Beer for Dinner

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Part of my studying for the BJCP is understanding the different tastes in beer, what is supposed to be there, what is a welcome surprise and what is just plain "off."

Part of the way to reach that understanding is to pair beer with food. On Sunday evening, my lovely wife and I hosted a dinner with several of our friends and we"coursed" the dinner with beers. This not only helped me study, but also helped my celebrate MLK Day with a hangover.

Our light whores-duh-ovaries were weat crackers with a dip of cream cheese, cracked black pepper, dill and a little rosemary. We also had shrimp cocktail. The beer for this portion was Michigan Brewing Company's Celis White. Celis White is a Belgian wheat beer; pale yellow, hazy, with a rich head. We found that the sweet, citrusy fruit paired well with the wheat crackers, and the spiciness of the beer handled the cream cheese dip perfectly, playing flavors off of one another. Plus, that great citrus taste went well with the shrimp; sort of life ceviche.

On to dinner. We had a pork loin marinated overnight with Jamaican jerk seasonings and grilled/smoked (yes, in Michigan we still grill in the winter time, even when it's snowing). The jerk seasonings are cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, onions, scallions, vinegar, olive oil, black pepper, garlic and 6 habanero peppers. This was accompanied by a ceasar salad with my wife's wonderful ceasar dressing (garlic, anchovie paste, black pepper, mayo), garlic mashed potatoes, and grilled veggies (zuchini, red, yellow and orange peppers, all sliced and marinated quite simply in olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper). This robust, spicy dinner needed something tough to cut through the strong flavors and stand on its own, but also cleanse the palate between bites so the full flavors could be appreciated. What else can do this but an American IPA? With the boldness and the American hops (Cascade, most notably), only balanced by sweet malts, this beer held its own, cutting through the spice and fat on the pork, the oil of the grilled veggies and the heavy garlic of the potatoes. I served Victory Brewing Cos. Hop Devil Ale. This beer, used for this course, immediately converted a Bud drinker.

Now the best part: dessert! One of our friends brought a chocolate and peanut butter cake. Dear God; rich, thick, creamy and heavy. I served several choices of beers here. Those who picked the Young's Double Chocolate Stout were amazed at how the already huge chocolate in that stout added perfectly to the chocolate of the dish in a perfect marriage. A few more chose the Bell's Batch 7,000, and found that the huge, thick molasses taste played off of the chocolate of the dessert to yield almost what they dedcribed to be a molasses cookie taste with the bittersweet of the beer and the absolute sweetness of the dessert. I chose Founders Breakfast Stout. It was like drinking an Espresso with my dessert; perfect. Bitter coffe to cleanse the palate between each bite of powerful sweetness.

I cracked my two bottles of Hennepin and split it amongst a few who were interested as a nightcap. Sweetness, cloves, pasta, and lemon peel all greeted our tongues, and ewveryone agreed it was a perfectly balanced, nonoe-too-heavy beer with mild carbonation to end the night on; no dry mouth or bitter aftertaste.

The round of emails the next day were appreciative of the effort, glowing in compliments of our dinner dishes, and enthusiastic about trying new beers, and how well they matched with each course.


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