Ordering from the Fancy Beers list at posh Chicago steakhouse RPM Steak is almost exactly like ordering wine. After choosing from among the 75-bottle rare brew list—with prices that top out at $148 for a 2015 Goose Island Brewing Co. Bourbon County Brand Rare imperial stout—a server in a crisp white jacket presents the bottle to the table, then cracks it open to pour a taste into the accompanying snifter or wine glass.
“I don’t want to single out beer drinkers as an afterthought,” says RPM sommelier Kyle Tarczynski, the mind behind the beer menu. “I want them to have as much excitement and fun selecting a beverage as someone who orders wine.”
The 800-bottle wine list undoubtedly commands the spotlight at this four-year-old chophouse. But beyond the sheer geekiness factor of drinking rare, one-off beers from handsome stemware, the brews pair startlingly well with the food. A single-release American wild ale from 18th Street Brewery in Hammond Indiana is clean, bright, and acidic. It matches sweet lobster claw meat doused in drawn butter and briny oysters with jalapeño mignonette presented on a lavish chilled seafood tower. Peppery, barnyardy Belgian farmhouse saison mirrors the mushroomy funk of hand-cut beef tartare topped with shaved black truffle. A figgy, charred 2010 bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout is a match in hedonism for seared, richly marbled grass-fed ribeye.
“I think, honestly—and we don’t like to admit this as wine guys—but beer is a more versatile food pairing than wine, just because there are so many styles out there, and you have a little more certainty with beer than wine,” Tarczynski says.