Endless Pairings: European Beer Dinner
Thankfully, beer pairing dinners are becoming increasingly popular in my area. And lucky for you, you get to hear about it. Now, we can all embrace the fact that beer pairs just as well with food as wine does! Sands Bethlehem and St. James Gate hosted a European Beer Dinner. The dinner paired imported European beers with four courses of fall flavored gourmet style meals. Similar to the wine pairing, representatives introduced each beer to discuss the characteristics of the beer and where it comes form. The chef also circulated during the event and was willing to answer questions.
The pairings were not what I expected for each meal, but each complemented the meal nicely. In speaking with the chef, he explained that he tasted each suggested beer first, then he decided what kind of meal to pair it with. Meanwhile, in our DIY pairing, we were thinking about what the beer would taste like, then finding something to complement the beer. For a true beer pairing, the beer should really complete each meal and bring out the flavors of the meal. We determined our favorite meal, favorite beer, and favorite pairing. Check it out.
Seafood Bouillabaisse with Lindeman’s Cuvee Rene Oude Gueze
Lindeman’s is located in a Belgian town southwest of Brussels and focuses on making lambic style brews. Lindeman’s ales are “spontaneously fermented,” meaning that the yeast is wild airbone yeast that is collected. The yeast is not added by the brewers. The beer tasted like a tart, carbonated cider which was very refreshing. The appetizer was a seafood soup including shrimp, mussels, squid, clams, and even salmon. The broth was pretty fishy, so if you aren’t a seafood fan it isn’t the most appealing appetizer. However, if you enjoy seafood it was a tasty soup that had a bit of everything in it with a good balance of herbs and spices in the broth. On to the beer profile:
Appearance: Hazy orange
Aroma: Fruity – apple cider with sweet spices like cinnamon
Taste: Sour lambic had a strong tart flavor with sweet cider taste throughout the sip. Ended with subtle spice flavor.
Mouthfeel: Lingering aftertaste with tart and dry flavor. Similar mouthfeel to a Riesling wine.
Overall: Very good lambic. I will usually try lambics when they are on the menu, but I’ve found most of them to be too sweet. This was very well balanced between sweet and tart and the cider flavor was very refreshing. It was a good pairing for the fall.
ES Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Suds – My favorite beer of the pairing menu.
As for the pairing – this was a good pairing if you like strong seafood flavors. If you don’t, the fishy flavor of the soup can overpower the crisp and sweet flavor of the lambic. However, I liked the flavor of the soup. The lambic finished the soup well and the flavor of the beer refreshed the palate.
Roasted Chicken Ballantine with Shepherd Neame Spitfire
Shepherd Neame touts itself as the oldest brewery in Britain. It is a Kentish ale which is specific to the area of…you guessed it – KENT! Unfortunately, the guy that introduced this beer was not the same dude that was very knowledgeable about the Lindeman’s beer. He was a distributor that just read off of a card and admitted he didn’t know much about the beer. Anyway, the beer is a very malty ale with lots of caramel flavor and well-balanced with hops. The beer was paired with a roasted chicken dish with caramelized shallots. The chicken was very tender and the caramelized shallots were awesome! Together, the shallots and chicken created a very nice sweet and savory flavor. This meal was a good second course, but we could have used maybe one more slice of the chicken – it was a small portion. Beer profile:
Appearance: Copper – good dark caramel color.
Aroma: Smells very malty with smell of sweet caramel taking over on the nose.
Taste: The suds don’t taste as sweet as it smells. More of a toast flavor with a good amount of bitterness. Sweetness of caramel comes through underneath it all.
Mouthfeel: This beer had more of a dry and bitter finish with a lingering aftertaste
Overall: A lighter beer that smells a lot sweeter than it tastes. Sweetness is there, but an earthy and bitter taste came through just as much.
ES Rating: 2.75 out of 5 Suds – my least favorite beer of the pairing menu
The pairing of the Shepherd Neame Spitfire with the roasted chicken was a good choice. The beer brought out some of the buttery flavor of the chicken while also highlighting the caramelized shallots.
Beef Sauerbraten with Ayinger Brau Weisse
The same guy that introduced the lambic introduced this one, so we learned more about the brewery again. Ayinger is located near the Alps in the village of Aying. Aying is known for their beer and hospitality and Ayinger is located on just about every list of the world’s best breweries. I was expecting to see a stout or porter to be paired with beef rather than a Bavarian wheat beer. The steak was served with apples, gingerbread sauce and red cabbage saute, which was surprisingly a contender for our favorite. The beef was tender and when put on your fork with the apple and red cabbage, it had great texture with just enough crisp from the apple and complex flavors of sweetness and tartness. We are still trying to figure out how the gingerbread sauce was made – it tasted like the chef could have possibly pureed poor gingerbread men and added it to the sauce. As for the beer:
Appearance: The color was a nice hazy yellow-orange color.
Aroma: BANANA. Strong smell of banana on the nose followed but subtle yeasty sweetness with a little bit of citrus.
Taste: Strong banana flavor that matches the nose. with a nice fruity flavor throughout. Spices like clove come out subtly as well.
Mouthfeel: Clean and smooth mouthfeel with a short lasting aftertaste.
Overall: Good clean heffe weissen with strong banana flavor and a full wheat beer profile that complements the fruitiness of the brew. A refreshing yet filling beer.
ES Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Suds – a solid wheat beer that I would get at the distributor in place of many other American wheats (sorry America).
The pairing was very good and very surprising. I wouldn’t have thought to pair a sweet beer with a beef-centered meal. However, making the beef with the gingerbread sauce, apples, and sauteed red cabbage made for a very good complement to the wheat brew. We really enjoyed this pairing and I would say this was our second favorite pairing.
Spotted Tiramisu with Moretti La Rossa
Another dude introduced the Moretti La Rossa (Italian beer). He was fascinated by a story of a guy coming into a bar with his beer, sharing it, taking a picture of someone and then that someone saying “you can take my picture if you put it on the bottle.” Good story. Given my sweet tooth, it was about that time that I ready for my tiramisu. Apparently spotted in this case means that within the coffee-infused goodness was tons of little shavings of chocolate. We thought this was one of the best Tiramisus we have had. The lady fingers were drenched well with coffee, the texture was spot on, and the filling was creamy and just sweet enough. As for the beer:
Appearance: Ruby red to dark walnut color.
Aroma: Sweet, slightly fruity with a caramel spin on it.
Taste: Sweet malts with hints of chocolate and bitterness similar to coffee. Caramel also comes through along with some raisin flavors. Hops do a good job of adding an earthy flavor to complement the malt profiles. Some boozy flavor comes through but does not take over.
Mouthfeel: Smooth and creamy with no lingering aftertaste.
Overall: A pleasant surprise! Good flavors that emphasize the sweet and bitter flavors of coffee, chocolate, and caramel. Good beer for some sweeter meals along with light appetizers like cheeses. Also thought this would be a great beer for a good cigar.
The pairing was our favorite. Again, I was expecting a different kind of beer with dessert. I was thinking maybe a sweet lambic of a sweet milk stout. But instead, this beer went quite well with the tiramisu. It added another level of flavor with the subtle coffee and chocolate notes. I could replace a cup of coffee with this beer when having the tiramisu.
Sands Bethlehem and St. James Gate did a good job with the pairings. The meals were paired well with the beers to a point that made it difficult to narrow the favorite down to one favorite pairing. It really came down to the beef and Ayinger pairing or the tiramisu and Moretti pairing. However, the others were very good as well. I’m not sure a seafood soup is the best dish to start off a pairing menu for people that are looking to try a little bit of everything. I also thought that the speaker that introduced Lindeman’s and Ayinger gave the most helpful information while there was more to be wanted from the other two reps. I would like to see a little more education on the pairing end. For instance, why did you suggest these brews? I appreciated the chef coming around for questions as well. Overall, I enjoyed the experience, learned about European beers, and realized that we should start with the beer and then pair the food – not the other way around. I think starting off with the beers helps us get out of our comfort zone to come up with some cool pairings. A good event that was worth the trip. Thanks to Sands Bethlehem and St. James Gate for providing admittance and making it possible for us to review!