Sunday, September 19, 2010

Beer and Food, who knew.............

Actually, a lot of people know that beer is a great accompaniment to food. And not just the standard burgers, wings and ribs. The carbonation (cleanses your palate), lower alcohol level (no hot finish) and acidity of beer often makes it a better beverage with most foods than other alcohol choices (yes, wine, I'm looking at you). As 10th and Blake Trade Brewer, Ryan Johnson stated, "Beer is better with food than wine could ever hope to be.... Pairing food with wine is like hunting with a rifle and scope – you better be dead-on accurate or you go hungry. Pairing food with beer is like hunting with a shotgun – even if you miss perfection, it will still delight if you follow the basic rules."

Over the years, I've been to countless wine & food dinners - even "hosted" or moderated a few. And, yes, I've had the occasional perfect pairing, but believe me, I've also had my share of misses. However, the wine industry has done a much better job of marketing and romancing the paring of food and wine. Beer lovers and brewers are beginning to understand and promote the same. In the last month, I've been fortunate to enjoy two such beer and food dinners. Both upscale with chefs fully engaged in both cooking with the beers and creating excellent matches of beer to food - across all courses of the meal.

The first was a four course meal. Appetizer, salad, entree and dessert. Created by the Executive Chef at the Grand Traverse Resort in Grand Traverse Michigan. Excuse the photo quality - at both dinners I only had my phone, which let's just say lacks in photo quality.

Appetizer course: Meyer Lemon Encrusted Sea Sea Scallops with a pepper caper pipperade finished with a Peroni drizzle, accompanied by Peroni Nastro Azzurro. Peroni Nastro Azzurro is an Italian import Pilsner with a refreshing and dry taste, a crisp lager.

Salad Course (this was wow, I love Blue Moon, and didn't realize how great it is with salads.) Heart of Romaine salad with toasted walnut crisp, orange supreme and Walnut Belgian white vinaigrette. Blue Moon Belgian White is a medium bodied, unfiltered Belgian-style wheat ale spiced with fresh coriander and orange peel.

3rd course - 5 Onion Strip Steak with classic Amber cipolini, grilled scallion mash, amber beer battered vidalia, shallot demi and asparagus braised with leeks. Leinenkugel's Classic Amber was the paired beer. Leine's Amber is a Vienna style lager brewed with a blend of three malts to provide a bright copper hue and intense malty aroma - four types of hops give it a floral and spicy aroma.
Finishing off the meal was Berry Weiss Bread Pudding with a raspberry white chocolate anglaise accompanied by Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss. This fruit wheat beer is flavored with Wisconsin loganberries, elderberries, and blackberries this tasty fruit beer was a Bronze Medal Winner at the 2004 Great American Beer Festival, and a Gold Medal at the 2007 GABF.

A couple of weeks later, I was back in Michigan. This time Grand Rapids, where I attended the dinner for the Meijers Charity Classic (affiliated with the LPGA). This beer and food dinner was hosted by 5th generation brewing legend Jake Leinenkugel. Dinner was created by the Executive Chef for the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids (one of my very favorite hotels, BTW). Three courses this time, all featuring Leine's beers.

First course: Crispy Kurobota Pork Belly, salted caramel, candied kumquat, arugula accompanied by Leinenkugel Honey Weiss. Honey Weiss is an American Wheat Lager with a delicately sweet, malty flavor with a nice balanced hint of bitterness and a teasing taste of pure Wisconsin honey.
Main course was a filet of beef. with olive oil whipped potatoes, spiced pears, peppered spinach and a sage glace. The beer was Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest, their fall seasonal beer (in your stores now, but hurry!). Oktoberfest is a traditional German beer brewed with Pale, Caramel and Munich malts, and a blend of cluster, Tettnang, Hallertau and Perle hops. This medium bodied beer has caramel malt flavors balanced with spicy hop overtones. Great with steak - and the sweetness of the pears and the pepper of the spinach. Yum.
Leine Berry Weiss once again was paired with the dessert. Double chocolate panna cotta, genoise, raspberry anglaise with hazelnut. And wow, the Berry with this chocolate, oh my. The stuff of dreams.

Bottom line - if you see a beer and food dinner in your town, run not walk and attend. Expand your culinary horizons just a bit. You won't be disappointed.

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