At Summit House, an Unusual Reunion of Beer and Beef

The restaurant joins a super-sustainable collaboration between River Bend Farm and Untied Brewery.

Illustration by Amber Day

For every 50 or so gallons of beer a brewery makes, it has to dispose of about 300 pounds of spent grain. Many offer it to local farmers to feed their animals. If that’s impractical, the grain often ends up in landfills, adding more methane to the atmosphere.

When Untied Brewery opened in New Providence in January, the owners—married couple Matt and Kim Green, and Kim’s cousin Mark Russo—made it job one to find a local farmer willing to haul away the 2,000 or so pounds of spent grain they would generate every week.

Not just any farmer, says Kim, but one producing “all-natural, pasture-raised beef or pork. With one exception, the very few who loosely fit those criteria were located outside Jersey.”

The exception was Corne Vogelaar, manager of the 400-acre River Bend Farm in Peapack. Very soon, he was pulling up to Untied’s loading dock and driving off with 10 rubber totes, each packed with 200 pounds of feed for his cattle.

Before Untied opened, Kim had e-mailed Dylan Baker, co-owner of Summit House in nearby Summit, knowing the restaurant was into local products. She asked if he could recommend a farmer. “It took me maybe four weeks to get back to her,” Baker admits. “I called her and said, ‘I’ve got the perfect guy for you—Corne Vogelaar. We buy whole cows from him.’”

“We both realized,” says Baker, “we had a relationship with the same farmer, and partnering fit like a glove.”

Summit House began adding Untied beers to its draft roster. One is Summit House Pilsner, a custom brew made with the barley that went to Vogelaar when spent. “It’s the most popular beer we have on tap,” Baker says. The other is Untied’s Hilltopper Ale, an American strong amber.

But it would take time to complete the beef-beer circle.

“Corne told us it would take 100 days of feeding the Untied barley to his cows before they would be ready for slaughter,” Baker relates. In mid-April, Summit House received its first steer finished on Untied’s spent barley. Then came 45 days of dry aging at Summit House. “It’s a unique product, not a commodity,” Baker says.

The collaboration will be celebrated on Tuesday, June 11, at a Beer & Steer dinner for 60 at Summit House. Executive chef Justin Antiorio will pair Vogelaar’s barley-fed beef with Untied beers. “We might,” says Baker, “braise some of the lesser cuts in an Untied stout and create a dish inspired by an Irish stew, and pair it with an Untied beer that complements it, possibly an IPA.” But the main event is seeking taste relationships in a simply prepared barley-fed steak and a beer made from the same barley.

“It won’t be obvious,” Baker says. “But when you eat it and drink it with the beer, it will have a unique synergy on the palate.”

The spent barley accounts for only 20 percent of what Vogelaar’s cows eat daily, with easier-to-digest grass their primary food. “Through the brewer’s grains,” Vogelaar says, “we get a little extra marbling and finish on the beef.”

He also gets happy cows. “They definitely like it,” he says, playing a phone video of his cows dashing for the troughs of barley. “They trot a little faster when they see it.”

Apart from the Beer & Steer dinner, Summit House mixes River Bend beef with other organic, pasture-raised beef for its burger and offers a River Bend roast beef sandwich at lunch. The plan moving forward is to offer River Bend’s barley-fed beef as nightly specials. Call ahead to see what will be available.

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