Why Adding a Food Experience Can be Crucial

Warped Wing Brewing recently announced the addition of a new General Manager and Culinary Director as Erin O’Neill has been tasked to start a beer and food experience for consumers of the Dayton, Ohio brewery.

O’Neill has begun working on menus for both the original facility and the upcoming “Warped Wing Barrel Room & Smokery,” which is slated to open in the summer of 2020 in Springboro, Ohio.

Brewer got insight into the new project from O’Neill and co-founder/Brewmaster John Haggerty.

Haggerty said the business model for the first five years of existence has mostly been built on beer with the kitchen serving as a supporting role.

“The food was fine but it didn’t have a broad enough appeal that someone might come here specifically for a meal regardless of the beer,” he said. “Going forward we are trying to take a more aggressive stance in our approach to food.

“If we can produce a high-quality culinary experience at a fair and affordable price we will — hopefully — attract more customers into the tap room that will naturally result in greater beer sales and greater exposure for our brand. ”

When it comes to pairing beer with food, O’Neill says there is no wrong answer.

“I know people will disagree, and there are guidelines you can follow just like wine,” he said. “But when you are at a brewery, it is like a kid in a candy store as far as choices.

“I know that spicy food goes well with hops but for a person who doesn’t like hops they might not agree. I never want to limit anyone on their choices as to what to eat or drink.”

Instead, O’Neill wants to focus on what makes a consumer happy.

“Traditionally, hoppy beers pair well with spicy food. Stouts and Porters will pair well with earthy stews and heavy soups, as well as chocolate and coffee desserts,” he noted. “If I was having a lighter item like seafood or salads, I would go lighter beers like a Saison or a Pilsner.

“So there are suggestions, but again, everyone’s palate is different and we all experience food in our own ways.”

When O’Neill started to put the menu together he thought about the experience of coming to a brewery.

“Usually I will get a flight to try a bunch of different styles,” he said. “I will either go with friends or meet with friends. It is a communal experience. One to be shared.”

That means having food that could hold up flavor-wise to the brewery’s biggest beer, but also be something people can share. The menu he has crafted for Warped Wing not only uses beer in a variety of recipes but it has a large number of shareable items.

“Everyone could order something different and enjoy it family style,” he pointed out. “That is universal.

“At any city of any size right now in the world, someone is having a favorite dish and drinking a beer. It is about creating that memory and feeling of community and togetherness. What is better than sharing a pint and making a friend? Sharing some food as well.”

So that means creating a menu that is different enough that it can be a new taste experience for many while also putting a different twist on some classics. O’Neill said there is an emphasis on homemade sauces, high-quality ingredients, and lots of flavors.

Haggerty’s personal belief is that it’s just a bonus anytime you can show how beer works in a culinary setting.

“Even though beer/food pairing is not a new concept, it is still a novelty to the majority of consumers out there,” he said. “We also like to consider ourselves to be ‘thoughtful flavorists’ at the brewery, meaning that we are trying to create flavor interactions with beer that people will find positive.”

Aiding consumers in finding those positive flavor combinations could also get them to think that way, not only when they are at the brewery, but also when they are at home or out at another place of business that carries Warped Wings’ beers. Haggerty added that when customers start to make informed and considered decisions it’s a win for everyone: the customer, the retailer, and the brewery.

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