The best thing about a restaurant with tons of beer taps is the ability for one to pair their brews directly with the food they order. That’s not to say one has to — many are the nights where I opt to drink what I feel like, pairing be damned — but when the mood, menu, and tap list are right, magic can happen. I was recently on the receiving end of such sudsy sorcery when visiting the newest limb on the Cohn Restaurant Group’s family tree, Draft Republic.
4282 Esplanade Court, University City
Before perusing the food menu, I went straight for the draft list to examine the 36 ales and lagers at this beer-centric eatery, which replaced the CRG’s Strip Club late last year. San Diego County’s first family of restaurant operations has procured a pretty good list.
There is room for improvement, but they offer more than just the ubiquitous standbys — Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, Stone Pale Ale, Saint Archer White. Lesser-seen offerings abound, including one of my favorites, Zumbar, a coffee- and chocolate-infused imperial stout from Sorrento Valley’s New English Brewing Company.
I dog-eared that selection for later in the meal, then turned my attention to the edibles. It was there I saw what appeared to be the second half of a slam-dunk beer-and-food pairing — fresh doughnuts filled with espresso buttercream served with a side of espresso chip ice cream. LeBron can’t jam it home with greater force than this beer-and-dessert duo.
The coffee in the beer and the fried goodness sync up perfectly, while Zumbar’s chocolatey essence adds a secondary flavor that helps the already tasty doughnuts soar. It’s not some complicated one-two punch some master cicerone would have to help lesser-experienced pairers discover. It is, however, one so delicious, I feel inclined to point the way to all of my readers.
The beer on its own is already one of the best-flavored imperial stouts in the county and could serve as dessert by itself. But have a sip just before and just after biting into one of those sugar-dusted balls of chewy dough, experience the outflow of warm, oozy, coffee-kissed filling, and you’ll know beer-and-food symbiosis at its best. Despite being stuffed before this last course arrived, I ended up devouring the whole thing. It was that good.