Besides making a great pau hana, what do beer and salami have in common? If you know one fermentation, you know them all. Such was the thinking that led to Beer Lab’s house-made salami, the newest addition to its Department of Zymurgy, the Harry-Potteresque title the team gave to its creative arm focused on the study of fermentation.
See also: Charcuterie on Oahu: Boards of Waikiki
“We all make beer, we enjoy learning that science,” says Nicolas Wong, co-founder of Beer Lab. “And for salami, the initial bacterial fermentation is related to the process of some of our beers—it’s all surprisingly similar. After that, it’s just drying.”
Bacterial fermentation? It may not be the most appetizing way to describe salami, but Beer Lab’s result is indeed delicious—with a good fat-to-meat ratio and a rich, minerally tang that’s sometimes missing in more mass-produced salami.
When Wong got the idea to make salami, he called the state Department of Health for guidance. It just so happened that a charcuterie expert from South Carolina was in town to advise the DOH on proper procedures for drying and curing meats. Wong met up with him (over a glass of beer, naturally).
“So, is it hard, or what?” asked Wong.
“Nah, just hang it up,” was the response.
“Will I get botulism?”
“Just hang it. Unless you do something stupid, and it smells really bad, then it’s bad.”
See also: Charcuterie on Oahu: Kakaako to Ko Olina
Curing and drying, after all, are one of the oldest ways of preserving meat. There’s still a lot that could go wrong, though, because you are dealing with raw meat that is never cooked, which is why the DOH requires any establishment that makes its own cured and dried meats to submit a detailed plan for approval. Currently, Beer Lab is the only place in Hawai‘i officially cleared to do so. (Note that charcuterie encompasses a wide variety of meat preparations, including pâté, which involves cooked meat and so applying for a variance with the DOH isn’t necessary in all cases of charcuterie.)
When Beer Lab expanded and moved production to Waipi‘o, Wong had plenty of room in the original University location for his salami experiments. There’s a wide world of cured meats, from prosciutto to soppressata to even lup cheong, the styles depending on factors like aging, seasoning and the cuts of meats. But Wong, as with Beer Lab’s beers, doesn’t plan on adhering to set styles—he plans on experimenting with a pork shoulder and has played around with a pork tenderloin and shoulder flap. He prefers to keep the names simple—what might have been a soppressata he just calls “spicy.” And while, for now, he’s using imported pork, his dream is to use the local pork that Beer Lab’s spent grains go to feed—basically, fermentation and beer in yet another enticing form.
Beer Lab salami boards and beer are available for both dine-in patrons and orders to-go.
Beer Lab HI University
1010 University Ave.