Finally decided to visit your new place, though I’m afraid I got lost on my way to your room. Would it kill you to dust a bit, maybe open up a window? It’s filthy in here. I know that this is your cool new half-bull half-man cave, but this is not how I raised the son of a king.
P.S: I brought you some fresh pretzel rolls. Your dad is sending you some new Athenians and I know how much you love fresh virgin flesh. Make yourself a sandwich.
LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR
- Bourbon poached pear
- Brie cheese
- Caramelized onions
- 10 oz. Beef patty
- Pretzel bun
A permanent fixture on Kuma’s Corner‘s menu, the Lair of the Minotaur burger is dedicated to the Chicagoan thrash and sludge metal band unique in the tribute it pays to the grisliest, bloodiest tales from Greek mythology. Think of them as the American an answer to all the Norse mythology widespread by the many viking metal bands out there. It is perhaps the most unusual-sounding burger out of all the usual suspects available all year round and has been on my list ever since I learned about the place.
Lair of the Minotaur immediately grabs the attention with the fanned-out bourbon poached pear half sitting on top of all the other ingredients that has been soaking in a grog-like solution of ginger ale, bourbon (which Kuma’s Corner has on TAP!), cinnamon sticks and anise. Just a small bite is enough to reveal all the flavors. As someone who grew up on massive quantities of fruit compote, I really fell in love with the tenderness of the poached pear and the very, very subtle hint of anise’s licorice sweetness reminds of the the lingering aftertaste of Greek ouzo, immediately reminding you of what you’re dealing with here. Beneath all of that are thick, soft slices of brie cheese served with the rind on, which just melt and coat the burger in a creamy layer of barely noticeable saltiness complimenting and enriching the already sweet and fruity palate of Lair of the Minotaur. A thin slice of Italian pancetta “bacon” cured in salt and black pepper plays along with the cheese and gives the entire burger that much needed spice to it which tones down the overwhelming pear flavor, because at the end of the day the Lair of the Minotaur is a burger and burgers are not known, nor should they ever be predominantly sweet. In the company of the poached pear, the brie and the pancetta, the pile of caramelized onions is perhaps the least impressive, but its savory, brown sugar deliciousness matches that of the festive fruit on top and you’ll immediately get lost in the labyrinth of flavor that you’ll find the the layers of thinly-sliced pear and the tangle of onion slices. Finally, if you manage to make it through this wild roller-coaster of sweet and salty goodness, you’ll find the bovine monstrosity itself in the form of a 10 oz. beef patty. Too good to be true? Let me remind you that the LotM is available at both Kuma’s locations ALL. THE. TIME. It’s there and it’s waiting for you. Dare you find it?
With food and booze pairings you eventually go down the road of combining either similar or contrasting flavors. When it comes to food with noticeable sweetness to it I prefer to match, because I have a sweet tooth. The brie cheese in Lair of the Minotaur pairs extremely well with fruity, crisp and tangy beverages.I always like to start my visits to Kuma’s Corner with one of the rotating beers that they have on tap and when I heard that they had Three Floyds’ Gumballhead American Pale Wheat Ale [5.60% ABV] I immediately got myself a pint before I even knew what I was going to order (though, to be fair, Lair of the Minotaur was always my top choice). I really like how the hints of grapefruit, lemon zest, marmalade and peach ended up preparing me for LotM – it has all the great hop aroma which I’m slowly falling in love with and it also lacks the usual bitterness of other similar APA’s, resulting in a very, very refreshing beer which would make a great pears well (get it?) enough with the brie and the sweetness of the poached pear and caramelized onions.
Three Floyds’ also brewed a special beer on two separate occasions to commemorate the release of Lair of the Minotaur’s fourth album “Evil Power” in the form of Three Floyds’ Evil Power American Double/Imperial Pilsner [7.20% ABV] – it was released on Dark Lord Day in 2011 and 2013 while LotM was performing at the festival. I can’t really comment on how well the beer pairs with the burger, but from what I’ve read it has a distinct citrus flavor and some tartness to it, so if you are lucky enough to be in the possession of an Evil Power you should try it. Who knows, maybe Three Floyds’ will release another batch this years?
After I was done with the Gumballhead, I ordered myself something that I’m more familiar with:
Dogfish Head Brewery’s Piercing Pils Czech Pilsener [6.00% ABV], which is a winter seasonal pale lager with a lighter flavor, brewed with White Pear Tea and pear juice, resulting in a foamy, crisp beer comparable to riesling and perry (pear cider). I mean, it pears almost perfectly with the Lair of the Minotaur. Its noticeable, but smooth acidity, aroma and flavor play extremely well with the bourbon poached pear and the brie cheese.
Additionally, Dogfish Head Brewery recommends soft pretzel for it, which is the one mandatory ingredient in almost all of Kuma’s burgers and the other recommended food pairing, barbecue ribs, is not that far from the sweet sassy molassy brown sugary goodness of the caramelized onions.
A thing to remember is that the temperature of the the Piercing Pils matters a lot. This is a beer that releases its full pear aroma and flavor as it warms up, so if it is blue mountain cold you’ll only get the subtle hints in the body of the beer without much lingering aftertaste, but if you’re willing to sacrifice some of its crispiness in the name of pear awesomeness, you should do so. Order it immediately and put it on the side before you order your appetizer to let it warm up enough when your burger shows up, or ask your waitress to put it aside for you and bring you another beer in the mean time.
Do let me know if the following pairings have worked out for you or if you have your own suggestions.