It’s been a long time coming for beer; the fermented grain beverage has made its way into society in such a way that it has finally been given credence similar to that of fine wine. For centuries, however, it was known as the drink of paupers. Whether a drunkard or a social sipper, if you drank wine, if you had the proper accoutrements — crystal decanters and delicate wine goblets — then you could be considered part of the upper echelons of society. Tales of kings and queens, great leaders and even their minions drinking copious amounts of wine have been passed down from generation to generation. But to be a beer lover, well, anyone who professed a love for beer was most likely some lowly peasant or a monk. (Straight-from-the-bottle winos do have their own sordid reputations.)

Times are a-changin’, though, and beer is no longer just a drink enjoyed over long periods of time or barbecuing with friends. Beer is making a name for itself — and not just the lagers with the extremely low calorie content seen in almost every other commercial on TV during prime time.

Thanks to dedicated and skilled craftsmen, beer has evolved from light and easy to rich and sophisticated.

Understanding the complicated flavors of the array of beers now available to the public has sparked widespread interest in microbreweries and home brewing. With beer tastings and beer festivals popping up throughout the past year, it is no surprise that a local beer and food pairing festival is on the horizon.

Anyone who knows and enjoys the difference between a porter, a hefeweizen, a pale ale and so forth must be enthusiastic about this turn of events. Beer is good and should be recognized for its variety of robust flavors and, of course, the way certain foods complement those unique flavors.

Previously, only wines have had the privilege of venerable and distinguished rules — red wine with red meat, and white wine with fish and chicken — and there really wasn’t much more to say about it. But now that drinkers’ palates have warmed up to the flavors of an assortment of brews, FOOD Share — a food bank that distributes millions of pounds of food to hungry residents throughout Ventura County — is presenting Ventura County with the region’s first ever, highly publicized pairing event, Salute! A Festival to Celebrate Finely Crafted Beer and Food.

Being held Saturday, June 19, at San Buenaventura State Beach, attendees will get to try nearly 300 craft beers with some tender vittles from 100 food vendors. There are a few rules of thumb that participants should remember as they enjoy the assortment of mouth-watering and mind-boggling flavors:

1. Match strength with strength. Delicate dishes pair best with delicate beers. Strongly flavored dishes should be served with aggressive beers.

2. Find harmonies. Food and beer taste best when flavor and aroma elements match. If you are drinking a super-hoppy India pale ale, try some spicy curry dish. If you are drinking a chocolaty stout, try raspberry truffle. If you are drinking a hearty brown ale, like Newcastle, try some roast pork or smoked sausage.

3. Consider sweetness, bitterness, carbonation, heat (spice) and richness. Specific characteristics of food and beer balance each other in predictable ways.

(Taken from Beerutopia.com. For a beer food chart, go to www.beertown.org/education/pdf/beer&food.pdf.)
“FOOD Share is thrilled to be the sole beneficiary of the first Salute festival,” said Bonnie Weigel, president of FOOD Share. “The proceeds will help us meet the needs of the growing number of hungry friends that we serve each month in Ventura County. Salute is a fun and unique way to enjoy good food and drink and help others in the process.”   

Salute! A Festival to Celebrate Finely Crafted Beer and Food will be held on June 19, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for VIP guests, and 1 to 5 p.m. for general admission, at the San Buenaventura State Beach. VIP tickets are $135; general admission tickets are $60. Nearly 300 craft beers, 100 food vendors and a bill of renowned musicians will be featured at the event. Tickets can be purchased online at www.salutebeerfestival.com or in person.

michael@vcreporter.com