In December, MadTree Brewing self-published a 125-page cookbook, Mix & Mash: Recipes for the Table and Glass, in which every recipe contains one of their four core beers: Happy Amber amber ale, Lift kölsch, PsycHOPathy IPA or PSA American pale ale. The book was inspired by the brewery’s Chef Series, in which MadTree and local chefs pair up to brew special beers.
In September 2013, chef Mike Florea of Maribelle’s eat + drink and MadTree created the first beer in the series — Flölsch, a kölsch brewed with lime, ginger and ancho chiles. Since then, 15 other chefs have contributed unusual brews including November’s Rabbit Paw, a Berliner Weisse brewed with pawpaws, from a collaboration with Covington’s Commonwealth Bistro.
Last spring, MadTree decided to use the series as a jumping off point for a cookbook.
“We’ve always had this culinary aspect in our DNA,” says Mike Stuart, MadTree’s director of people and social strategy. The brewery wanted to bring chefs together and “flip the script on them.”
“The chefs normally come in here, but let’s go into their kitchen and see what they can do,” he says.
Because MadTree is so anchored in the community, they decided to contribute a portion of the book’s proceeds to local La Soupe, chef Suzy DeYoung’s food waste initiative that turns old or ugly produce into nutritious meals for the food-insecure.
“The chefs were all intrigued by the idea of doing it, and then once they heard we were donating to La Soupe, they all immediately jumped in because it’s near and dear to all their hearts,” Stuart says.
Mix & Mash was an “all-hands on deck effort” for the brewery. Employees conducted brief chef interviews (a total of 15 chefs are included in the book) and compiled the 25 food recipes and the four brew-your-own MadTree beer recipes; MadTree’s in-house photographer Shay Nartker took the photos.
All of the chefs featured in the book had at one point brewed a Chef Series beer, and many of them had cooked for MadTree’s Hop-Up pop-up dinners. MadTree gave the chefs carte blanche when generating the recipes — the only stipulation was everyone had to use beer as an ingredient.
“We guided and challenged them,” Stuart says. “We’d say, ‘Hey, we want you to take this beer and do a starter or appetizer,’ or, ‘Take this and make a main dish and a dessert.’ They ran with it. They got the beer and figured out the flavor profiles and created the recipes from there. One of the things we threw on the chefs was, don’t make the recipes too overwhelming or too complicated.”
Recipes include a spicy Psycho Hummus from Jeff Ledford of Catch-A-Fire Pizza; PSA beer-battered grouper from Jose Salazar of Salazar and Mita’s; six-hour braised pork belly from Brad Bernstein of Postmark; and Happy Amber baked apples with candied pecans and mascarpone from Rachel DesRochers of Grateful Grahams. (With her S’More Gratitude beer, DesRochers became the first female chef to take on the Chef Series and is the only female chef with a recipe in the book.)
But why cook with beer instead of bourbon or wine?
“With the resurgence of craft beer, the canvas of options has greatly expanded,” Stuart says. “You have a range of colors, flavors, acidities, sugars and more with craft beer today. There’s only so much you can do with a run-of-the-mill light lager.”
February marks a big month for the brewery. In April, they will host an official cookbook party at their taproom, and last week they celebrated their fifth anniversary with weeklong festivities at the brewery. Stuart, who started at MadTree two-and-a-half years ago, has watched the brewery expand and grow.
“Sometimes it’s wild to look back and think where we were five years ago and not too much farther before that,” he says. “Our co-founders (Kenny McNutt, Jeff Hunt and Brady Duncan) were making beer in their basement, and here we are now in a $20 million new brewery facility and expanding our markets.”
In February 2017, MadTree moved into a 50,000-square-foot facility in Oakley, and they recently launched in Nashville and have plans to expand into additional markets. However, Stuart says they wouldn’t have gotten this far without community support.
“It’s why we have our tagline that says, ‘Beer builds community and community builds beer.’ We feel like it’s an inverse relationship there, so it all goes hand in hand. We don’t take any of this for granted. We continue to find different ways to improve ourselves every day.”
Mix & Mash retails for $50. Buy a copy at MadTree’s taproom (3301 Madison Road, Oakley), website or Joseph-Beth Booksellers. More info: madtreebrewing.com.