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ISO Mind Blowing Beer Pairings

January 11, 2016

It’s Monday and I’m already talking about beer. This can’t be a good sign.

Actually, things are going great. This past weekend was a ton of fun. I made it to Chicken Joe’s for the very first time, and am delighted to find a place close to home that reminds me of Hoagie Haven in Princeton. How the sandwiches will stack up remains an open question.

I also went out for karaoke on Saturday night with a few people from the local Yelp crew, and sang my heart out. I busted out some old-man classics like Hot Patootie, Blitzkrieg Bop, Just Like Heaven, and more. It was a blast.

Somehow, despite all the singing going on, I managed to have a lucid conversation about pairing wine with food versus pairing beer with food. And it raised a really interesting question that I wanted to put out into the ether.

Fundamentally, I think beer is a more food friendly beverage than wine.

That’s a huge statement and a vast oversimplification of a complicated beverage landscape. But I’m going to stand by it, because carbonation is a wonderful thing. In the wine world, they say that Champagne goes with everything. And I’ve found that to be true. Well, mostly true. I’m still not a fan of Champagne and caviar–vodka is my preferred drink with fish eggs–but from burritos to butter-poached lobster, sparkling wine makes a delightful complement.

Beer has those same palate-cleansing bubbles. Of course you can argue that some styles of beer are more food friendly than others. And things are getting much more complicated these days as beers get more idiosyncratic, with bigger flavors and larger personalities.

Do me a favor, and go with me on this one. Because we’re not yet at the meat of the question.

Stumbling upon a brilliant food and wine pairing is a rare and magnificent thing. They exist, but there are so many pieces in play. I’m not talking about things that simply go together, like a big cabernet sauvignon with a grilled steak. Basic pairings are relatively simple. I’m talking about those moments where each item is improved by the other, and the bite of food drives you for a sip of your drink, which then makes you crave another bit of that food.

This happened to me once with the Navarro Estate Dry Gewurztraminer and blue cheese. From there, I honed in the pairing to include toasted Italian hazelnuts and smoked trout. And to this day, I’m still awed by the harmony of that pairing.

While I’ve been lucky to experience some truly amazing wines, I can probably only count a small handful of brilliant pairings. And that’s okay. Still, I’ve yet to experience anything like this with beer. My new karaoke friend had his doubts that such a beer and food pairing even exists.

That can’t be right. Surely, with all the beer lovers out there, someone must have had a specific beer and food pairing that stopped them dead in their tracks, without the ability to say anything but, “Wow!”

I’m on the lookout. And maybe lightning will strike at The City Beer Hall Wild Game Dinner on January 31. I just bought my ticket when I found out about it late last week. Even though the menu isn’t set, I know chef Dimitrios puts his heart into these events. I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful.

But you can’t go into these things expecting to find one of those rare enchanted pairings. Chasing pairing enlightenment is a sure path to madness, and that’s not what this is about. Especially because everyone’s tastes are different.

I am just curious to see where beer-pairing lightning has struck before in the past. Anyone?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2016 10:21 am

    I really like Chicken Joe’s fried chicken…its so crunchy and salty. Bonus points: it tastes great cold for breakfast the next morning.

  2. January 11, 2016 12:07 pm

    Gimme a German pilsener and a bratwurst to wash it down with ANYTIME. Perfect. Please pass the mustard.

  3. Spelaeus permalink
    January 11, 2016 1:43 pm

    It wasn’t intended as one, but Bourbon County Brand Barleywine with the Food Lab’s recipe for Brussels sprouts gratin is by far the best beer/food pairing I’ve ever encountered.

  4. MikeH permalink
    January 11, 2016 4:23 pm

    Founder’s breakfast stout and anything chocolate.

    A nice hoppy IPA and Kutter’s 15 year (not a typo – fifteen year) cheddar.

  5. January 11, 2016 4:32 pm

    I think beer pairings are a questionable concept. Spicy foods cry out for a good frosty lager or sharp IPA or maybe that Shmaltz Hop Mamma we had last week with the habañero and apricot, and a nice dense Trippel or imperial IPA is a good way to end a meal in the same way that a glass of port might be.

    But beer wants to be drunk, not sipped, and either you are not going to get enough to satisfy you because you are doled out little glasses for each course, or else you are going to be under the table by the time the entree arrives.

    • January 11, 2016 5:10 pm

      I agree. I still believe the concept of “beer pairings” are foisted upon us by slick marketeers. I think one should concentrate more on choosing a bear that doesn’t outright oppose what you are eating.

      • llcwine permalink
        January 12, 2016 9:55 am

        Mr. Dave…I agree…you should always try to make friends with any bears you meet.

  6. January 12, 2016 1:35 am

    My favorite beer pairing is pizza, preferably by the pitcher. But you probably would have guessed that.

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