America’s Belgian-style Pairings
Across the sea, favorite Belgian-style combinations are lemony Celis White with crab salad; or Unibroue’s apple-flavored Éphémère Pomme with smoked or cured ham, like Iowa artisan Prosciutto La Quercia.
New Glarus Belgian Red is rounder than the sour Belgian krieks and marries wonderfully with a variety of foods, from roast duck with cherry sauce to sweet and sour soup. New Belgium’s herbal Biere De Mars is out of this world with a saucer of rocket and sun-dried tomato salad dressed with artisan blue cheese and aged balsamic vinegar.
Dogfish Head Raison D’Etre may be a hard name to swallow, but the deep mahogany ale is not—especially with Roquefort-stuffed beef tenderloin, or rare organic buffalo steak au poivre. Beer with potato latkes, matzo ball soup and stuffed cabbage rolls? Try Hair of the Dog’s Ruth, named for a great cook, the brewer’s grandmother—enjoy!
The balance of aroma, bouquet, acidity, sweetness, texture, mouthfeel, effervescence, temperature, color, flavor, strength and even origin are the keys to unlocking the beer and food mystery. It would be nice to serve a brew from Mexico with tacos or Chinese beer with dim sum but, too often, local beers are copies of global megabrews. Taste should trump territory. Fortunately, there are plenty of regional relatives, like Boulevard Pale Ale with Kansas City barbecue, Brooklyn Brown Ale with Jewish deli fare, or Smuttynose Robust Porter at a clam bake.
In cooking with or pairing beer, take into consideration bitterness of IPA or pilsner, yeast in wheat beer, fruit in flavored lambics, sugar in doppelbock or barely wine, or coffee, chocolate or caramel character in stout as if it were itself an ingredient in the dish. When I cook with a hoppy beer, I usually don’t serve that beer with the dish—it’s just too much of a good thing.