Endless Pairings: Negra Modelo
Mexican beer and fall-themed food. The perfect complement? Well, that’s what were determined to find out when Negra Modelo sent us a “pairing kit” to put it to the test. When presented with the opportunity to taste test, my answer is almost always yes. Negra Modelo sent us a box full of spices from The Spice House, two tulip glasses, a wooden cutting board, and a $50 Visa gift card to purchase the goods. Challenge accepted. Think of it as the at-home version of Chopped. Being seasonal food fans (mainly fall), we began planning a menu of fall foods that would highlight the spices (follow The Spice House recommendations) and pair well with a Vienna (dark) lager. Yes – a European beer style from Mexico. Here’s the menu:
- Aged Cabot Cheese with apples, fig jam, balsamic glaze, and crostini
- Spiced roasted brussels sprouts
- Sweet potato puree with nutmeg and cinnamon
- Ribeye steak with Quebec beef spice
- Cornish Hen with bicentennial seasoning
- Pork with bavarian style seasoning
We had a friend over and made a beer pairing tasting menu. Negra Modelo was served with the appetizer, followed by a taste of each protein with the sides. The beer and food was judged based on the flavor of each, whether the spices complemented the food, and if the beer paired well with each “course.” On to the tasting notes:
Negra Modelo (ABV: 5.4%)
Appearance: Dark caramel with a red hue
Aroma: Sweet scents with subtle scents of toast
Taste: Sweet malts give caramel flavor, biscuit flavor with light herbal and earthy tastes
Mouthfeel: Clean and crisp with lingering sweetness
Overall: A pleasant surprise, Negra Modelo provides more character than expected. While it is an InBev beer, I can forgive that if the brew offers some flavor. For a lager from Mexico, it offers the basic profile of a lager with extra sweetness of caramel and a toasty flavor as well. Tastes like it would pair well with fall foods. So here we go!
Appetizer: Aged Cabot Cheese Board
Without tasting the beer but thinking of the profiles of a Vienna lager, I decided on cheddar cheese for our appetizer as a cheese board. We found a nice aged JH Cabot Clothbound Cheddar that I thought would go well with some apples, fig spread and even balsamic glaze. The cheddar was a very sharp cheese that crumbled when you cut it. While it was very sharp, I think it is one of the creamier cheddar cheeses we’ve had. The cheese paired well with the Negra Modelo. The cheddar brought out some of the earthy and hoppy aspects of the beer and was balanced by the sweet malts as well.
Sides: Sweet Potato Puree and Spiced Roasted Brussels Sprouts
(yes – that is a mustaches salt/pepper shaker – happy Movember)
Keeping with the fall menu, we chose some fall staples in the sweet potato puree and the brussels sprouts. The spice kit came not only with the rubs, but also with fresh cinnamon, nutmeg, and bay leaves. We used the nutmeg in the sweet potato puree and kept it simple. After planning out our proteins and pairing them with a specific rub, we had one rub left to use – the “back of the yards garlic pepper.” Fiance really made the brunt of the meal while I was at work (thank you!!) and she said she didn’t really add much of the rub to the brussels sprouts. However, we’d add even less next time. The rub has a really bold kick to it. The pepper definitely takes over in this rub. With the sweet potato puree, the brussels sprouts were tamed a bit. As for the beer pairing – Negra Modelo complements the sweet potato puree very nicely, bringing out the sweet flavors of each. The brew also goes well with the rub on the brussels sprouts, cutting through the spice nicely.
“Course” 1: Cornish Hen
The cornish hen was rubbed with the bicentennial seasoning, broiled, then finished in the dutch oven with root vegetables, chicken stalk, and some Negra Modelo. The rub specifically recommended using it on cornish hen, so we went by the book. The rub adds a real nice yellow color to the skin of the meet. It also enhances the flavor of the chicken giving it almost a buttery kind of flavor. The Negra Modelo pairing was nice with this specific course because of the light flavor of the cornish hen. The cornish hen is great on its own, but the caramel flavors and subtle bitternes of the beer was a nice add on to the poultry. This may have been my favorite pairing of the three courses. However, that may also be because we used the left over stock in the dutch oven to make gravy (beer gravy :-)) and it was awesome.
“Course” 2: Pork
The pork was rubbed in the bavarian style seasoning, seared, and then finished in the oven. The pork was nice and tender, but the rub was our least favorite. It was a very earthy rub that would be better off on poultry than on pork. It could have used some more salty spices or some spices that will add a kick to it. The pork also paired well with the Negra Modelo, but did not have as much of a lasting impact as it did with the cornish hen.
“Course” 3: Ribeye
STEAK. The best of all the meats! The steak was rubbed in Quebec beef spice. The steak was seared, cooked in the oven, and then sat to finish. The rub is particularly peppery, which adds a nice flavor to the beef. On a nice thick piece of steak, the pepper comes through well but does not overpower a juicy piece of beef. All of us agreed that this was the favorite of the rubs and the courses. As for the beer – the pairing went well together. The Negra Modelo has a nice depth to the flavor profile, but not so much that it takes over in a meal. It’s a smooth drink that finishes a steak dinner nicely.
None of us have ever had Negra Modelo before, so we went into the dinner blindly. Typically, you taste the beer, see what flavors you want to highlight and complement, and then pick your foods. We went off the style of the beer. Generally speaking, the Negra Modelo went with everything we had. It has a nice smooth flavor that is easy to pair with. The sweetness of the beer also makes for a good drink to cook with. It really made a difference in our gravy and added another level of flavor to the cornish hen. I don’t know if I would add it to beef, but it goes particularly well with poultry. We loved the pairing of the cornish hen and Negra Modelo the most. As for the rubs – the Quebec rub stands out with the steak for number 1. Thanks to Negra Modelo for sending the beer pairing kit and the Visa gift card to make this dinner possible. AND to my fiance who pretty much took my suggestions and cooked it all while I was at work. Definitely a success – grab a 12 pack and try your own pairings. Let us know how it goes by mentioning @endlesssimmer on twitter and using the hashtag #theperfectcomplement.