I recently stirred some outrage among Facebook beer lovers by noting that Food and Wine executive wine editor Ray Isle had put the cause of beer and food pairing back 15 years with his comments on five beers picked by the “CBS Early Show.” BridgePort IPA was paired with fried foods, “anything from fried shrimp to French fries.” He typified Full Sail’s Session Lager as a “classic all-purpose beer: chicken, potato chips, pretzels, you name it.” Wow, what an all-rounder; chips and pretzels! But he really stepped in it with Deschutes’ Green Lakes Ale: “I’d drink this with a hamburger; for me, ales like this are ideal burger wines [sic].” He rounded out this full-spectrum menu (for Applebee’s, maybe) with ribs, sausage, and grilled seafood.
Beer may be the new wine, but you know, it’s still the old beer, too.
I was enraged. What about a peppery saison and smoked bluefish, you ingrate, or a snappily Saazed-up pilsner with a steaming fresh tureen of goulash over noodles? What about witbier and a mesclun salad, eh? Like to see your precious wine pair with that ….
But a thought slipped into my rage … man, a fresh pour of BridgePort IPA with a basket of cheese fries would be great, wouldn’t it? And Session Lager with a hot slice of pepperoni and onion, or just a six-pack of Green Lakes with some roasted peanuts? That would be pretty good too. Beer is great with that stuff, and while the rest of the country is still lapping it up, we craft geeks are ignoring it as we rush to pair with foie gras and asparagus tempura. Beer may be the new wine, but you know, it’s still the old beer, too.
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Just look at the ballpark, any ballpark: baseball, football, hockeyball, whatever. You’ve got beer for sale, from Bud Light to Victory HopDevil; I got a $6 doublebock at a minor league park last year. What do you have with it? Hot dogs, sausages, popcorn, peanuts, pizza―hell, practically every beer-food there is!
Drop the snooty, “We’re as good as wine!” face and reconsider the foods you’ve rejected. Hot dogs are American-made, doctored up with brown mustard and onions, sitting up and begging for a beer, but they’re sausages, too! You can get a brat or a sweet Italian if you want―they’re all pretty good with something malty and smooth. That’s what they’re drinking at Oktoberfest, and they don’t even have a game to watch.
Grab a slice of pie and you’ll know why Chicago’s Piece brewpub is a presidential favorite: pizza and beer really do go together. I did a piece on pairing beers with various pizzas a while ago, and one of the best was a white pie with spinach, heavy laden with garlic and fresh olive oil. I got it at a neighborhood pizza joint, cost me $12, and it was beautiful with a fresh Sierra Nevada Pale Ale whacking through the oil and taming the garlic.
Ballpark peanuts range from salty nuggets to still-warm fresh-roasted beauties, and all kind of sugar and spice-coated in-betweens. Beer will clear your mouth of those little chunky bits and fizz away the fat (just like it does for fancy cheese and rich paté). Don’t worry about “as good as wine”―let’s see someone cracking open some goober peas with a glass of merlot.
Tailgating works too, and I’m not talking about the crazed tailgaters who wheel in a trailer loaded with smokers and deep-fryers. I’m talking about a portable grill with burgers snapping and popping (hello, Mister Pilsner!), warming up some already-smoked ribs (make that spicy rub sing with your favorite IPA), and big bowls full of baked beans and potato salad (pale ale was made for baked beans). This is beer food that’s deep in your American soul!