beer and wine

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Drink me.

I have an unhealthy relationship with wine. I find it endlessly fascinating, and sometimes infuriating, I find it good in moderation, and better in excess. It's one hell of a tasty hobby. But I'm no wine expert. I know, everyone says that in their first post to try and sound like a "regular guy", not some kind of wine Einstein. Wine can be intimidating. There's too much to know out there, ever. Even if you were the expert of experts, there's always some crafty vineyard owner working in his lab to perfect a new blend, or breed a new varietal, or bring something new to the party. That's what makes wine endless variety of sensations, and endless invention. There's always something more to learn and new curiosities along the way, like Alice's rabbit hole. I've had no wine training, and I've only been to a few informal tastings. But what I do have (on top of my fascination) is practice. Malcolm Gladwell made a popular observation that the difference between proficiency and mastery of anything we do is about 10,000 hours of practice. I'm pretty sure I've logged well over that amount with my nose shoved deep into a half-full glass... So you can understand that I was happy to be invited into the Rogue Estate's inner circle of epicurean miscreants...if just to share a little of that enthusiasm with them, and with you. For my first Rogue's dinner, I offered to pair a couple bottles to the menu, which was described to me simply thus: "1st course: Littleneck clams on the half-shell w/ cold Ramp green puree Soup course: Fresh Pea soup, Ramp white garnish Main course: Seared Salmon, Strawberry Beurre Rouge, Balsamic Roasted Asparagus, Lemon-Ramp Rice" Here's what I showed up with and a few tasting notes.
A to Z Oregon Pinot Gris

A to Z Oregon Pinot Gris Willamette Valley Pinot Gris are what I usually reach for when there's shellfish in front of me. Extremely light in color--think straw with a faint green/grey hue. Supple citrus flavors dominate, mostly lime, with a background of honeysuckle and honeydew. A great palate cleanser, and suited to simple mild flavors--light cheeses, vegetables and a hit with littlenecks on the half-shell. About $13.
La Vieille Ferme Rose

La Vieille Ferme Rose Lovely color--a bright pink with just a hint of amber.. Consistently receiving a score in the upper 80s by most reviewers this wine represents a serious value. Bright strawberry notes and a watermelon freshness that's irresistible (lack of oak helps here). A hint of caramel on the moderate finish. A great foil for fresh spring vegetables and fish. Just enough acidity to stand up to Jack's beurre rouge. About $8. Picking a good wine to pair with a dish is fun, but not something I've done a lot of. I expect that there will be good nights and bad nights. I encourage you to ditch the rulebook and remember that the best wine to drink with anything is the one that tastes good to you. Now, are you interested in coming along with me to see how deep this rabbit hole goes? - Ian

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