Burger Beverage Pairings
From Beer to Milkshakes & So Much More
Burgers and shakes. Burgers and a nice, frothy beer. Burgers and an ice-cold soda. If you ask most people, as long as they have a juicy burger in front of them, the beverage is absolutely secondary. But these days, as more establishments get into the burger biz, what you drink is just as important.
SHAKE SHACK is one great example of taking its beverage program to the highest level. The menu at this up-and-coming burger giant is so extensive, in fact, that it can be daunting to make a decision. There’s house-made lemonade. Small-batch root beer on draft. A curated list of craft beers, including Brooklyn Brewery’s ShackMeiser Ale (brewed exclusively for Shake Shack). And of course there are the shakes.
Shake Shack’s shakes are not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill frozen liquid treats, but they do represent wholesome Americana. “You cannot get more classic than that,” insists Matt Meyer, the Chicago area director at Shake Shack, which has been an East Coast institution since 2004. “Our shakes have an old-fashioned feel to them, but we also wanted some based on frozen custard.”
The frozen custard, or concretes, are blended at very high speeds with the diner’s choice of unconventional “mix-ins” like chocolate truffle cookie dough, strawberry puree, black salt caramel chocolate and salted caramel doughnut. While Meyer says the concretes are big sellers, he is most proud that the company has gone out of its way to incorporate local merchants’ products in them.
“All of our Shacks have local associations,” he explains. “We have three different concretes for the shakes that use local products, and we want our diners to know that we want to be part of the community. We’re very proud of that.” In addition, Shake Shack typically offers at least four craft beers that are local to the region, from Massachusetts to Nevada.
At RUEBEN'S BURGER BISTRO in Boulder, Co., the co-concept of craft beers is so serious that there are 42 taps behind the bar. That’s right. Forty-two taps that are filled with unique Belgian draughts, local microbrews and global offerings.
For those who have trouble making a decision, a beer flight is on the menu, and customers may choose up to five. And for those diners really at odds, there’s a list of “staff favorites,” which aptly describes the flavor profiles of each beer.
Some may think that themed burger bars are a little over the top, but there’s nothing wrong with a little kitsch if the food, beverages and service are on point. Chicago’s famed heavy metal burger bar features craft beers paired with heaving burgers with names like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Pantera paying homage to legendary bands. And BROOKLYN’S ACTION BURGER is a gamer’s delight with bites named “Dark Energy Night” and “Skeleborg Soldier” complementing boozy shakes like the “Gravity Shockwave.”
And certainly the staff at ZOMBIE BURGER + DRINK LAB has heard every possible “Walking Dead” joke. But at least they’re cashing in on the AMC series’ global success with themed burgers like “The Walking Ched” (cheese bun, bacon, Cheddar, caramelized raw onion, macaroni and cheese, mayonnaise), “Mushroom Apocalypse” (“un-burger” sandwich of breaded mushroom, cheese croquette, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise) and “T-Virus” (Swiss, grilled Portobello mushroom, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise).
They appear to be having so much fun at the Des Moines, Iowa-based eatery that the theme has effortlessly “spread” to the beverage menu. The massive “Zom Bier” list contains a comprehensive list of Belgians, ales, lagers, sours, stouts, IPAs and more. There are a number of old school cocktails as well, and of course the classic tiki-inspired Zombie makes an appearance.
The biggest beverage thrills, however, are the “brain freeze” shakes that may be ordered with no alcohol or “spiked.” Several toe the line with the zombie theme, from the cereal-inspired “Zombie Unicorn” made with Fruity Pebbles, vodka and vanilla ice cream to the “cake shake”-focused “Zombie Bride Wedding” of cake vodka, yellow cake mix and vanilla ice cream.