Bugging Out: Brewed Food Rewrites the Rules of Culinary Fermentation

 Photo by Casey Campbell Photography

Photo by Casey Campbell Photography

For Draft magazine I profile Jensen Cummings, a Denver chef that deploys brewing yeast to ferment his kimchi, hot sauces and so much more. He's broadening the concept of what beer and food can be.

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As a journalist obsessed with inbox zero, I delete an email onslaught daily. But, every now and then, a ray of sunshine illuminates Gmail’s abyss, like last summer’s invite to experience Denver chef Jensen Cummings’ sensory tasting panel at Brooklyn Brewery.

Cummings is the mind behind Brewed Food, founded in 2014 as a call to arms to blow beer’s relationship with grub to smithereens. He utilizes beer’s building blocks (yeast, malt, hops) and brewing processes to fashion thrilling foodstuffs that blur the line between ales and edibles. Working with a revolving cast of chefs and brewing collaborators like New Belgium and Jester King, the chef ferments yogurt with brewing yeast, adds crystal malt to sauerkraut, creates hop vinegar and makes beef jerky with malt extract. It’s both a scientific and gastronomic endeavor to connect cooking and brewing.

“Our lens is looking at brewing techniques and ingredients as culinary ingredients,” Cummings says. “Yeast is the center of that conversation. We want to say that yeast is a culinary ingredient.”