
Tim’s Beer Pick: Brooklyn Shackmeister Ale
Why: It’s a shame to start this list with a disagreement, but my heart belongs to Kenji’s runner up on this list: the Shack Burger with Cheese from Shake Shack. We brew Shackmeister to match up rich malts and tingling bitterness with the delicious smash-griddled patties Shake Shack has made an international phenomenon. Fortunately, Smashburger is part of the smash-griddled school of thought as well, so Shackmeister will be (nearly) as at home in their domain.
Kenji’s Best French Fries: Wendy’s
Tim’s Beer Pick: Brooklyn Lager
Why: I agree with the crowning of Wendy’s fluffy, crispy fries, replete with skin-on ends and shower of fine salt. The starchy-sweet, salty fries match up with Brooklyn Lager’s caramel malts before the bitter edge kicks in at the end to clear the way for the rest of your sack of fries. Those of you who have made multiple, somewhat shameful trips to a suburban Wendy’s in one night will particularly appreciate this pairing. Moving on!
Kenji’s Best Non-Fry Side: Giant Onion Rings from Burger Fi
Tim’s Beer Pick: Brooklyn Summer Ale
Why: Giant onion rings are comforting. Brooklyn Summer Ale, even more comforting, especially after this absurd winter. Put them together and let the sunny hops of Summer Ale go to work with the sweet crunch of the Giant Onion Rings. You’ll want to prolong this meal as much as possible to take advantage of your personal vacation.
Kenji’s Best Vegan/Vegetarian-Friendly Option: Sofritas Burrito from Chipotle
Tim’s Beer Pick: Brooklyn East IPA
Why: The new sofritas burritos originally picked up press when Chipotle started giving food away to anyone who bought them, but they’ve since earned a permanent position in the burrito giant’s lineup. Put the spicy kick of the soy-based sofritas to work alongside Brooklyn East IPA and let the citrusy hops carry the burrito to glory. You won’t mind paying for one of these any more; for that matter, it might become your regular order.
Kenji’s Best Make-Sure-Nobody’s-Looking Indulgence: Fiery Doritos Locos Taco Supreme from Taco Bell
Tim’s Beer Pick: Brooklyn BLAST!
Why: Look, I’m not going to ask why you’re eating this. At some point a craving becomes a need, then a visceral, primal urging. BLAST!’s big hops will crank up the fiery Doritos shell and harmonize with all that gooey, drippy cheese. Just make sure you get home safe, little camper. The world is still a harsh place outside that crunchy shell.
Kenji’s Best Chicken Sandwich: Fried Chicken Biscuit from Chick-Fil-A
Tim’s Beer Pick: Brooklyn Greenmarket Wheat
Why: This chicken biscuit is surprisingly hefty. Juicy fried chicken and the thick, buttery biscuit combine to create a heavyweight snack that’s rich, but rewarding. Lighten things up a little with the lively Greenmarket Wheat, tying in gently zesty wheat to accompany the chicken and a refreshing burst of bubbles at the finish to unite chicken, biscuit and beer into a weirdly refreshing power trio.
Kenji’s Best Fish Sandwich: Fish Po’ Boy from Popeye’s
Tim’s Beer Pick: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
Why: If you find yourself wading into the dangerous waters of fast-food fish, you might as well take something along that’ll make it worthwhile. Sorachi Ace pairs with the fleeting, delicate fish flavors within the po’ boy, while it’s lemongrass teams up with the crunchy breading to make this meal seem much fancier than the price tag.
Kenji’s Best Fried Chicken: Popeye’s
Tim’s Beer Pick: Brooklyn Brown Ale
Why: Popeye’s slightly spicy, crunchy, salty fried chicken is delicious on its own, but is clearly crying out for a sweet, full-bodied counterpart. After all, how do you think chicken and waffles got their start? Brooklyn Brown Ale brings just enough sweetness to match the salt, while the roast malts come to play with the tasty chicken and wily spices. Bite, sip, and repeat as necessary until all your problems go away.
Kenji’s Best Breakfast Sandwich: Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit with Whole Egg and Hash Brown Added from McDonald’s
Tim’s Beer Pick: Orval
Why: If you’re picking up this jacked-up breakfast sandwich from McDonald’s, it’s more than likely you’re dealing with a weapons-grade hangover. Famously gloveless beer writer Michael Jackson mentioned to Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve Hindy that Orval was his favorite hangover beer after a particularly long night in the early 90′s. Trust the master and let Orval’s lively carbonation scrub you clean.
Kenji’s Best Straw: McDonald’s
Tim’s Beer Straw Pick: Penn Station Beers for Your LIRR Trip
Why: As a recently escaped Long Islander, I was one of the many tired masses who commute through Penn Station every day. The time-honored tradition of drinking “train beers,” most often in clear 32oz cups with long plastic straws, has helped generations of harried commuters cling to their sanity on the LIRR. Just remember to be polite, and don’t try to sneak your drink onto the subway or street.
Kenji’s Best Late Night Munchies Fixer Upper: Jalapeño Poppers from Jack in the Box
Tim’s Beer Pick: Other Half Brewing Green Diamonds Imperial IPA
Why: Late night munchies, huh? Get rid of the subtlety and go for Green Diamonds from our friends at Other Half Brewing, packed to the brim with piney, dank hops and bright fruity notes that’ll match your new scent and turn up the heat from the jalapeños. Plus, if you’re lucky you can snag one of their beautiful cans.