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Feb 25, 2009 10:38 PM

Food and Beer Pairings

I recently attended a dinner party at my mother in law's house where each course of the meal was perfectly matched with a glass of wine. We had assorted apps with a sparkler, soup with reisling, salad with dry rose, beef tenderloin with a cab and so on.

I would like to do something similar but with a beer pairing for each course. My wife and I are big fans of Sunday brunch so we are going to do this quite a bit earlier in the day with a bit more of a brunch theme. I have a good bit of the menu worked out so I am looking for some beers to pair with the following menu:

Assorted Fruit and Pastries: Strawberries, assorted melons, pineapple, fresh berries, assorted scones, and pastries.

Soup: Grape Gazpacho

Salad: Baby spinach greens with crumbled bleu cheese, crumbled bacon, sliced red onion toasted almonds and balsamic vinaigrette.

Entree: Roasted pork loin with onion ragu, roasted asparagus with poached egg, and roasted fingerling potatoes.

Assorted cheeses to finish.

There is no style of beer that I want to take off the table, I am pretty much open to anything. Also, if you have any other ideas to add to the menu I am open for suggestions.

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  1. Fruit/pastries: Lindemans Peche, Kriek, or Framboise
    Soup: Berliner weisse or Paulaner hefeweizen
    Salad: Duchesse de Bourgogne or Rodenbach
    Entree: Sam Smith's Nut Brown ale or Taddy Porter
    Cheese: Chimay Red

      1. Josh has good suggestions. If the sour beers like Berliner weisse and Flanders reds are less appealing, witbiers are popular for these courses.

        For the fruit, I'd go with Liefmans (Frambozen or Kriek), if only due to personal preference for the beer. Tart and not as cloying, it would be more interesting and could overlap with the soup course.

        For the entree, if the dominant flavor is really rich and caramelized onion, you could try something bigger, like a big Scottish ale (you could pour Old Chub, and later show them the humble aluminum can it came from), or a doppelbock (would also overlap well with blue in the salad or nutty hard cheeses). I assume this is the kind of blowout brunch where you can go big?

        A dubbel (like Chimay Red) would be good all-purpose cheese beer. Other options would be an English-style barleywine for strong blue cheeses or a saison for slightly funky washed rind cheeses. A nice seasonal option would be a winter warmer, like Anchor Our Special Ale (if it's still around) - I like this with cheeses like aged gruyere or gouda.

        8 Replies
        1. re: nfo

          I've got a pretty good idea as to what I will serve through the entree. It's the cheese course that is giving me fits. I will have a bleu veined cheese, a firm cheese like a gruyere or aged cheddar and either a washed rind like Muenster or a brie. Maybe I will go with two different beers; I am thinking about a barleywine and the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA.

          Any thoughts on this?

          1. re: jpc8015

            So what beers did you pick out?

            Those are all quite different cheeses. I think the Chimay suggestion could stand up to the cheeses without overpowering any of them. I think the 120 minute is surprisingly not too bitter, and has a lot of sweetness that could work with the cheeses, but the booziness could be a bit much - isn't it like 20%? Could be fun to try, and you could have a Belgian ale or barleywine for anyone who doesn't like the DFH.

            1. re: nfo

              For the fruit and pastries I am going to go with a good wheat beer, I haven't picked a specific one yet. For the grape gazpacho I am going with Redhook's Summer Seasonal, Sunrye. This party won't be for a few months so the summer seasonal should be available. I think for the spinach salad I am going to go with a Brown Ale, Newcastle possibly, maybe the Deschutes Brewing Buzzsaw Brown or the Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale. For the entree I want to do a porter or a stout. Maybe the Old Rasputin Imperial Stout. I am going to use whatever beer I serve in the onion ragu but I worry about going to strong for fear over overpowering the asparagus and eggs.

              Another option for the cheese course would be the Stone Brewing Ruinition IPA. I love that beer.

              1. re: jpc8015

                Are you sure you want suggestions? Sounds like your mind is already made up.

                  1. re: jpc8015

                    OK, then I'll try to persuade you. If you want to do a wheat with the first course, pick a Belgian style wit, Jolly Pumpkin Calabeza Blanca is the best, if you can find it. Ommegang and Alagash are also pretty good, or maybe your local brewery makes a nice version.
                    I don't know Sunrye, but consider Unibroue Ephemere Apple with the gazpacho, it would be sublime, I think that's the first time I've ever used the word 'sublime' in a sentence.
                    Newcastle sucks. Rogue Hazlenut Brown would be better, and I don't really like Rogue either. But better still, get Rodenbach, it would so shine with that salad!
                    Drink amber ale with the entree. Stone Levitation, Green Flash Hop Head Red, or Port Sharkbite.
                    Ruination is awesome, but it will ruin your cheese course. Drink an abbey ale, like Ommegang or Chimay Rouge, or Lost Abbey Lost and Found, or Rochefort 6, or something from St. Bernardus.

                    1. re: juantanamera

                      Yeah, seriously. Juantanamera has some very good suggestions here, the Ephemere with the gazpacho is a brilliant idea, and I'm not just saying that because I also suggested Rodenbach for your salad course.

                      I don't agree that Newcastle sucks, though. I used to feel that way, and hadn't drank it many years, but then it was served to me blind at a BJCP class and I was quite surprised by what a good example it is of that style of beer - though the canned version is definitely superior to the bottled.

                      Vinegar-based dressing on that salad cries out for a sour beer, not a standard brown ale. Rodenbach or Duchesse would be ideal. If you're afraid of going too sour, Lindemans Framboise would also work, as it's also tart, and the raspberry flavor would work nicely with the spinach.

                      With the earthy flavors of your entree, I will disagree with juantanamera, and instead suggest you consider Oatmeal Stout or Taddy Porter.

                      And lastly, you definitely want an abbey ale like any of the ones suggested above as opposed to a double IPA or barleywine. Rochefort 8 or 10 would also work, if you can't find the 6.

                      1. re: Josh

                        Thanks for all of the great recomendations.

        2. Just because beer and food pairings are a lot of fun for me, I'll throw out a few more suggestions and comments. A fruit lambic would be a great addition to the meal, with either the first or second course. Cantillon makes a sour beer with wine grapes, called Saint Lamvinus, that might just be brilliant with the gazpacho. I don't much like Lindemans fruit lambics, but they are pretty approachable - heavy on the fruit (and sweetness) and light on the lambic. Another option might be a blueberry wheat, it can be a nice beer if the brewer exercises restraint with the fruit.
          New Glarus Brewery in Wisconsin makes several excellent fruit beers, but they're not widely distributed.
          The Bruery in southern California makes a very interesting witbier called White Orchard, spiced with lavender, that might be nice with either of the first two courses.
          With the salad, although I still think Rodenbach the best choice, a brown ale might work. The nutty, toasty flavors would mirror the almonds and the sweetness would contrast the vinaigrette. But it won't e as interesting or complex as the sweet-tart, fruity, winey, barrel aged Rodenbach. If you're worried that it's too sour for your guests, consider Josh's other suggestion, the Duchesse, which leans more towards the sweet but still has some of the fascinating flavors of a Flemish sour.
          With the pork, I think the Old Rasputin would be too big and overpowering. I think it would just bury the asparagus and egg. But another porter or stout, something with less alcohol and intensity, could be very good. I suggested an American style amber ale because I like the way the caramel flavors work with the pork and the ones I suggested all have a bright, citrus hoppiness that I think would be nice at brunch. I find them all to be well balanced beers that pair nice with a variety of foods, and in this case I think they would stand up well to the pork without completely overpowering the eggs and asparagus.
          One final suggestion: look to your local breweries, they probably are making some great examples of whatever styles you choose. It's fun to visit them, your guests will probably enjoy trying local products, and the USA's small craft breweries are producing some amazing beer. They'll also likely be fresher.

          4 Replies
          1. re: juantanamera

            I totally agree with you about lambics, for myself, and I'm not really a huge fan of Lindemans as authentic lambic goes, but for a breakfast meal, with probably some sweet items on the table, and with possibly novice beer palates, I think Lindemans is probably more approachable than Cantillon. I love the St. Lamvinus, one of my favorite beers, but I'd be wary about putting it in front of a newbie.

            1. re: Josh

              I understand where you're coming from with regard to accessibility. The OP would know best how open his guests are to unusual or intense flavors.

              All this talk about food & beer has got me hungry and thirsty. I've been invited to a swanky La Jolla joint for happy hour, I just hope they have a few tasty beers and some good apps.

              Jcp8015, can I also say congrats to you for putting together an ambitious brunch like this and best of luck with whatever you choose. Please revive this thread and let us know what you served and how it turned out.

            2. re: juantanamera

              I've got a specific beer shop in town in mind. They make a lot of their pown brew and sell them in 22oz. bottles. Some of them are very, very good and others are eh. Half of the fun may be going down there and tasting te beer before I make my bulk purchase! The guy also carries a lot of Eurpean Trappist style ales and other old world brews.

              1. re: juantanamera

                I like beers from The Bruery quite a bit, but I'm not sure how well they would pair with food. Pretty much all of their beers have a very distinctive funk (I know when I'm drinking one of their beers) and unless the flavors match up perfectly it could be off-putting.

              2. This is a fun menu to play with.

                I have no idea what grape gazpacho is, but I think the suggestion of Ephemere is inspired.

                Salads are a bitch with wine or beer. I'd go with Duchesse myself, because I really like it and it goes well with salty bacon and a vinegrette.

                Entree, though...could always go with a good Czech pilsner. But for a dark beer, I think the Kostritzer Schwarzbier is a great food beer and goes well with something like carmelized onions. A Scotch ale like Traquair House would also go well. (Another good food beer is the German rauchbier, especially with a smoked or grilled entree). I also agree that Old Rasputin will be way too big for almost anyh entree course.

                Cheese course I think a Belgian dubbel is probably good. I was thinking the other day about what is the one wine that would go with a range of cheeses. And I came to realize if you have a wine in mind, pick the cheeses to match the wine. Cheeses have such a range. So same with the beer. If you want something assertive like the 120 minute, make sure the cheeses can match.