It seems that it is few and far between where I wake up and have absolutely nothing planned and nothing pressing that I need to do. Those days are what keep me going. Such a rarity occurred yesterday and (in the wake of recovery from working the second session of Columbus Winter Beerfest) I decided to embark on a culinary adventure. Using beers already in our cellar (or the cellar of friends) I decided to put together a 5-course pairing “event” matching craft beers to sweet and savory small plates.
It’s a shame I can’t hold dinner parties mid-afternoon for photography’s sake but please see below for pairing notes.
Candied Bacon paired with Rhinegeist Puma
I was struggling with what to pair with bacon. Especially sugar-coated bacon. Do I go smoky or sweet? I had to do some research on this one, and surprisingly, many sources picked a pils for this pairing. The crispness of the pilsner cut down on the salt in the bacon and brought through the sweetness. The Puma by itself was a pretty good beer, one I will pick back up this summer.
Ginger-Mango Poke Skewers paired with Three Floyd’s Zombie Dust
This may have been the best pairing of the bunch. The helpful folks at Fresh Thyme had this delicious tuna poke already marinated and on sale for $7.99/lb. I was able to try it at the store, noting flavors of saffron, ginger, and citrus with a lingering, building heat. With the addition of fresh mango, this brought out the tropical and citrus notes in Zombie Dust beautifully. Any IPA or DIPA with a similar hop profile would very well compliment this dish, in my opinion.
Farm Apple Chicken Sausages paired with de Garde Galaxy Hose
I need to just first say that this beer is ah-may-zing. There appears to be an entire “Hose” series all dry-hopped with a different type of hops, this one obviously being with Galaxy hops. I would love to try them all to compare how the different varieties affect the flavor. It is perfectly sour and bright and dry. I am not sure if the oak-aging does anything for the “salty” quality that is present in a lot of goses, but I did not notice much saltiness whatsoever. I paired this with an apple chicken sausage (again, from Fresh Thyme) but I did not think the apple would be enough to make this pairing stand out. I whipped up a batch of apricot spicy mustard (apricot jam, spicy brown mustard, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and a teeny bit of freshly-grated ginger root, heated) and drizzled over the sausages. The sweetness and vinegar-heavy base of the mustard was a perfect compliment to a sour beer. As a bonus, this was very easy to make and tasted “gourmet” with the addition of the mustard.
Espresso Bellavitano Reserve with (70% cacao) Dark Salted Brown Butter Organic Chocolate paired with (2013) Bell’s Expedition Stout
I can’t claim to be the genius that came up with pairing chocolate and cheese. When I first saw it at the Murray’s Cheese Shop in Kroger, I definitely thought the mashup of sweet-savory was weird. I was persuaded to try it anyway and my life has been since changed. With the right kind of cheese and dark chocolate, this will blow your tiny tastebuds’ minds. To pull out the complex notes of chocolate, coffee, and roasted malt of the 2013 Bell’s Expedition Stout, I chose the espresso-rubbed Bellavitano and a creamy (yet bitterly dark) organic chocolate that, interestingly, was made with browned butter – which I love using in sweet recipes. This did not disappoint. The Expedition Stout was still drinking quite well and had lost a lot of heat in three years. I might even try this next time with a beer that has a little more coffee present (such as KBS).
Glazed Apple Tart with Bourbon Cookie Dough Crust paired with Strange Brewing Dr. Strangelove Barleywine
Yes, I made people eat with plastic forks. Don’t judge me.
Of all the pairings, this was the most labor-intensive and fun. I yet again got out my 1968 copy of Whiskey in the Kitchen, which if you have been reading my blog for a while, you know is where I love to get my boozy recipes and is hands-down my favorite cookbook. You really should buy it. I mean, there is a recipe in there for everything under the sun and somehow they all have one alcoholic element. Even asparagus.
The pie is made with a pie crust that bakes up and tastes just like a sugar cookie! Instead of adding cold water to moisten the flour, you add bourbon instead. I do not know why I did not think of this before as I am not a fan of traditional pie crust. The apple filling is added in two steps; one inner filling with apples that have been boiled and steamed with more bourbon, and then a layer on top of sugar-coated apples that remain more crisp. Finally, a glaze of reduced apricot preserves and… more bourbon…. is brushed on top of the pie. It took me forever and I’ll be making it again.
I was not a huge fan of the barleywine pairing with this dish. The particular barleywine, which would have been solid on its own, was too hoppy with a profile that did not do much for the apples. A sweeter, more viscous barleywine would have been more effective.
There you have it! All in all the feedback was very positive, with each person picking a different pairing as their favorite. What do you think? Would you have done something differently?