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Canned Openers

Jeffery Lindenmuth - July/August 2014

New York City—Like many craft brew lovers, Nate Adler, co-general manager, partner, and beverage director of Huertas in Manhattan’s East Village, is a can convert when it comes to beer. “It’s actually the best vessel to transport beer. Cans are essentially mini kegs,” says Adler. His experience with canned seafood, however, was typically American. “Chef Jonah Miller was telling me about the conservas program and I was very confused. My knowledge of canned seafood was Bumble Bee tuna,” says Adler. Visits to Spain and Portugal followed, where Adler opened to the idea of artisanal conservas by sampling from venues like Loja das Conservas in Lisbon, a specialty retailer of the canned catch.

With Cans and Conservas, Adler combines his passion for the preserved—pairing canned craft brews with conservas. Neatly plated in their respective cans, each pairing ($12) is served with lemon, fresh herbs, sea salt, and sliced bread for a do-it-yourself pintxos presentation that fits with Huertas’ Basque theme.

Westbrook Brewing Company, from Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, offers a traditional German-style beer called Gose that relies on sourness rather than bitterness for balance and includes coriander and salt, making it the perfect complement for briny Cabo de Peñas clams. Hell or High Watermelon, a wheat beer brewed with watermelon from San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery, makes a refreshingly fruity companion for the spicy paprika-laced mejillones en escabeche from Spain’s Conservas Ortiz, a leading producer in operation since 1891.

While Adler is equally proud of the wine list at Huertas, he says marrying canned beers with tinned fish goes beyond novelty. “I think, in general, beer is the right pairing, because these beers quench thirst and offer refreshment with their potent flavors. Conservas, for me, are picnic and beach food, and a can of beer fits well with that idea.”