Beer, applied.

I love great beer and finding ways it can enhance your enjoyment of life.

Cooking with Beer: Belgian Tripel Mussels

I’ve already posted about pairing beer with mussels, so I’m just gonna get right to the recipe.

Mussels

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon carrots, finely chopped
2 medium shallots, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/3 cup Belgian Tripel beer
2 pounds mussels, cleaned

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, shallots, and garlic until they are just tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tarragon, parsley, salt, and pepper to the vegetables and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the beer to the skillet and bring it to a gentle simmer.
  4. Add the mussels to the sauce, turn the heat up a bit, cover, and steam the mussels for 4-9 minutes, until the mussels open.
  5. Serve the mussels hot with the beer sauce.

Pairing Beer with Food: Maryland Crabs

CrabsPicking crabs is a favorite activity for many in Maryland. A gathering with friends and family, a bushel of steamed crabs, and beer is always a good time. In Maryland those crabs are ALWAYS seasoned with Old Bay. The sweetness of the crab and spice of the Old Bay is a match made in seafood heaven.

Finding the perfect beer for such a meal is easy. Helles lagers are great choice. They have a clean crisp flavor that won’t overpower the crab or get lost in the Old Bay spice. For something with a little more body, a Witbier, Hefeweizen, or American Wheat are a great choice. They match the sweetness of the crab and handle the spice well. Similarly a Kolsch or Blonde Ale have a great mild sweet flavor, but won’t get overpowered by the spice.

Blonde AleExamples:

  • Hofbräu Original
  • Hoegaarden Original White Ale
  • Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen
  • Tröegs Dream Weaver Wheat
  • Gaffel Kölsch
  • Great Divide Samurai Ale

Pairing Beer with Food: Apple Pie

Apple PieThe all American apple pie is a culinary delight. What’s not to love about a tender, flaky crust, baked apples with cinnamon, and a scoop of ice cream on top. When looking for a beer to complement this dessert, think dark. Baltic porters and sweet stouts provide a nice contrast with their dark roasted malt flavor, and have plenty of sweetness to accompany dessert. It might seem a little counter intuitive to pair such strong beers with the mild flavor of apples, but give it a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.Baltic Porter

Examples:

  • Samuel Adams Cream Stout
  • Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
  • Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout
  • Victory Stormking Stout

Beer with a Purpose: The Session Beer

First a definition, courtesy of beeradvocate.com:

session beer    n. 

Any beer that contains no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between malt and hop characters (ingredients) and, typically, a clean finish - a combination of which creates a beer with high drinkability. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beers, within a reasonable time period or session, without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication.

It is pretty simple really. Session beers are ideal for social drinking, or any extended period of beer consumption. There is not much to add except a list of a few of my favorites.

  • Yuengling Traditional Lager
  • Goose Island Honker’s Ale
  • Franziskaner Dunkel Hefe-Weisse
  • Sam Adams Boston Lager

Pairing Beer with Food: Thai Food

Thai Green CurryThai food is known for its balance of the five fundamental tastes in each dish or the overall meal: hot (spicy), sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. The variety of curries, rice dishes, noodle dishes, and, fruits and vegetables make enjoying Thai cuisine quite an adventure. When looking for beers to pair with Thai cuisine you are going to look for ones that can match the intensity the food as well as complement the many flavors and spices.

For milder Thai dishes, a hefeweizen is a great choice. The flavors of banana and clove, along with the spice notes it brings go nicely with the sour and sweet flavors in many Thai dishes. As you step up to Thai dishes that are mid-level in intensity a German altbier, and a Belgian saison pair well. Stronger than your hefeweizen, they won’t get lost with more spicy flavors. And they both complement the spices in Thai food.

Finally for your spicier Thai dishes, reach for an American IPA or a Belgian IPA. The extra hop bitterness they bring will hold up to the heat from the food. The American IPA will provide more bitterness and some nice floral notes. The Belgian IPA will provide some bitterness, and complement the spices similar to the saison.Saison

Examples:

  • Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier
  • Uerige Sticke
  • Ommegang Hennepin
  • Stone IPA
  • Piraat Ale

(Source: Wikipedia)

Beer with a Purpose: The Apéritif

Bier BruteAn apéritif is an alcoholic beverage that is usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. Beer makes an excellent choice to fill this roll for for a few reasons. First, bitterness stimulates the appetite. And there is no shortage of beers that contain bitterness. Second, an apéritif is commonly served with something small to eat, like crackers, cheese, or crudités. These foods pair nicely with a wide variety of beers. Styles of beer that make a good apéritif are Czech or German Pilseners, Belgian Tripels, Fruit Beers, Lambics, and Bière de Champagne.

Pilseners provide a good clean crisp flavor and moderate amount of bitterness. Their light body will also help ensure that you do not get full before the meal. Similarly, Belgian Tripels have a moderate amount of bitterness and light body. They bring some more herbal and spice flavors that go well with a spread of crudités. 

Fruit beers and lambics are also a nice way to greet guests. Although generally not very high in bitterness, they are very visually appealing. And we eat with our eyes first. A Bière de Champagne is similar to a fruit beer or a lambics in use as an apéritif. It is perhaps the ultimate go to for special occasions.

Examples:

  • Jever Pilsener
  • Tripel Karmeliet
  • Lindemans Framboise
  • DeuS (Brut Des Flandres)

Pairing Beer with Food: Mussels

Mussels and FriesMoule-frites and a fine beer is always a recipe for deliciousness. You don’t have to search very hard to find a good beer for this dish. Mussels with their sweet, briny taste go well with lighter, refreshing beers. First up, Pilseners, which are both light and refreshing. Their crisp, clean flavor and floral aroma complement mussels very nicely.

A German hefeweizen and a Belgian witbier are also great matches. Both go well with seafood in general and mussels are no exception. Their herbal and spice notes should complement whatever herbs and spices are infused in the mussel broth.

If your mussels are in a more potent broth, then perhaps you should reach for a Belgian saison or geueze. The saisons spice profile will hold up to your spicier mussel dishes. The geueze brings a more sour taste to mix. This can help balance out mussels seasoned with stronger flavors.

Witbier

Examples:

  • Victory Prima Pils
  • Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse
  • Allagash White
  • Saison Dupont
  • Cantillon Gueuze 

Pairing Beer with Food: Cheesecake

CheesecakeCheesecake is a great combination of taste and texture, with a flavor that is both sweet and savory. It can be a canvas on which to create, or the star all its own. In either case, the right beer with your cheesecake can really enhance your dessert experience.

The richness of cheesecake, and its ability to coat the palate make it a great match for beers with a higher alcohol content. That alcohol content is needed to cut through the richness and let the flavor of the beer come through, as well as refresh your palate for the next bite. Russian imperial stouts fit the bill in terms of alcohol content. They also bring a great deal of flavor to the party; flavors of dark chocolate, and roasted coffee. They have enough sweetness to pair well with desserts, but not so much as to overwhelm the palate. 

On the other side of the beer spectrum, fruit beers, like those flavored with raspberries or cherries, complement cheesecake very well. Their combination of sweetness and tartness serve to add flavor, awaken the palate, and enhance the cheesecake.

Russian Imperial Stout

Examples:

  • Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
  • Stone Imperial Russian Stout
  • Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
  • Wisconsin Belgian Red 
  • Dogfish Head Fort
  • Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss 

Pairing Beer with Food: Asparagus

AsparagusSometimes a beer and a food just create such a magical combination that no other beer will do. Sometimes it is a personal experience or triggered memory that mandates such a compulsion. And sometimes it is the combination of aroma, flavor, and texture that dictate such a match. The later is the case for asparagus and a Belgian Tripel. 

Tripels have a very complex flavor, fruity, spicy, sweet, and bitter. All of these together work to enhance the unique flavor of asparagus.

Belgian Tripel

Examples:

  • Unibroue La Fin Du Monde
  • Westmalle Trappist Tripel
  • St. Bernardus Tripel
  • Tripel Karmeliet
  • Allagash Tripel Ale