Matt Killikelly loves his work more than ever.
As resident beer expert for Venti’s Café (with two locations in Salem, including Court Street downtown and on Commercial Street SE,) Killikelly tends blog and “Beer Czar” facebook streams and has been instrumental in a bold new Venti’s policy; adding a suggested beer and food pairing to every dish on the menu.
“The Venti’s experience is purposefully evolving,” he says, “toward an experience wherein a customer can more completely immerse in both the beer and food together.” This goal involves educating the staff on the very different qualities of different beers.
“Because, when you add it all up,” he says, “there are more than 1,000 possible variations in beer ‘profiles.’ With wine there are only 400! We want people to understand and experience that.”
It is in part to fulfill this mission that Killikelly and Venti’s owners design “Beer Geek Nights” the second Wednesday of each month at the Commercial Street Taphouse. The Beer Czar presides over these events and encourages the public to explore new sensations.
“I love to pair the beer with food, and work with the kitchen to make interesting combinations,” Killikelly tells us. At the Geek Night on March 13th, Venti’s is “doing Ceviche, which is a South and Central American dish of raw seafood ‘cooked’ in citrus juices, vinegar etc. These nights are an opportunity to educate the uninitiated in the ways of craft beer.”
Killikelly is thrilled that new breweries are coming to Salem. He’s already met owners of the most recent three. He particularly likes Salem Ale Works, now in construction off 25th Street. He says the owners are “nice guys, and I expect good things from them,
Meanwhile, the Czar keeps focused on new Venti’s experiences and his hand in yet another original idea. He tells us, “We also plan to add a monthly ‘prix fixe’ menu with recommended beer pairings for foods chosen by our brilliant new Executive Chef Shayne Taylor.”
Then, Killikelly returns to his demanding job of evaluating fresh, original beers for the rest of us.