It's Quad-Cities Craft Beer Week, and you might already know what you'll be sipping on today through Saturday. 

But how will you decide what to snack on? 

Cue advice from Abraham Blair, a self-proclaimed nerd — the precise term is cicerone — when it comes to beer and food pairings. 

As director of operations at Barrel House's three (and soon to be five) locations around the Quad-Cities, he champions for menu items that match well with local craft breweries, including Great River and Bent River.

"A lot of places do burgers and beers, but we have to do it better," he said. "Nothing against chain restaurants, but you don't want to make an evening out of going to a chain."

Blair hasn't always specialized in pub food — the world of greasy nachos where you might add the "fried" label to any and everything. 

Blair, who is 34, has been studying beer and wine styles for about 15 years, including a stint as chef and sommelier at Bix Bistro inside the Hotel Blackhawk. 

"I was used to fancy spots with white tablecloths where you had to speak in this eloquent way and keep your shoulders back," he said. "I got tired of that and basically retired." 

After getting worn out, he spent a year as a stay-at-home dad. He didn't think he would ever go back to the restaurant business. 

Until he got the call from the owner of Barrel House. 

"I could tell they were really committing to something big, to like a takeover of quality food," Blair said. "It was completely new to me." 

Over the past two years since Blair was hired, Barrel House has continued to expand its menu and recently started offering half-price appetizers after 9 p.m. 

And keeping a steady stash of local craft beer is important.

"My goal is always to find something you haven't had," he said. "I want you to go outside your comfort zone a little bit and get people passionate about something other than Budweiser and a Moscato." 

Although he says there aren't a ton of dos and don'ts, Blair hopes people go beyond the basics of bar meals. 

"The biggest battle is teaching staff and customers to break their routine," he said. "Those are when you get those magic moments." 

If you don't know where to start, read on for pairing suggestions from Blair. You can find these dishes at Barrel House's three locations, including 1321 5th Ave., Moline, 5141 Utica Ridge Road, Davenport and 211 E. 2nd St., Davenport.

1. Grains and a crisp, clean beer 

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Try this: Spinach and artichoke dip with a Breckenridge Agave Wheat, Exile Brewery's Bavarian Wheat or Bent River Brewery's Mississippi Blonde. Blair says: Complements grain flavors, balance hops while remaining light on the palate.

2. Braised meats and a hoppy, bitter beer 

Try this: Pulled pork quesadillas with the Humble Nectar IPA or Great River Brewery's West Coast Style IPA. Blair says: The intensity of the pork fat stands up to the strong beer characteristics. 

3. Bold cheese with lighter beer 

Try this: Jalapeno popper twists with Rogue Dead Guy Ale or Great River Brewery's "Tripel Krank" Belgian Style IPA. Blair says: Beer complements the natural flavors and textures while cutting through fat, cleansing the palate. 

4. Seafood with fruit and spicy brew 

Try this: Fish and chips or shrimp tacos with Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat or Bent River Brewery's Holly Berry (half jalapeno pepper ale and half raspberry wheat). Blair says: Beer brings out the salinity and natural sweetness while cleaning the palate. 

5. Roasted, grilled or fried vegetables with dark and roasty beer 

Try this: Portobello mushroom fries with Boulevard Dark Truth Stout or Bent River Brewery's Uncommon Stout. Blair says: The dark beer highlights the roasted character.


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).