Pairing Your Local Craft Beer with Eats
When it comes to craft beer, we have an abundance of choices here in North Carolina. And in the Triad, we’re seeing talented breweries popping up all over. It’s exciting to watch. While you’ve been enjoying reading about some of the local small batch drinkable nectar of barley, wheat and hops, we hope you’re getting a taste of what there is to explore in the area.
My responsibility is to have little fun thinking about beer and food and food and beer and beer in food. One doesn’t often think about a beer pairing and how to use it to cleanse the palate and enhance your meal as they do wine. So we took some cues from local chefs and brewmasters to see how they are pairing food and beer these days. And there’s even a recipe from yours truly.
Chef Kris Fuller, owner of Crafted: the Art of the Taco (WS and GSO) and Crafted: the Art of Street Food is enjoying playing with neighbor Joymongers Brewing on her current menu at Street Food.
Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich with Joymongers Breakfast Stout with chilis. Says Chef Fuller, “The bold, smokey, sweet flavors of our Nashville hot oil pair very well with a dark, rich, full-bodied beer, like the Breakfast Stout. Plus, the addition of the chilis in the beer play nicely with the combination of the chilis in the oil.
Another suggested at Street Food—Thai Green Chicken Curry with Joymongers Chamomile Saison:
Fuller likes this combo because, “The herbaceous chamomile works well with the lemongrass and ginger in our homemade curry paste. The sweetness of the coconut is balanced with a slight bitterness of the Saison, leaving you with a cleansed palate after each bite followed by the beer.
And that’s how you are supposed to do it. Just as wine is supposed to cleanse the palate between bites of food (if you dare to take time to stop…admittedly difficult for me).
It is always very helpful and highly encouraged to ask your server or mixologist what they think will pair nicely with your meal, to find a beer that will complement the experience. Many distributors and even brewers devote training of the staff at all restaurants, so there’s a good chance that any restaurant or pub worth its salt will point you in the right direction.
At Small Batch Beer Company, where brewmaster Tim Walker is also a chef, he’s already brewing a beer with food in mind. Walker has been known to shop the farmer’s market for ingredients for his next brew. Currently suggested, Small Batch’s Fried Chicken with Cheddar Chived Mashed Potatoes and Coffee Dusted Bacon with Honey Crisp Apple Slaw. The preferred pairing is Small Batch Percolator, a mocha cappuccino stout brewed with espresso, that delivers a strong coffee flavor.
And for something of a departure, Walker likes the Country Ham Salad and how it pairs with a nice Amber. The salad has roasted carrots, sweet potato, peanuts, benne with a sorghum vinaigrette. Just in time for Easter.
Cooking With Beer
Do you like to cook with beer? Al Wolf, Brewmaster at Red Oak Brewing Company and owner of Brewmasters Malt Mustard says there’s nothing quite like a very simple beer bread made with real ingredients and not from a box.
3 cups self-raising flour
3 Tbs sugar
1 bottle of warm beer (Red Oak, suggested by Al)
Mix using stand or hand mixer.
Pour batter into a greased baking pan, add butter flakes on top.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 50 minutes.
Wolf says, “This beer has a sweet taste and it is very yummy with something salty like a potato soup.” He also told me that he likes the Red Oak Hummingbird Helles Golden Munich Lager as the beer accompaniment to the bread and soup.
Occasionally, you’ll find a most excellent pairing that features beer and a little sweet ending to your meal. A nice stout, like Foothills Sexual Chocolate or any other stout beer pairs nicely with something creamy like a raspberry cheesecake or dark chocolate. As Foothills Brewing’s Dave Goliszek told me once, “anything that pairs well with coffee” will go well with a nice, dark stout.
Or try this sweet and savory dessert from Niki Farrington, founder of Niki’s Pickles featuring Hoots Beer.
Pear & Cheddar Pop(t)Arts
Make pie dough, or use frozen prepared dough or puff pastry. If using frozen, thaw the pastry while you poach your pear in beer with a splash of citrus.
Slice or dice pears after they are tender but not mushy.
Continue reducing beer and citrus. Add sugar, honey, or agave to desired sweetness.
Toss your pear bits with cheese, adding a little of your reduction. (You want it to stick a little together, but not weep)
Cut some pop-tart sized pieces of your pastry.
Put about 1/4 cup of filling in the center. Place another piece of dough on top of the bottom half & crimp it together with a fork.
Cut a vent in the top. Brush with egg wash. Bake at 425-degrees until golden and puffy. Serve with a drizzle of your reduction.
As for my contribution to the recipes out in the world, I highly recommend this satisfying dish for your next Saint Patrick’s Day. Or any day when there’s a chill in the air. Heck, I don’t even care if it’s cold out, because it’s not a heavy dish at all. It’s extremely low carb, is a one pot meal and is perfect even the day after. Please note this recipe is in honor of NC Craft Beer Month, however if that’s not your thing, it works great with Hard Cider, broth or water. As you will see, I tend to be flexible with my ingredients and encourage you to do the same, do what you like with amounts and flavors.
Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
2 lbs ground beef or ground breakfast sausage (even turkey, ground venison would be fine)
2-3 slices of bacon. (Optional but lends a smokiness)
1/2-1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 small cabbage, chopped
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes (you can use less if you prefer)
1/2 -1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
2 tbs chopped parsley, optional
1 bottle beer, (an ale, amber, nothing too hoppy…eyeball it…you may need more liquid but don’t cover the cabbage completely),
Generous sprinkling of caraway seeds
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp pepper
In a large pot, crisp the bacon if using. Remove or leave it in there, your choice. Add the ground beef and onion and cook until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic and cook for a minute.
Add the chopped cabbage, tomatoes, tomato sauce, beer or liquid, seasonings. Bring to a boil. Cover and lower to a simmer for 30 minutes, or until cabbage is tender.
Optional: mustard seed, thyme, or smoked paprika would be a great option. The latter especially if you forgo bacon. Adjust any seasonings to your liking. Great in the bowl with a few dashes of hot sauce (you know, Texas Pete). Serve with crusty bread, pumpernickel, pretzel rolls or the above beer bread.
I was told once that this dish “needs” to be on rice. I tend to disagree, as it plays more like a stew and the bread is oh so good for dipping. But by all means, if you want rice, go for it!
Don’t eat it all and save some for next day. You’ll be glad you did. As for the beer to pair it with, I really like it with Foothills Carolina Blonde or Foothills People’s Porter.
Nothing goes together like local beer and local eats. Cheers!