Friday, November 13, 2015

Beer & Chocolate - Pairings You Want

The holidays are upon us, a time when food and beer take on (an even more) prominent role and there are gifts to be bought. While I was attending the beer presentation at Beer last night with Xocolatl de David I not only enjoyed the indulgence of the delicious beer, chocolate and pairings presented but I also put this on my list of great gifts for the foodies/beeries in my life. Whether intentional or mere happy coincidence all of the beers on the evening's pairing menu are available in bottles.

In case you weren't able to make it to the event and you don't want to buy a bar and bottle of each of the pairings (although this would make a GREAT dessert course at any holiday gathering you're hosting or attending), below are my impressions of the pairings that may help you decide which to start with or choose for giving to the beeries/foodies in your life.

Almanac Meyer Lemon Gose (5%) with The Sourdough & Olive Bar
The gose was lightly lemon with the salt coming through most intensly in the front. While the beer didn't impress me enough to drink on its own the chocolate definitely elevated the beer. The chocolate on the other hand was most delicious on its own.

New Belgium Le Terrior Dry Hopped Sour (7.5%) with The Olive Bar AND The Hazelnut Black Truffle Bar
The beer was outstanding on its own, one I was sure I'd had before but Untappd argued otherwise, with the dry hop-ness being intensified by The Olive Bar. With the other bar the beer really made the truffle characteristics pop. In talking with David at the event about the tasting he did to determine the pairings he said that this was the only pairing where he felt, as I did, that both chocolates paired incredibly well with the beer; thus he decided to offer them both. Thank you, David!

Logsdon Far West Vlaming Flanders Red (6.5%) with The Rose Hips and Berries Bar
This beer is indeed one I've had and enjoyed on many occasions but it became something entirely different when paired with this chocolate. Unlike the previous pairing where elements of the beer or chocolate brought out elements of the other, with this pairing it felt more like the two melded in my mouth to instantly create a decadent chocolate brownie that was topped with perfectly ripe, fresh berry coulis.

Ballast Point Ginger Big Eye IPA (7%) with The Coconut Lemongrass Bar
I was particularly excited about this beer as I'm a big fan of ginger in both food and beer yet ended up slightly disappointed when it wasn't as powerful as I was hoping; instead it was balanced by the hops (as I'm sure was intended). As for the chocolate, before I even got it into my mouth, the aroma struck me. Trying not to gobble it all down at once I found that the trifecta of ginger, coconut and lemongrass created thoughts of a savory main dish. Far from a beer and sweets pairing it was transformational, bringing to mind Thai dishes that utilize those same flavors.

Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist Stout (11%) with The Brown Butter Bar
Saving this until last both because of the heftiness of the beer and because I was sure it would be a slam dunk (David, too, commented that The Brown Butter Bar is an easy choice to pair with stouts) I was not disappointed in the least. BBB presents with a huge roasty aroma, followed by a smooth (especially for 11%) flavor with barrel characteristics. The Butter Bar instantly brought to mind an array of tasty holiday treats, all which employ generous amounts of butter. Together the beer and chocolate were heaven with the only thing that could have possibly made it better would have been a cigar.

I thought at that point that I was done but a friend was seated next to me and generously shared the "extra" pairing - Russian River Supplication Pinot Barrel Aged Brown Ale (7%) with The Foie Gras Bar. Clearly there are some that will write this pairing off immediately because yes, there is foie in it, but for those undaunted (or better, chomping at the bit to try it) this is indeed a delightfully sinful pairing.

Thank you to Beer and Xocolatl de David for a delicious evening!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Halloween Beer Pairing

Whether you're going to a Halloween party, throwing one or will be passing out candy to the neighborhood kiddies you're going to need some sustenance. Give that sustenance a festive twist by pairing McMenamins Black Widow Porter with a grown up version of caramel corn. Sweet and salty with just a touch of heat it pairs beautifully with robust roastiness of Black Widow.

Spicy Peanut Popcorn
Adapted from Cooking Light

1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels (to yield 12 cups popped)
1/2 cup roasted and salted peanuts
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chipotle powder

Pop popcorn in air popper (or alternative desired method). While popcorn is popping, rough chop peanuts. When done mix popcorn and peanuts in one very large bowl or split between two bowls.

Combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, making sure to break up any clumps of sugar or spices. Remove from heat; cool 1 minute.

Pour hot syrup mixture over popcorn mixture; toss well to coat. Immediately spread popcorn mixture out into prepared jelly-roll pan. Cool completely.

Cooled mix may be stored in an airtight container for up to two days.

Friday, October 9, 2015

More Than Just Another Beer Festival

A week ago I was stoked for the Willamette Week's Beer Pro/Am. This week has me already excited for next year's event and here's why.

The biggest reason is that this is one of the few, possibly the only, beer festival in town where you'll be able to talk to each and every brewer and they'll be pouring the beer. I'm not talking about just the amateurs. I'm talking about the professionals, too. Most festivals utilize volunteer pourers, many of which who have never tasted the beer they're pouring and I consider it a huge disservice to the beer and the brewer/brewery that made it.

A very close second reason is that this is a huge opportunity for both amateurs and professionals. On the amateurs' end, they collaborate with a professional and brew on a commercial system, things even well-seasoned homebrewers can appreciate. On the professionals' end this is a way to stay connected to the homebrewing and craft beer drinking community in a way that is increasingly difficult yet important to the heart of craft beer.

Beyond that the beers made for the festival rank right up there in creativity with those of the Fruit Beer Festival and tend to reflect the signature style of the brewers. For example, Capsaison from Upright Brewing and Ritch Marvin, was a barrel fermented saison with chili peppers. Saisons are in Upright's wheelhouse and anyone that knows Ritch knows his thing for growing and using chili peppers.

This year marked the third year of the festival and it's grown by leaps and bounds. Starting out in the Con-Way Warehouse in NW with a mere 12 Pro/Am pairs, last year it moved to Zarr Studios in SE where it filled the space to its gills and this year, now with 21 Pro/Am pairs, expanded to the former Metalcraft Fabrication location, now called The North Warehouse, just down the hill from Widmer. The space easily accommodated the event and I'm hopeful that it will be utilized next year. Regardless where it's held you can bet I'll be there to see what the Pro/Am pairs have brewed up.

In case you didn't attend or missed the subsequent coverage below are this year's winners and here is a full listing of the pairs:
Judges' Choice - 1st Place
13 Virtues and Bill Schneller
OG Stout, Historical 19th Century Imperial Brown Stout

Judges' Choice Honorable Mentions
Culmination and Jim Sullins
Kludde, Belgian IPA

Baerlic and Paul Key
First Crack Coffee Pale Ale

People's Choice - 1st Place
Coalition and Cullen Conway
Figtory! Saison with roasted figs

People's Choice - 2nd Place
Baerlic and Paul Key
First Crack Coffee Pale Ale

People's Choice - 3rd Place
Breakside and Larry Clouser
Palekaiko, Hawaiian Farmhouse Ale with Calamansi Lime and Habanero