Pikes Pub: Suds and spuds a craft pairing made in Denver

By Stephanie Earls Updated: February 8, 2017 at 8:32 pm • Published: February 8, 2017 0
photo - Morgan Handmade Rations are pictured at Gold Camp Brewing Company on Saturday, February 4, 2017. Based in Denver, Morgan Handmade Rations offers four different chip pairings to match all beer styles. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette
Morgan Handmade Rations are pictured at Gold Camp Brewing Company on Saturday, February 4, 2017. Based in Denver, Morgan Handmade Rations offers four different chip pairings to match all beer styles. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette

Don't be surprised if you start hearing a totally tuber new request from those bellying-up at your favorite craft brewery:

"Which potato chip pairs best with my beer?"

Available in four varieties, Morgan Handmade Rations allows beer fans to treat modest bouts of peckishness with a modest snack specially seasoned to complement the style of suds they're sipping.

"The chips help bring out different flavors in the beer, which helps to bring out different flavors in the chip," said company founder Kyle Morgan. "It's fun to mix and match and see what hidden flavors are in the beer that you wouldn't have previously picked up on."

Morgan didn't set out to be a spud baron, per se, but that's how the chips fell for the 30-year-old Air Force veteran and trained chef. After graduating from the Napa, Calif., campus of the Culinary Institute of America, he moved to Denver, working at the city's Acorn bar and grill and starting his own catering business specializing in craft beer pairing dinners. That's what he was doing when things took a turn toward taters.

"I was working with all these different breweries and was always in taprooms. I realized they really only carried popcorn for snacks ... and nobody was really selling anything that was local," said Morgan, whose handmade potato chips were receiving rave feedback from diners.

He went full time into chips about three months ago, selling his creations first at farmers markets, then a growing number of taphouses. Today, the one-man show (with a little timely packaging help from friends and brand identity and logo design by collaborator Geoff Allen) supplies artisan crunchables to almost 30 Colorado shops and breweries, including three in the Springs.

Chips come in four spice combinations for pairing with beer styles fruity and hoppy, malty, dark and roasty, and Belgian.

"I call the Belgian ones my Christmas chips because there's lots of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and dark brown sugars in there. I try to use a little bit of contrast in the spice mix to bring out those different flavors in the beer," Morgan said. "Many beers go cross-category. A lot of barrel-aged stuff can go with malty and with fruity and hoppy, but they also can go with dark and roasty. In the grand scheme of things, it's just chips and beer. There's no right or wrong way to do it."

Chips are made from potatoes grown using sustainable practices at family-owned Rockey Farm in the San Luis Valley and flavored with seasonings from Denver-based Savory Spice Shop. All are hand sliced, prepared and packaged by Morgan at a commercial kitchen (and not-yet storefront) in northeast Denver.

"It's all 100 percent local to Colorado, which is producing some of the best potatoes in the United States, I think," he said.

Morgan Handmade Rations have been a popular treat at the Springs' Gold Camp Brewing Co., which sells them for $2.50 a bag. Brewery co-owner Dave Shaver has found that, in addition to the taste, patrons like that the product has Colorado roots.

"I think craft beer people appreciate when people take their time and do things right," Shaver said.

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