One might think that a website promoting craft beer, breweries, and home brewing, would delve into the topic of Beer Pairing. I have to admit, I am a little surprised that it has taken this long to tap into this subject. Especially since I threw one about two years ago.
What comes to mind when you think of beer pairing? Some might think of the cost, or time involved, maybe even the atmosphere; or for those new to the beer world, a simple “why?” These ideas may come up when attending a function, let alone throwing one. I, for one love the science of comparing beer with food in general. Bringing the elements of beer and variety of food together culminates in a wondrous harmony which, when done right, can be a savory experience. A chef once said, “If you can pair a meal with beer, that’s what makes you a good chef.”
While I am no chef, I do have a knack for matching foods together with beer. While this task can be a bit subjective, there are a few basic principles that apply to beer pairing that apply with any pairing in general. The internet has many tools for this and here are a few suggestions: Beer Flavor Wheel, Pinterest, Beer Pairing Simplified, and much more.
My suggestion? Have fun and go with what you like. Sometimes when drinking a beer, I think about some of my favorite dishes, and just picture if it will taste good together. There are times when I am way off, but other times it’s perfection! That being said, if you are thinking of having a unique party, why not a beer pairing dinner. It will leave a lasting memory, and while it does take some planning and money, the results are well worth it. So, here are some suggestions on how to throw a beer pairing day based on the successful one I threw.
Before doing anything, you want to decide where to have this function. Do you want to rent a facility? Will it be indoors or out? I talked to a friend about it, and he offered his house which helped me with my next task.
Now that you have a venue in mind, how many people can fit there? Who would you want to invite? Guys day? Girls day? Couples, etc.? Are you trying to introduce people to beer or expand their palates? There’s a lot to think about.
For my first party I decided to invite three varieties of people; People who appreciate beer and food, those who “don’t like beer,” and those who are indifferent. I had about 15-20 people. I may go smaller next time, but my goal was to win some people over while treating those who appreciate beer and food to a nice experience at low cost.
Meals and Beer
I put these together because, at least in my experience, they aren’t always in order. I knew one or two beers that I wanted to feature, and I knew one or two meals as well. You also want to decide on how many meals you want to pair. The more meals, the more beer, the more samples, the more time and money, the more flavors to kill the palate. I say, keep it simple. Oh, and I also say, who is preparing the food?
I decided on a four course meal. Then I decided on how many ounces of beer would be needed to equally distribute to all in attendance, as well as giving them enough to enjoy with the food. The courses were as follows:
For this I chose a Salad, topped with homemade raspberry vinaigrette, red onions, and crumbled Gorgonzola. My wife volunteered to prepare this meal and her raspberry vinaigrette was epic!
St Louis Premium Framboise – 2.8 % The Framboise, while sweet, cut the tanginess of the dressing which enhanced the raspberry flavor. The low alcohol content allows this not to overpower the meal and bring out the other complimentary flavors of the red onion spice and strength Gorgonzola.
Etouffee, made with a blond roux sauce with shrimp and cajun spices served over Rice (Thanks mom). Etouffee is a Cajun or Creole style dish normally served with a shellfish.
Tripel Karmeliet – 8.4 % I love a good Belgian Tripel. Tripels are light, smooth and have a peppery characteristic which pairs excellently with a seafood dish, especially a Cajun spiced one.
Braised Rabbit roasted in Lambrusco and herbs, served with buttered rice. A Portuguese friend of mine was looking for an excuse to cook some rabbit, and we were glad he did.
Ommegang Three Philosphers, Quadrupel Ale 9.7% Rabbit, while lean, can be slightly oily. The way it was prepared was very rich. This beer received mixed reviews. Both meal and beer were rich, and added a heaviness to the marriage of the items.
Chocolate Lava Cake topped with salted caramel ice cream. I mean why not? This was courtesy of a friend of mine who wanted to contribute something sweet.
Uinta Cockeyed Cooper, Barleywine – 11.1% This beer is a dessert all on its own. Surprisingly it had the opposite effect as the prior meal. Both were rich and sweet but had a complimentary relationship. Both accentuating the salty-sweetness, and taking away the heaviness of the bourbon aged barleywine.
Whew! Loaded menu packed with flavor. We had mixed reviews and some beer drinker conversions. However, there two more things to keep in mind. Next step (this is more of the garnish of the party), The Decor!
Decor: You can choose cheap or costly. There are so many ideas available on Pinterest or online. I chose just to make a fancy menu with fancy-style plasticware. I also printed descriptions of the beer to hand out to my guests.
Serving glasses: What do you want to serve your beer in? Glass, while nice, is costly and includes a lot of clean up. I chose clear plastic tumblers. While they do not have the best build for the bouquet of the beer, they are wide enough to get a good scent and are ascetically pleasing.
Cost: As you know, unless all of the preceding items were just donated to you, there is a cost involved. You will have to decide whether to charge people, pay for it all, or decide who will be responsible for which items (and if they are willing and able to pay for them). For my next pairing, I am thinking of charging per head, but for my first time only those who cooked and brought beer paid.
Okay, maybe my food choices and beer weren’t as simple as they could have been. Next time I will try to pick easier attainable beers. This way when people go out to eat, they may recognize the style or brand name of beer and why it pairs well with their meal they will be ordering.
Hopefully these suggestions help, and if you have any that may improve a pairing experience, please share! So, whether it’s fine dining, or backyard BBQ, just remember to have fun and enjoy the experience.