Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: Great beers that go well with ...
Wine was created to pair with food, and throughout history, with regional cuisine. Want some Beef Burgundy for dinner? Pair it with the wine they make in Burgundy - Pinot Noir. Going to Mangia's on Elm Street for dinner tonight? A Chianti to pair with your a red sauce so that it compliments it and stands up to the acidity in Italian foods. Salad? Try a Pinot Grigio, or, if you are having your salad in France, a Pinot Gris. Schnitzel at Bavaria German Restaurant? Riesling.
While this one's obvious, pairing beer with food often gets less press. And yet, beer does pair with food just as surely as wine does. Beer and pizza? Clearly. Beer, red meat or chicken on the grill? Of course.
In a country that is too far north or too far south so that it falls outside even white-grape growing regions, beer can accompany dinner just as readily as wine. The medieval monks of France made red wine - because they could. But the medieval monks of northern Europe, in Belgium, for example, couldn't because it was too cold and the vines couldn't survive the winter. But hops and grain could. Hence the long tradition of Trappist Ales like Chimay.
The English decided to have it both ways. make beer in the backyard, bring the wine across the Channel from France and Spain.
These thoughts arose this past week when I picked up a crop of new beers from Bert's Better Beers in Hooksett to tell you about. Bert and Ron are the guys to ask if you want to know about pairing. (In fact, I'll be consulting with them about recommendations on pairing beer with turkey for Thanksgiving, so stay tuned.)
Here are the beers and a few potential pairings:
-- Crabbies Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer, $3.10, 4.8% abv. From Scotland. They recommend serving it chilled with a twist of lemon. White head, frothy, diminishes fairly quickly, yes, a strong ginger nose, medium sweet on the palate, with good balance of components, low carbonation, intense flavor. Pair with anything ginger: bread, cookies, houses, and with Chinese food that has ginger as a significant ingredient.
-- Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale, "Ale brewed with natural flavors." $13.99, 750 ml bottle, 5.6% abv. The ingredient list tells you everything you need to know: Breiss Cherrywood smoked malt, Weyerman Beechwood smoked malt, house-smoked hickory malt, applewood-smoked bacon, pure maple flavoring. Pink bottle, tan head, the room fills with aromas of both bacon and maple as soon as the cap is off the bottle, and the palate, well-balanced and high intensity, is maple and smoke in the forefront, the bacon along for the ride too, caramel at the end. If strong flavors are your thing, here's one for you. Try it with bacon-wrapped scallops or anything made with maple syrup or a maple glaze.
-- Cerise Cherry Fermented Ale, $3.65, 6.5% abv. Small head, the color of the beer is red grapefruit, a cherry nose, and a balanced palate of cherry, sour cherry, mild bitterness, medium sweetness in perfect balance with the rest. Cherry pie for dessert. Layered chocolate cake with cherry filling.
-- Celtic Bleddyn Celtic Experience Brewery Ale, $5.25, 5.6 % abv. Organic ale named for Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, the ruler of Gwynedd and Powys in Wales, who died in the year 1075. White head, diminishing, yellow-gold beer. The nose is an exemplary balance of hops and malt, neither predominating, both living harmoniously together, with both citrus and grain notes. The palate is dry, with the hops bitterness coming through right at the outset, good acidity, medium carbonation, all creating a lively profile. Hops at the beginning, grain at the end. Very refreshing. Good on its own, with pizza, or with seafood on the grill (swordfish comes to mind).
-- Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout, $3.15, 5.0$ abv. Average head over brown-black beer, high-intensity malt nose, low hops. The palate is medium-dry (a little sweetness, well-balanced, medium-plus bitterness from the hops, medium acidity, medium and well-integrated alcohol, full body, creamy texture, high flavor intensity of chocolate, some coffee hints in the background. Look for this one in my top 10 list at the end of the year. Serve with chocolate cake, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, anything chocolate.
-- Imperial Crème Brulee Stout, Blackwater Series, Southern Tier Brewing, $9.95, 9.6% abv. Small head, light brown in color, black beer, high malt intensity nose, low hops, vanilla, caramel and toffee aromas. It's brewed with vanilla beans. The palate is of medium sweetness, medium bitterness, low carbonation, medium-plus alcohol, balanced, but you know it's there, medium-plus body, creamy texture, long finish. Very good. Another good dessert beer.
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Wine Event: The Franco American Center will again celebrate the release of Beaujolais Nouveau wine on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Drumlin's Restaurant at Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown. "La Vie en Rose" will be an evening of French wine, food and song. A four-course dinner of French foods will be paired with carefully selected French wines. Cost for members and guests is $75, non-members $85. Call the Center now for reservations. 641-7114.
Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh.com.