Thursday, June 21, 2012

How to pair beer with food.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before... I don't really like to talk about myself all that much on here... but I'm a chef. In a lot of ways that helps me out as a homebrewer. I'm less concerned with following strict recipes and style guidelines, and more interested in developing a flavor profile that I enjoy. I also really love pairing beer with food. While I love Garrett Oliver's Brewmasters Table, and think that it has some great suggested pairings, along with great explanations of styles with examples of styles, it doesn't really lay the foundation for how to pair beer with food... Why should you pair pork belly with a Belgian Trippel? Why shouldn't you pair a sour American Wild Ale with spicy seafood? 

Glad you asked... allow me to explain.

The rules of pairing beer with food are actually pretty similar to pairing wine with food. The fun part though is that beer offers such a broader range. 

1. Like cancels like.

What this essentially means is that like flavors don't enhance each other. In fact it's the exact opposite. Like components between a beer and a dish will tone each other down, which then allows you to taste more of the other flavors in the beer and dish. The dish bellow is an open faced smoked salmon "BLT". The sauce on top is an aioli made with Jester King Noble King. That was paired with the Jester King Farmhouse Wytchmaker Rye IPA. The hoppy flavors from the beer paired with the hoppy flavors from aioli didn't enhance each other, rather they don't each other down. In turn you could taste more of the rustic rye and malt character in the beer.

2. How to cut the fat.

For me anyways, eating a fatty and rich dish can be a bit tiresome after a while. Fat has a way of accumulating on the palate and needs to be cleared. This can be accomplished a few ways. First hop bitterness actually works similar to acidity in wine. The astringency of a really bitter IPA can really help clear fat off of your palate. This can also be accomplished with acidity from a sour beer, or a beer with high alcohol. The following is a picture of duck confit (actually cooked in pork and bacon fat) over a cannellini bean and olive oil puree with sage. That was paired with the Jester King/Mikkeller Beer Geek Rodeo. If you're not familiar with it it's the Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast (Imperial Stout) with chipotle chiles. The high alcohol really cut through the richness of the duck, plus the smokiness in the beer from the chipotle and the smokiness from the bacon toned each other down... which then increased the chocolate and roast characters of the beer.

3. Ease the heat.

I don't have a picture handy to illustrate this next one, but like a lot of richness... a lot of spice can get exhausting. Let's say you have some spicy kung-pao shrimp and it's getting to be too much the last thing you want to reach for is a bitter/hoppy beer like an IPA or pale ale. The hop bitterness will actually magnify the heat. Instead reach for a sweeter beer, particularly your sweeter fruit beers work well in this regard like Magic Hat #9. For darker, richer meats that are spicy I recommend reaching for something like a milk stout.

For the sake of not being exhausting I'll end it here, there's plenty more on pairing beer with food, but these few basics will make your next beer dinner a lot more fun!

Noble King Beer Aioli

This is a really fun sauce that has a broad range of application. Amazing on fish or chicken, but can also dress a salad or be on a sandwich. The recipe is actually a pretty basic aioli, just with a nice hoppy beer added in place of the water and some of the lemon juice. A few notes on this though... make sure you're using a good, real, Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil preferably one with a distinct fruity character and minimal bitterness (olive oils are not all created equally and quality matters... for more info on this read some of Tom Mueller's info on olive oil.) Also please pay attention to the order in which the ingredients are added, if you don't do it just right your aioli will not emulsify.


4 cloves garlic
1 tbs. Dijon Mustard
2 egg yolks
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup Beer with good hop character but not too aggressive bitterness (Jester King Noble King Hoppy)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Coarse Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper To Taste


In the work bowl of your food processor mince the garlic and add a small amount of salt to help break apart the garlic and soften it up. Add the egg yolks and dijon mustard and puree for 30 seconds. This helps to incorporate some air into the aioli which will aid in the consistency of the finished sauce. Add half of the olive oil very slowly with the food processor running. Add the lemon juice and 1/4 cup of the beer, pulse together. With the food processor running slowly add the olive oil and remaining beer, alternating between the two every few seconds. If the aioli is too thin just add more oil and keep the food processor running until it thickens up. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Homebrew Recipe: Das Funken Weisse - Quick Sour Wheat Beer

Sorry to the four people who read this for the lack of posting over the last month. It's been a pretty crazy month. I went to Italy for a week in May and then there's work.... either way here's what I've been up to.

Back in mid April I brewed a sour wheat beer. Like most of my grists it was painfully simple, half Weyermann Pilsner and half American White Wheat. I did a small mash hop addition with some Willamette and a pretty low mash temp. Here's the fun part though, this thing was sour and ready to drink in a month (from the keg mind you). I started by pitching lactobacillus first and let it ride for 24 hours. Then I went in with a vial of WLP670 (American Farmhouse) and a smack pack of 3068. At one month it was dry, fruity, a touch funky and perfectly soured.

This could be bad info (I'm not a scientist) but from what I've read lactobacillus does poorly in the presence of alcohol, hence my pitching the lacto first. I kept it reasonably warm (76F) while it was all lacto, then about four hours before pitching the rest of my yeast I cooled it down to 68F. I suppose you could compare this beer somewhat to a Berliner Weisse in the sense that it's tart and sour and half wheat. But there's some other stuff happening too, a bit of spice and banana from the 3068, and some subtle brett character from the WLP670. Not to mention I threw two ounces of Citra hops into the keg. The result? A moderate strength, sour, funky, grapefruity and great beer.

Now granted I did make a great sour beer quickly, but I did keg it. I highly doubt the beer was completely done working, if you plan on bottling this you would probably want to give it a few months to ride out the last few gravity points.

Das Funken Weisse

OG - 1.046
Brewhouse Efficiency - 75%
IBUs - 6.8
Mash Type - Single Infusion
Mash Temp - 148F

Malts and Fermentables

4lbs. Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner Malt
4lbs. American White Wheat


Willamette 5.5%AAU Mash hop - .5oz. - 60 minutes 
Citra 10.5%AAU - Keg Hop - 2.0oz

Yeast and critters

Whitelabs WLP670 American Farmhouse
Whitelabs Lactobacillus Delbrueckii
Wyeast 3068 Weihenstephan

I'll post a full tasting of this soon. But if you're looking to homebrew a sour beer quickly you may try this and see how it works out for you.