Grand plans are noble, although also a grind. I intended to use today’s theme to challenge myself to create some food pairings for the beer I selected (intended = it didn't happen). But excuses are for losers. To preserve my masterplan, I'll do my best to churn out a few relevant paragraphs on beer and food pairings. And I'll still be drinking. So except for the possibility that I didn’t get raptured today, I’d say I’m still winning.
The rise of craft beers, miles apart from America’s industrially produced light lagers, has recently spawned a trend of beer and food pairing. Breaking into the mainstream has been slow. Wine is the sovereign food partner of fine dining. Every respectable restaurant has a wine list. Selections and quality of sommeliers can make or break a great restaurants’ reputation. Wine's place with food is based on its acidic, strong, and complex flavors. However, I question if the myth that wine is a superior food companion is not largely based on legacy.
Wine, crafted with arguably a superior ingredient -- the grape, is a one-dimensional beverage. All wines taste like fermented, aged grapes. Beers while crafted with more pedestrian ingredients -- grains and hops, are multidimensional beverages. Brewers craft their beers by tweaking the balance of malty sweetness and hop bitterness. Furthermore, flavor complexity is tailored using different types of malted grains and limitless amounts of adjuncts. Both wine and beer can utilize either naturally occurring or cultured yeasts to covert sugars to alcohol, but the yeast in beer making plays such a large part in the finished product’s flavor profile it can act as an important of an ingredient as the malts and hops.
As a quick example, Saint Arnold Brewing Company recently replaced its lowest selling beer (Texas Wheat, an American-style Wheat) with an altered version of one of its more popular beers (Fancy Lawnmower, a German-style Kölsch). The brewery now has two beers with the exact same recipe, but fermented with two different yeasts that yield very different tasting beers. In a recent newsletter, Saint Arnold reported selling as many kegs in a week and a half of the new replacement (Weedwacker) as it did of Texas Wheat in a whole year.
With an unrestricted amount of flavor profiles, beer is unmatched in potential flavor pairing combinations with food. Beer can also leverage its carbonation to lift aromas and clean your palate between samples. Wine is challenged by spicy foods, pickles, asparagus, etc. Your local wine merchant may have thousands of wines to choose from, but only a small handful of them would even be acceptable for that coconut-curry Thai dish.
My first beer pairing education came from a session by the Texas Culinary Academy in 2005. The chef giving the seminar demonstrated the three C’s of beverage pairing: Cut, Compliment, and Contrast.
Cut: Spicy foods can be cut by malty sweet beers, like an English Pale Ale or a German Marzen. The richer the food, hoppy beers can clean the creaminess or fattiness from your palate. Dry stouts can even cut through the richness of a sweet chocolate dessert.
Compliment: Beer really shines as a food pair in this category. While wine basically enhances foods with acidity, beer can provide a subtle compliment to a food’s flavor. Belgian beers spiced with orange zest and coriander provides a great compliment to salads. Japanese beers brewed with rice are perfect companions to pieces of sushi.
Contrast: Like wine, any food that is enhanced with acidity can be adjusted to provide a good contrasting food pair (imagine something that tastes good with a lemon squeezed on it). Fish and white wine is a good pair, as is a light-bodied pilsner. However, no contrasting pair may be as sublime as a raw oyster and a dry stout. I first had this pair at SAVOR in 2009, where the Choptank Oyster Company was shucking fresh oysters. I made several trips through the line with samples of some of the best stouts and roasty porters in at the event.
Whether beer or wine, food pairing promotes the kind of creativity that I love when cooking. It also encourages a more thoughtful and enjoyable eating experience. In the end, my originally planned post probably would have been more enjoyable for me than it would have been for you (kind of like beer reviews, eh?)
May 21, 2011
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Namaste (Milton, DE)
"A Belgian-style White made with dried organic orange slices, fresh cut lemongrass and a bit of coriander. This beer is a great summer quencher.
Namaste was originally brewed at our brewpub in with our friend Leo from Birra del Borgo in Italy as a tribute to our friends at 3 Fonteinen brewery in Belgium, who had devastating production loss (1/3 of their annual production!) at their brewery in 2009. You can read more about the original brewing of this beer here on Sam's blog."
Serving: 750mL bottle
I haven't poured a beer from a 750mL bottle with as light and fluffy of a head as this one in a long time. The beer is very effervescent. All the carbonation really carries up aromas of the lemongrass and coriander that the beer is brewed with and some musty funk that it probably wasn't brewed with. I'll admit that if I hadn't used it in several homebrewing recipes, I wouldn't know coriander's aroma though. Some citrus is detectable, but it seems to be more from the yeast and not the oranges used in the brewing of Namaste.
I am always impressed with the incredible balance of each Dogfish Head beer. Even their hoppiest IPAs have a malty sweetness to perfectly balance the bitterness. Namaste is no different. Hops are present in the perfect amount to balance the beer and keep the flavor profile dynamic from start to finish.
Namaste is lemony, light, and refreshing. If I had attempted to craft some food pairings, I think this would have gone great with a salad incorporating some citrus. It would have also gone equally well with a chicken quesadilla.
I generally attribute the term "Namaste" with yoga or new age-type activities. Tonight this beer was enjoyed while bathing two little children, which is probably the furthest from that lifestyle. Translated, "Namaste" means greetings or good day. I think I'd say this is a pretty good day.
Color - Golden
Carbonation - Very bubbly
Smell - Citrusy, Belgian
Taste - To be fair, I have tasted this beer before and enjoyed it even more the first time. The lemongrass and citrus flavors totally shined through in my previous tasting. This time those flavors are present but aren't as powerful (aging? storage issues?). I still enjoy Namaste's light bubbly taste that doesn't stick to your palate. The beer is a cool and refreshing treat for a hot summer day. I recommended this beer to friends after the first time I enjoyed it and would do the same now.
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