Umami Unification: What Happens When A Brewer and Butcher Get Together

The new New York cut inspired by the lager from Boston.
The new New York-cut from Dickson’s inspired by the lager from Boston.

Beef and Beer: Did somebody say Fourth of July?

Beef is best kept at 33-37 degrees Fahrenheit. Beer at 38-42 degrees. But with Sam Adams six-packs parked in the microclimate just inside the door of Dickson’s Farmstand Meat’s beef-filled cooler,  the pairing of beef and beer was pretty damn perfect. (Yes, the elusive umami was invoked more than once.)

In fact, a lot of thought had gone into this. Having just created the perfect glass for its best selling Boston Lager, Sam Adams was pursuing the perfect cut of meat. So, the 20-year-old brewing company reached out to New York butcher Jake Dickson, feeling a certain kinship between the way he scours the Hudson Valley for meat and how Sam Adams’s brewers scour the world for hops.

Dickson ultimately proposed 6 potential cuts. And then there was just one–an  innovative piece of meat that doesn’t just pair well with the biscuity, caramelized notes in the lager, but is sufficiently patriotic, proletariat, and prolific to spread throughout this beef nation.

“We didn’t want something that was super buttery or super rich,” said Dickson of the Boston Lager cut, beer glass and beef slices in hand. “We wanted a big beefy flavor.” Master Brewer Grant Wood looked on, nodding, also with beer and beef in hand. Grant, who “does all the cooking at home” and became “even more of a foodie” after years of brewmaster dinners, said he couldn’t be more pleased. The pairing reminded him of the clam chowder and Sam Adams Boston ale marriage that predominates in bars and seafood joints throughout New England.

Specifically, the Boston lager cut is “the cap to the top sirloin,” Dickson explained. “It’s the bite of top sirloin that isn’t quite right.” So, Dickson decided to “seam it out” into its own svelt cut, with plenty of brownable surface area to jive with brown flavors in the beer .

“The cut exists in large number on all animals in the country,” said Dickson. And it’s also remarkably consistent–in terms of fat content, size on the animal and other traits–across the nation’s herds, be they grassfed, grainfed or otherwise. The typical steer will yield 10 to 15 Boston lager cuts. Think of it as a smaller sirloin, which will make it slightly less expensive (and less resource intensive).

Not to mention accessible, versatile, and strangely simple for the grill or the kitchen, where Dickson recommends a quick, 45-minute braise. “We think it has legs,” he said, as a scrappy, young butcher nearby dissected several half cows in succession.

So, a flavor of beer could inspire a cut of meat. But until the cut takes root across the city and the nation–Dickson is glad to share the knowledge with other butchers–you can try it first hand at Dickson’s in Chelsea Market. And we’re also trying persuade Dickson’s and Sam Adams to join as a last-minute pairing for Good Beer on July 28. Stay tuned.

Brian Halweil

Brian is the editor at large of Edible East End, Edible Long Island, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn. He writes from his home in Sag Harbor, New York, where he and his family tend a home garden and oysters. He is also obsessed with ducks, donuts and dumplings.

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