Monday, July 11, 2005

Unorthodox pairing suggestion #1

It's becoming quite the industry standard these days in the print media world to include a weekly, monthly, or "whenever Ziggy's on vacation" column about beer. The new beer, that is. The gourmet, flavorful, sipping beer that "goes better with cheese than wine does and that's why this article is in the wine section", not to be confused with that stuff they sell at ballparks, or *gasp* that stuff they sell in cans.
In these articles, there's the inevitable rules for pairing with food, culled from the somewhat antiquated guidelines concocted by the wine industry to cement the snobbery of the grape. It seems odd to me, that in its bid to win more of the foodiesnob share, the brewing industry (Garrett, are you listening?) has taken to such literal parallels: "Think of Ale as Red Wine and Lager as White Wine", or "Hoppiness in Beer = Acidity in Wine". Oddly, the only wine/beer comparison that I'm willing to make is one that gets no attention from these reviewers, and that's the idea of regional tastes and terroir. Wine experts would argue that with the vast majority of beers lacking distinct vintages, brewers have no right to include terroir in their profiles (avoid making that comment around lambic brewers). On the other hand, there is something to be said of beer and food produced in the same region as pairing well together in a sort of psychic way, usually deviating from the rules a bit as well (think oysters and stout). One could think of these neighborly pairings as a great argument for beer terroir - I mean, why would you bother making a beer that doesn't set well with your diet, anyway?
So why am I droning on about this? It just seems to me that a broader concept of pairing needs to be investigated, including the time-tested method call experimentation. As one who could go on at length espousing the vibrancy of the "peanut M&Ms with chardonnay" pairing, I think I'm a valid resource for such experimentation. Thusly, I bring you the first in my thoughts on unorthodox pairings: Gueuze as a picnic beer.
It gueuze with everything.
Thanks to the rise of brewery seasonals, wheat beer has become a commonly accepted summer staple. Consider, for a moment, replacing your standard hefeweizen with a wild Wallonian wheat beer of the funky persuasion, like the Hanssens version pictured here. Why does it work?
1) It has a crisp mouthfeel and quick finish, making it nicely thirst-quenching.
2) It goes splendidly with fresh fruit and berries. Don't believe me? Can you say peche? Framboise? Kreik?
3) Stinky cheese demands stinky beer.
4) It's got the best aspects of champagne - highly carbonated, slightly tart and slightly sweet - which in turn makes it really romantic. And horse blanket: don't forget that the really expensive champagnes you can't afford smell like horse blanket, too.
5) That same combination of high carbonation, tartness and crispness lends itself very well to clearing the palate of fat from dry-cured salamis and the like.
Give it a try. If you're concerned, bring along a bottle of witbier or saison. If you find that you agree with me, though, the spare beer will at least be there to satisfy your guest while you enjoy this somewhat unorthodox pairing.


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