Q&A: Chef Nelson Perkins of Colt & Gray

When it comes to the world of beer-loving chefs, we got a chance to sit down with one of the greats:  Nelson Perkins, our host for a chefs only, industry dinner on June 24th at Colt & Gray in Denver, CO. Check out the mouth-watering menu here. Read on for the low-down on this inventive master de cuisine, but if you long for the cliff notes: he’s classically trained,  a super-serious force in the world of agriculture and his mentors are as motley a crew as the band from the 80’s.  Oh, and he really, really digs his family. Commence the internet-wide “Awwwwwwww.”


Nelson, a native of Colorado, spent 15 years in the securities brokerage business before packing up his young family and moving to New York to attend the French Culinary Institute.  Nelson graduated among the top of his class, earning the Grand Diplome de Cuisine, then spent time following graduation interning, trailing and working at a number of acclaimed New York restaurants including Blue Hill.  Nelson is an appointed member of the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crops Advisory Board.


Nelson credits years of travel, cooking, adventure and time spent on his family’s ranch with forming his gastronomical tastes.  His food philosophy is to use the best available ingredients and treat them gently.

Nelson and his wife Allison opened Colt & Gray (named after their two oldest children – Coulter and Grayson), in August of 2009.  Nelson is forever thankful to Allison for her support in allowing him to chase this dream. 

Why is the pairing of food & beer important to you?  Beer simply pairs really well with food.  It holds up to bold flavors but doesn’t mask more subtle flavors.  Beer is incredibly versatile in its ability to pair with food.


What got you started on pairing food & beer?  A beer dinner we were asked to do with a local brewer. The rest is history.

Who are the chefs you admire? Julia Child, Dan Barber, Marco Pierre White, Jacques Pepin, Heston Blumenthal, and Fergus Henderson.

What are some of your favorite pairings?  We like to make pasta and add dry hops to the dough which we then pair with any beer made with little or little or no hops.  It is great to see how the hops from the pasta completely change the beer.

Favorite style / beer to pair with?  Too hard to say, they are so different and bring so many different characteristics to the party.

Favorite all time beer?  Any big hoppy pilsner.

Feature dish in which you pair beer with food or use beer in preparing the dish?  Pig Skin Pasta with Octopus, Nduja, Fennel, Tomato & Fried Capers with Brewery Ommegang Hennepin

Thoughts on the future of food & beer in fine dining?  Beer & cocktails are quickly becoming staples in fine dining establishments because of the diversity they bring.  They will never replace wine but they are certainly taking part of their market share. 

Favorite restaurant in a city not your own?  Way too hard to say just one, but let’s go with L’epi Dupin in Paris for the fun of it!

Chef Nelson doesn't shy away from pork. Can you tell?

Chef Nelson doesn’t shy away from pork. Can you tell? [via]

Indulge us with a recipe?

Sure. Behold:  Porter Braised Pork Shoulder

  • 1 pork shoulder
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Cayenne Pepper (not too much)
  • AP Flour
  • 1 celery root
  • 1 fennel bulbs
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup cognac
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 8oz canned tomatoes
  • 4 bottles of porter
  • 2 quarts Chicken stock
  • Sachet of herbs


Season the shoulders with salt, pepper, cayenne and flour and brown thoroughly.  Remove the shoulder and sweat celery root, onion, fennel and garlic. 

Deglaze with cognac, and balsamic.  Add tomatoes, return pork to the pan and just cover with beer and chicken stock.  Cook at 325 degrees for about 4 hours or until the meat is very tender.  Let cool in cooking liquid for 2 hours. 

Remove pork and strain the liquid discarding the vegetables.  Make the sauce by reducing cooking liquid and season with salt and pepper and mount with a little butter.  Taste the sauce and add some fresh beer if the sauce tastes flat or needs more beer flavor. 

Serve over rice, noodles or potatoes with some roasted vegetables.

Connect with Colt & Gray:

ColtandGray.com // Facebook.com/ColtAndGray

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