Julian's chef and owner Celina Tio will be in the kitchen at her Brookside restaurant tonight preparing a few new bar snacks, but the real draw is probably Julian NBB Love, the blend she created at the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado, this past December. It will be poured for the first time at 5:30 p.m.
"I'm a fan of having things that you can't get anywhere else," Tio says, while sitting at the bar yesterday afternoon, feet from her restaurant's signature bourbon, which she worked with Kentucky's Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery to create shortly after Julian's launch.
Tio's first attempts at beer blending came courtesy of a few chance meetings with Lauren Salazar, New Belgium's sensory specialist and one of the rising stars in the craft-beer world. She was introduced to Salazar's calling card, Le Terroir, at a Chicago beer dinner.
"She brought me one, and I didn't realize it was actually her beer, but I didn't move from it all night," Tio remembers.
The two reconnected at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic over Twitter, and Tio, who was attending and not cooking, took in Salazar's beer seminar.
"She told me I should come out to the brewery and blend my own sour beer. I thought that would be cool, but I didn't know that she was serious until she e-mailed me and asked when I could come out," Tio says.
In December, Tio found herself alone with 18 different samples — Salazar told her to trust her palate — in the Colorado brewery. After two rounds through the samples, she was left with two different batches, which blended three of the initial offerings.
"It's not that sour. There's a little hint of peach yogurt at the end. I wanted something that had balance, so there's a bit of fruitiness in the sour," Tio says.
She returned to New Belgium several weeks ago to learn more about the employee-ownership structure at the brewery, a move she has long considered at Julian.
"We have employees who have been with us since we opened; they should be rewarded, too," Tio says.
Julian NBB Love was delivered yesterday morning, and Tio is planning to pair two dishes with her blend tonight: an oyster po'boy with red cabbage slaw, cornmeal-dusted oysters and spicy remoulade on house-made brioche; and braised beef tongue, sliced thin and served atop house-made buckwheat noodles with crispy shallots, pickled radish, balsamic vinegar and Olio Verde extra virgin olive oil.
Tio will also be holding back a keg for a beer dinner later this year, hopefully one that Salazar could attend. But the next collaboration she's got in mind is for your fridge.
"I keep trying to sell them on an idea for their Lips of Faith line. Imagine a sour beer with some caraway infused in it," Tio says.