If you read my last post you should know that I was planning to have a little Beer Sampling party this weekend and had some concerns about how my first batch would turn out. I was also pondering about whether or not to continue homebrewing or to leave it to others.
Before I divulge my decision on that I would like to comment on the subject of Food Paring. I know there may be some folks out there who have doubts about the merits of matching foods up with beverages. But let me share some of my experiences in the last week or so to try and sway your thought processes.
I was sitting at Gainesville House of Beer (GHOB) the Thursday before last and supping a brew with the Maestro. We were having a conversation with the bartender about one of the local wine shops. Turns out he has a part time job there as well. We told him that we used to go to that establishment until they went downhill. He said things had turned around and that they were working with GHOB on a Beer and Cheese paring night. He invited us to come but we had to decline. The Maestro had personal plans already and I was already going to a Wine Paring Dinner somewhere else the night it was scheduled. But we both liked the idea. You may read that and think, “What’s the big deal? Beer and cheese naturally go together.”
If your idea of cheese is limited to the melted variety served over nachos or a grilled cheese sandwich, and by beer you are referring to one of the popular American lagers then you’re correct in that paring isn’t that important. But I’m talking about Craft Beer, beer that comes in so many varieties and flavors that paring it with food is very similar to wine paring. I’ll explain.
At the dinner, which I attended with Rowdy and the Cooler, the first course was a Buckwheat Blini served with Caviar and a Vinagered Cucumber. It was pared with a Sparkling Pinot Blanc. The wine wasn’t too dry like some champagnes and its slight sweetness complimented the slight saltiness of the caviar.
The second course was Scallops in white wine sauce served with a Roland Tissier Sancerre. The scallops were tender and delicious and the wine enhanced their flavor. They wine stood well on its own as well.
The salad was made of Arugula with a vinaigrette. It was served with a Les Rocailles, Bonaface Apremont. The wine itself was just okay but a good paring with the salad because it neutralized the peppery after taste that the salad had.
The entrée was a roasted tenderloin of beef with Béarnaise Sauce, Lyonnais Potatoes and Asparagus spears. The accompanying wine was a Chateau Haut-Goujon, This was a really great Bordeaux that not only stood well on its own but enhanced the flavors of the entrée.
The dessert was a Grand Marnier Soufflé and was accompanied by a Chateuneuf de Pape. This wine alone is one of the best reds out there. It added to the richness of the soufflé.
All of these wines were paired with a dish that not only were enhanced by the wine but complimented the wine as well.
Many of the craft beers out there now can be as complex and flavorful as a good wine. It follows that paring them with the proper food can be as difficult. Back before craft beers became popular and Lagers were your most available if not only choice the types of foods that went best with beer were usually snacks with a higher salt content like chips or pretzels.
Now with the rise of craft beer and myriad flavors available a lot more foods can accompany a brew for consumption. For instance, normally beer and ice cream don’t mix, either in a glass or as an accompaniment. But take a nice rich malty stout and it complements ice cream and other sweet foods as well. While an IPA is usually bitter and sometimes a pretzel will make it seem even more so and not to the betterment of the flavor.
As I mentioned earlier I had a small get together this last weekend out on my deck. I brought together some samples of beers from out-of-town breweries I visited during my recent travels (see Beer-cation Pts 1-4). And while I was brewing a wheat beer that afternoon we sampled an American Pale that I had brewed a couple months ago. I waited to sample my first homebrew until I had other people present because I wanted to get their honest reaction.
The first comment I heard was “Wow! You brewed this??! This is good!!” And I have to admit I agreed with him. I was envisioning people doing the spit-take or pouring it into a planter. Instead I heard a few compliments on the beer. There were probably a couple people who didn’t think it was as good as some but then everybody’s tastes are different. And to be honest it was a little too carbonated so the amount of honey I added during to bottling was probably a little too much for the amount of beer I made. But that just goes to show you that even a mistake can still taste good.
After the homebrew I served a Bier de Miel, a Belgian flavored with honey, which to no surprise was very sweet. After the belgian I brought the TimberCreek Black Bear Porter, which has definite coffee hints. That was followed by the North Country Brewing Keystone Swankey, which is a Steam (or Common) Beer. I had never had one of these before I had sampled this at North Country Brewing but if this is an indicator of how Steam Beers taste then I say keep making more of them. My fellow beer samplers at theory seemed to agree.
From the Swankey we went to the Green Man Brewing samples I had brought back. We started with their ESB, which stands for Extra Special Bitter. But I didn’t find this to be bitter and thought is was a well balanced ale. Another point my friends agreed on. After the ESB we went to the Green Man Forester, which is a seasonal stout. This is one of my favorites of the night but I have a thing for porters and stouts. I believe the others liked it but not as much as I did. After the Forester I served a Liefman’s Cuvee Brut which was bottled like a champagne and almost tasted like a sparkling wine. I liked it but it was definitely not my favorite of the day.
By the time we had gotten to the middle of the beer list I had already added hops to the boil and then pitched the yeast into the carboy and set it in a dark closet for fermenting. In a couple more weeks I will bottle this and then wait at least two more weeks before are going for another beer sampling.
We sampled several different foods while doing this. A friend of mine brought some fruits and cheeses to snack on. And I had prepared a homemade quacamole to go with some local tortilla chips I had purchased. After I was done with the brewing I fired up the charcoal side of the grill and began cooking some beer brats (made with beer from local Swamp Head Brewery), Smiths hotdogs from up in Pennsylvania, and some wings that I coated with olive oil and dusted with a blend of spices. I also had home Cowboy Beans, my sisters homemade sauerkraut, and a hotdog meat sauce in the crockpot. Another friend brought a cheese dip with sausage and potato salad, and Rowdy brought wines for the non-beer drinkers to have.
Now we didn’t do any food paring in an official capacity but I did notice that some of the foods went better with some beers than others.
All in all we all had a good time catching up with each other, eating and supping suds. And as is bound to happen when a bunch of us get together and imbibe the philosofying starts.
Even when it started raining we kept enjoying the day (thanks to Blaineanator bringing a canopy). It was an afternoon long happy hour that really didn’t stop until the sun started setting and the man-eating mosquitoes came out.
I earlier mentioned being unsure if I would continue brewing as a hobby or just leave it to others. I not only want to continue I want to do more. The Blaineanator mentioned having supplies from making wine and wanting to learn to do this. So maybe we’ll just have to blossom outward.