January 23, 2009

Beer Pairing Question

I don't put much thought into pairing beer with food. Maybe I should, but while thinking about local culinary treats, its worth contemplating about what beers might best go with them.

Crabs are an obvious local favorite, and at least when doing them pick-and-eat style, the pairing is simple enough. You need a more mild beer that does just a mild scrubbing job and doesn't overpower the crab's delicate flavors that are already contrasted with the heat emanating from the various Old Bay influenced seasoning. Old school offering National Bohemian is an obvious, local choice. Same with a Clipper City Pale, or McHenry Lager, or a Yuengling, and so on and so on.

Whats more interesting is considering what to pair with pit beef. What do you think?

Its an interesting preparation of meat, fairly cooked on the outside with some nice caramelization and charring going on, while inside it can get moderately pink and raw. Its not the most complex combination of flavors around, even with some horseradish or BBQ or whatever inspired toppings (at least when done sandwich-style) come to mind.

At first glance something dark and roasty and robust is considered. A thick, chocolatey, or coffee-ish or toffee-like stout or porter perhaps? No, maybe not, those are more of a sipping beer. They're casual and so is the meal, but it doesn't seem quite right.

More or less a hop-head, I find a refreshing west coast IPA can go with almost anything, but even here, it might be just a bit overpowering and not in harmony with the pit beef.

Perhaps more of an east coast pale ale or IPA is in order, with more subdued hops, a stronger, roastier malt background providing some balance and pep without being overbearing. Maybe even a British-styled bitter, hopefully casked with its more delicate carbonation and warmer ambient temperature. Its something you can drink all day and not feel bad about.

Or perhaps something more readily available and macro: a Bass, a Harp, a Smithwicks?

I really don't know. What are your thoughts? Any out of left field Belgian offerings come to mind?


Steve said...

Rosemary's pairs some (not all) of their meat with Chimay Red (dubbel). I think if it is charred they go for something a little stronger, maybe a Rochefort 10 or you could go the Porter or Stout way which I've read always works with meat.

Just out of curiosity, have you noticed how often your favorite beer Orval is recommended to pair with seafood.. like crab for instance? If only good seafood places carried Orval....

BeerGuy said...

Hmm, might be just a touch too complicated of a brew for this though ...

I actually haven't noticed re: Orval. Where do you see that, other than Garrett's book?

Hell if only EVERYONE carried Orval, this would be a much different planet.

Steve said...

Re: orval... Well I first realized it when I was at Rosemary's. Then right after that trip I saw a recommendation somewhere else (not Garrett Oliver's book)... Now I just looked it up in Brewmaster's Table and here's what Garrett has to say...

Garrett's food pairing consisted of ..
1) alone or with hors d'oeuvres (appertif): d/t being "bone-dry, bitter, and aromatic w/ a zippy acidity, it's everything that the french and italians would look for in a predinner drink"

2) Well-aged prosciutto
3) grilled sardines
4) fish (d/t the lemon-zest aromatics, and the damp earth meets the open sea on your palate)

Then he goes on to say: "I suppose it's obvious by now that Orval is great with fish. The beer has cutting and lifting power but remains fluffy and light, the perfect foil for a wide variety of fish preperations... it goes with almost anything"
For example he lists: Snapper, salmon, char, bluefish, smoked salmon, mackerel, herring...

But he also says, Orval is excellent with coarse gamy sausages, especially venison or wild boar. I don't know if that coincides with "Pit beef".. I don't even know what constitutes pit beef before I wikipedia it in a few minutes but yeah...

Let me know if I need to transcribe the whole Orval passage from his book. It's about a page and a half.

BeerGuy said...

Although I'm in love with Orval and don't mind the transcription, I'll save you the hassle, heh!