Beer: The Culinary Underdog

beer-vs-wine When it comes to cooking or food/beverage pairing, wine is most often the elixir of choice. Be it in sauces, braisings, or imbibed with the meal, this is nearly universal. There is even an entire profession dedicated to it, most likely due to the huge impact French technique has had on cooking as a whole. As a chef and home-brewer I believe that beer is every bit as qualified for the task. Granted, it's more difficult get the dark berry notes out of beer that you can out of wine without additives, but it is possible, just add it! The myriad of hop choices can give you an astonishing array of floral notes. The even greater choices in roasted barley will get you whatever earthy, dusty, or even tobacco hints you might be looking for. Even the choice of what yeast strain to use can influence the citrus, sweetness, dryness, or fruity characteristics you desire. Even still, the monopoly remains. When sitting down to a fine meal in a fancy restaurant it's usually expected to see a good wine list. As well it should be. I'm not trying to marginalize or denigrate the merrits of a good wine list. Not nearly. I'm trying to promote beer to be seen on level ground with wine in respect to pairing with food and in the cooking process. They both have their place, but sometimes (in my eyes at least) wine just doesn't cut it... Case in point, oysters. One of my absolute favorite foods period! Kumamoto and/or Malpeque oysters WILL be served to me on my death bed, and if not, I'll be sure to mercilessly torment from the grave whoever it is that fucks up that request! Just as importantly, they better be served with Guinness!!!! I can't think of a single wine that that pairs with oysters, or most shellfish for that matter, as well as beer does. Maybe that's just a personal preference. I'm willing to concede to that, but I think there are more than a few oyster fans out there that would agree with me. On the same note, I can't imagine short ribs braised in anything other than copious amounts of red wine and veal stock. But you can still pair the finished dish with a good stout, porter, or barley wine. As I said, they both have their place. I mentioned earlier the probable cause of this imbalance, the French influence on cooking technique as a whole. If you are a serious beer nut you know the reason why the French opt for wine over beer..... French beer sucks! The French don't even drink French beer, they drink mostly German beer! Masters of cooking and wine making, they should leave the beer brewing to the Germans, English, Irish, Scottish, and Belgians. The true masters of that particular art, though some of the American micro-breweries are on their heels. Another possible root to this is the cost. Beer is cheaper than wine, at least any wine I'd wanna drink, and how good can it be if it's $5 a glass at most restaurants that are charging $10 and up for a glass of good wine? There is something to be said for the snootiness of people with money to burn, trust me.... I've been feeding them for over 15 years... But to this I say, "Pull your heads out of your collective asses and open your damn mind!" Give me just about any dish and I can tell you a good beer to use in it's preparation or to pair with the final dish. If I can't think of a specific beer, I should be able to come up with a style choice to explore to find the best match. I already mentioned short ribs and shellfish, here is a short list of other meat preparations and their respective beer pairings to the best of my abilities: Sushi - a dry, hoppy Pilsner such as Sam Adams Noble Pils Chicken: Grilled - Pale Ale such as Bass Roasted - Nut Brown Ale such as Sam Smith or Pete's Beef: Grilled - IPA or ESB such as Fullers Stewed - Brown Ale such as Newcastle or Stout such as Guinness or Murphy's Duck - Belgian Lambic or other fruit beer such as Pete's Wicked Strawberry Blonde Pork: Grilled - Helles or Grolsh style Roasted - Porter such as Sam Smiths Taddy Porter or see Duck Red Game (venison, elk, bear ect.) - Barley Wine such as Shipyard or see Beef Pale Game (boar, quail, pheasant ect.) - Heffe-Weizen such as Paulaner or Bock such as Spaten These are, of course, gloriously oversimplified. To get a true "match" all the elements of the dish need to be considered when weighing your beverage choices. I hope this has opened your eyes a little to the possibilities (assuming I'm not preaching to the chior) that beer present as a viable alternative to wine for the next time you sit down to great meal. This post is meant to be the lead off to the much neglected "Beer Snob" category of this site. I/we will endeavor to keep the beer section alive, especially now that we have a dedicated wine writer. I could go on for pages! I will, however, end it here to leave room for future reviews, discussions, tips, and rantings. So until then, eat, drink, live! Jack periodic table of beers

2 Comments  to  Beer: The Culinary Underdog

  1. Todd Abrams says:

    Not all French beer sucks. Brasserie Saint-Sylvestre and Brasserie Castelain both make very nice products. Brasserie La Choulette makes world class beer that rivals many a Belgian ale.

    Grolsch is a brand – not a style. Pete’s Wicked Strawberry? Seriously? At least recommend a beer made with actual strawberries, like Abita strawberry lager.

    I prefer wine from Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine with oysters, or a good fino sherry like Tio Pepe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *