Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Foam For The Holidays

Peeking up from a Christmas dinner prayer, I glance around the long table where family and friends have their heads intently bowed, eyes closed - each accompanied by a bounty of food and drink.

Muted colors of informally portioned food: Candied pecan yams, squash soup, peppered cranberry turkey, cinnamon spiral ham, cornbread dressing, and fresh snap green beans, all pop with color when placed on the white China. Resting at both ends of the table are two carafes of wine that play only a small part in the beverage vehicles that await each guest. Yet, with five to seven other drink offerings... no beer. How did this happen? Where did beer get lost in the mix of forgetful gifts that many perceive as unseeingly gracious and unflattering as fruitcake?

Reflecting, ‘I will not let this happen next year,’ I conjure how one could impress and wow a dinner table with new conversation, but without the pretentious perception of expensive wine. Bring beer!

Beer also has its ostentatious crusaders. I meet too many self-proclaimed, ‘beer snobs.’ This moniker alone is averse to spreading the goodwill of good beer. Do not be a beer snob, as it will only intimidate potential brew advocates and not allow them the open-mindedness to simply have fun. That being said, beer deserves respect at the dinner table. During the holidays, people expect to try an abundance of items that in turn gives you a great opportunity to show your peers how to move beyond the wine list. Connect food with beer and create memories your guests may never forget.

When guests arrive, open up conversation without a palate overkill with lighter brews like Victory Prima Pils or Sam Adams Boston Lager. Next, pair up salads and cheeses with pale ales like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Saint Arnold Elissa India Pale Ale, or Dogfish Head 60 minute.

Moving to dinner, think of beer as being the best thing to drink because wine in many cases is too acidic. Think of brew having 3 C’s - It cuts fat and starches with it’s carbonation which literally scrubs your tongue and opens up the next bite. Beer also compliments many flavors like sweet, citrus sour, smoky, and then can contrast like bitter, salty, and sweet. With dinner try substituting wine for brew...or at least have it available. Replace a bright chardonnay or white with a Farmhouse Saison like Dupont or my favorite, Ommegang Hennepin which yields great carbonation and an earthy, citrus flavor profile to go well with turkey and cranberries or candied yams. Other Belgian style beers like strong dark ales, dubbles, and quadruples like Chimay Red and Blue or the reviewed St. Bernardus Abt 12 can help lift foods like roasted pork loin, spiral ham, and stuffing.

So what for dessert? Brownies, truffles, chocolate, and ice cream can all go well with brews like Lindemans Framboise or Kriek (raspberry or cherry beer) or especially darker stouts like Young’s Double Chocolate Stout or Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout.

Finally, don’t forget about seasonal beer. Try Shiner Holiday Cheer, that is brewed with pecans and Stonewall Peaches or my winter favorite, Anchor Our Special Christmas Ale.

In addition to the fantastic pairings of beer and food, all the brews suggested are crafted suitably outside as well as inside to offer attractive table appearance, some of which are corked and caged like a Champagne bottle.

Be the considerate gourmand at your next holiday dinner or party in which beer can be your way to revitalize the bountifulness this season.

I am available to guide beer pairing parties, be it with cheese, hors d’oeuvres/tapas, BBQ, chocolate, or even a full 5-7 course dinner. BrandonEast@gmail.com

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

St. Bernardus Abt 12
Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
Watou, Belgium

St. Bernardus Abt 12 is a Quadruple that reigns from Belgium and is brewed by Trappist monks in the small region of Flanders. Much of the proceeds from the beer are collected to sustain their livelihood and local charities.

Color is dark pomegranate and brown hues with unbleached linen color foam that dissipates rather swiftly but leaves a wonderful ring. Caramel malt, apple, plum, and sugary molasses dance in the aroma. Sipping the brew brings a lace of candi (rock) sugar to the lips while pear, caramel, dark fruit, cinnamon, and a slight bitterness to the palate.

Some prefer to have Abt 12 after a meal or with a cigar but I think with such a developed and complex flavor profile and carbonation this would also be perfect for those hearty and savory dishes we have come to love this holiday season. Instead of Champagne at New Years Eve, bring St. Bernardus Abt 12. Seriously, $10 is remarkable for one of the world’s best brews - do yourself a favor, buy it now.

Appearance: 4
Smell: 4.5
Taste: 5
Mouthfeel: 5
Drinkability: 5
Overall = 4.7

Style: Quadrupel (Quad)
Alcohol By Volume : 10.50%
Availability : Year Round
Sample Size: 750ml brown bottle
Pairings: Cheese: Brie, Gouda
Cuisine: Smoked ham, roasted pork loin with apples
Glassware: Oversized red wine glass, snifter, goblet
Price: $9.99 each

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Chico, California

I have a soft spot for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale as it was the first real beer experience that opened my senses to something completely new. What I remember was that it lasted like grass and piney bitterness, yet sweet and...I wanted more.

Pours golden amber with a tight beige head that falls to a nice lace. Nose is pine with biscuty malt then follows to a slight citrus. Hops are spicy, fruity, and floral while the Cascade bitterness lasts throughout the tasting to the back of the throat with easy carbonation. So many flavors in this brew and is so drinkable.

Local bars and restaurants listen up - get this in your beer portfolio now and replace one of those seven macro lagers with this instant classic! Why is this only available at two local bars/restaurants?

Appearance: 4
Smell: 4
Taste: 4.5
Mouthfeel: 4
Drinkability: 5
Overall = 4.3

Style: American Pale Ale
Alcohol By Volume : 5.60%
Availability: Year Round
Sample Size: 12 oz. brown bottle
Pairings: Cheese: Cheddar, Fontina, Parmesan
Cuisine: salad, grilled steak or chicken
Glassware: pint glass
Price: $7.99 six pack


Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to

say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Brandon East said...

Thanks susan, I'm glad you're enjoying the articles! I update every month but I may try posting more often.