Craft Beer and Food Trucks: A Pairing That Was Meant to Be

thumb_IMG_3031_1024Today’s food truck craze and the craft beer industry boom have enjoyed parallel upward trajectory in recent years. Their synergistic relationship has led to a simultaneous, new and enjoyable eating and drinking experience that you won’t find at downtown restaurants or fast food joints. The fairly recent marriage of eclectic food trucks and craft breweries has created new options for people looking for a night out.

It’s not uncommon for breweries to promote specific food trucks or caterers that will be serving “street food” at their location. For the beer establishments, the type of food vendor is just as important as any other promotion to get people in the door. Some breweries and food trucks have gone as far as to team up to pair specific beers with certain food truck offerings.

The present-day obsession with food trucks began several years ago with the concept of gourmet food cooked and delivered straight to the customer – kitchen and all. It was the new version of take-out. Chic pop-up restaurants and other inventive mobile food services like the Taco Man grew in popularity and could be found everywhere from backyard gatherings and neighborhood block parties to college campuses, office complexes and downtown street fairs. Playing off the model of county fair food stands, pioneering mobile eateries offered classic and newer, more creative culinary delights as their county fair brethren, but were more portable and flexible.

Operated largely by self-declared “foodies,” today’s mobile vendors offer innovative ethnic and fusion varieties of niche food styles. Each has its own focus, and you’d be hard-pressed to find two that offer the same menu. The more imaginative, the better. The inspired mobile food vendor has become the trailblazer of the foodie frontier. Their concoctions are generally much less expensive than most other dining options, including the less sophisticated fair food stands.thumb_IMG_3029_1024

It was only natural to bring street food to craft breweries, most of which don’t have their own food preparation facilities and are located in industrial parks. For many years, the main drawback to most craft breweries was the absence of solid edibles other than peanuts and pretzels. Why worry about serving food when your focus is on beer? Let someone else handle the food regulations while the brewery handles the beer. Enter food-to-go.

Unless it’s located adjacent to a pizza parlor or taco stand, resourceful craft breweries have the distinct advantage (or disadvantage) of promoting a different food vendor every night of the week. Just as they are consistently rotating their tap handles with novel new craft beers, the breweries also shuffle their food menus on a daily basis. Barbecue on Wednesday might give way to Korean tacos on Thursday, burgers on Friday and Cajun on Saturday. Last month Claremont Craft Ales hosted more than a dozen different food caterers. Others like Dale Bros. Brewery in Upland offered a similar variety of epicurean offerings. Many of the culinary entrepreneurs move from brewery to brewery, setting up their traveling kitchens for a different set of beer lovers each night.

Today, food trucks and craft beer are nearly synonymous. There are food truck rallies and craft beer festivals. When the two come together you have a match made in gastronomic heaven. Almost all beer festivals feature an array of eats in colorful trucks, trailers and food booths, mixed among the canopies where unique beers are poured.food truck 1

Next time you’re looking for a bite to eat on a weekend night, consider your neighborhood craft brewery, where you can savor brews and tantalizing cuisine, all in the comfort of the local industrial park.

Articles from “Sips, Suds and Spirits” focusing on the local craft beer scene also appear in 9-0-9 Magazine.  This story will  be featured in the July magazine.