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Posted on Sun, Feb 28, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Beer and burgers make a great combo at Ypsilanti's Sidetrack

By David Bardallis


Rave Associates' Besnik Aliko and Sidetrack event planner Jessica French hoist a pint to another successful beer and burger tasting.

David Bardallis | Contributor

Do you like burgers? Do you like beer? How about burgers with beer?

That’s the unassailable premise behind the semi-regular Beer & Burger Tasting series at Frenchie’s, the bar adjoining the venerable Sidetrack Bar & Grill in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town.

The series is the brainchild of Sidetrack event planner Jessica Jane French and Besnik Aliko of Rave Associates, a local beer and wine distributor.

“We’ve hosted four or five of these so far and it’s been a blast,” said French. “Each time we get about 60 people in here, hungry for something a little different.”

“It’s about good people, good food, good beer and having a good time,” added Aliko.

How does it work? For a mere $25, patrons are treated to a five-course dinner paired with five complementary beers — and even live music. The Feb. 10 “Love at First Bite” tasting, which I attended, was Valentine’s Day-themed, with each course sporting a romantic name.

Aliko introduced each course with notes on the various beers and why they were chosen. First up was the appetizer, “Let's Get It On” (OK, some names were less romantic than others), a spear of asparagus wrapped in bacon (mmm, bacon) and paired with Espresso Love Stout from the Corner Brewery. The beer’s roasty, caramel notes picked up on the bacon, which I was grateful for as I don’t particularly love the taste of asparagus.

Then, it was burger time. The first burger course, entitled “Signed, Sealed, Delicious,” was an open-face mini-patty topped with pomegranate Neufchâtel cheese. The beer pairing was In Heat Wheat Ale from Flying Dog Brewery, the only non-Michigan beer to be featured. The tart, pomegranate taste of the cheese meshed rather well with the citrus notes of the beer, which is more or less a hefeweizen. Probably my favorite pairing of the evening.

Next was “Hot and Heavy,” a mini-patty topped with pineapple dusted with chili powder and paired with Red’s Rye P.A. from Founders Brewing of Grand Rapids. I love me some Red’s Rye, but the burger for me was the least successful; the chili taste, which would have helped balance the beer’s bitterness, was unfortunately lost in the sweetness of the pineapple.

The third and final burger was “Honey, I’m Nuts for You,” a mini-patty topped with almond and walnut goat cheese and served on a honey-toasted bun. It was paired with Local’s Light from Short’s Brewing of Bellaire. This worked pretty well, the beer being a basic light lager with enough taste to stand up to the goat cheese’s tanginess and complement the nut and honey flavors.

For dessert, “Punch Drunk Love,” a Champagne-soaked strawberry with crème fraîche and chocolate, was paired with Bell’s Winter White Ale. I couldn’t notice any Champagne taste and I’m not a huge strawberry fan, but put enough crème fraîche and chocolate on anything and it’s bound to be good. The Bell’s was just OK with it.

The best part may have come after dinner—chatting and comparing notes with other beer and food geeks; enjoying post-dinner, full-pint digestifs; and grooving to live music from bluegrass/fusion combo Dragon Wagon. All in all, a good time.

You're asking: When is the next Beer & Burger Tasting? The date has not been set, but I'm told the schedule is entirely demand-driven.

"We break even on these events at best," said French. "It's really about enlightening more people about the possibilities in beer and food pairing."

That's a worthy mission. Hungry, thirsty, interested parties can call Jessica at 734-483-5230 and lobby directly.

David Bardallis is a freelance writer and editor, blogger, bon vivant, and man about town. Visit his Web site,, to engage his services or read his latest. Email your beer-related thoughts to, follow @dbardallis on Twitter, or join the "All the Brews Fit to Pint" Facebook page.