Artist Spotlight: Justin Bonard of East Side

East Side has been selling out their food and beer pairings events and are coasting into their second year. Justin Bonard is the curator of the events, and brings an abundance of knowledge and tactful skill when uniting craft beer and local creations. Bonard has been bartending in the Denton scene for about a decade and is currently the only active cicerone working in the bar industry, and East Side is the only establishment consistently doing pairings, on a month-to-month basis.

Photo Courtesy of Estelle Dailey

Photo Courtesy of Estelle Dailey

“When I was at the [Meddlesome] Moth, that’s when I pursued my cicerone certification. I left Moth to come up back up here and have been at East Side since before it officially opened, painting the building and helping with the floors,” explained Bonard. John Williams originally approached him to do classes specific to beer types based on his experience at the Moth. ”The very first one started off as classes, teaching classes on sour beers, IPAs, and guided tastings, and cheese was the first pairing from Scardello. Now we’ve been doing these pairings and classes for a total of two years.”

Every month you have the opportunity to check out one of these pairings, and each event is a unique experience. “Greatest format, because instead of being limited to one chef and one kitchen, I get to work with everybody in town,” said Bonard, with the only repeat class being Scardello in the two years that they have held the events. The pairings are a great chance to get outside your comfort zone and try something new.  

“There are a lot of people that won’t try anything twice, and they have something that will wash it down and something that will compliment it, and we’re getting to people to try foods and beers that they wouldn’t normally eat or drink,” said Bonard about the opportunity to curate a truly unique experience for guests. The ability to take the knowledge gained from his cicerone training and apply it to pairings presents a welcomed challenge, “It’s great for me, because there are a lot of beers I wouldn’t drink regularly, but in the right setting, a certain beer is the perfect choice. I’ve been able to open up people to different beers and different restaurants, and the sense of community that it creates is great.”

It’s not easy, either; putting together a pairing provides its fair share of challenges. “Looking at the big picture instead of the course-by-course pairing is the most daunting task," said Bonard. ”Looking at the flow from course to course, we’re working with six courses. It’s a lot for your palate to process.” It’s a combination of what the restaurant is bringing to the table and then how to properly pair the beers to each course, which isn’t always easy. You don’t want to just pair the obvious either, but find a unique pairing that brings out the flavors of the food and the beer.

Some of Bonard’s most memorable pairings:

“The mole chicken tostadas from Boca 31 and with the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter Nitro, not only was the pairing great, it was an opportunity to utilize a beer that’s only used for dessert. Being able to do a little curveball like that and the pairing was great.”

“The Bet the House one was a lot of fun, we had a huge crowd, it was inside, really loud, Shawn Eagle and Cody from BTH were a lot of fun at the microphone and everybody had a good time. They did chocolate dipped pork belly for dessert, and it was huge a hit.”

Each pairing runs between a hour-and-a-half and two hours, and includes a starter and finisher beer in addition to the six smaller pours that go with each plate. This Sunday is the first pairing with Tex Tapas, and like all events, Bonard gives full creative license to the businesses so they have the chance to bring something new to the table.

We’re crossing our fingers the brussels sprouts will be present. There are only a few spots left, so reserve your seat through the ticket link on the event page.