Beer vs. Wine: Lamb Edition, Round 1

I have mixed feelings about this post. One of the great things about beer is that it’s approachable, unpretentious, and generally free from a slew of inviolable rules on how to enjoy it. And really, we have enough rules to live by already: Don’t go to Wesley Snipes for tax advice. Don’t mix sleeping pills and laxatives. Don’t stiff a Colombian prostitute…

But I want beer to be considered as useful with food as wine is. And generally, I think it is (perhaps even more so). Beer pairing suggestions abound these days on the Internet. And beer even goes well with dishes that are otherwise wine no-brainers. Not long ago, at the Federalist in DC, I ordered a Port City Porter with my turtle soup and my duck entre. It tasted great together.

Mmmmmm…cute, pond-dwelling creatures.

And I like getting beer when all the smuggy-buggies are ordering wine. I’m probably not supposed to, but I take a little pride in being an uncivilized beerbarian.

But here’s the rub. Beer needs to continue its growth and acceptance if we want to have great beers widely-available to throw down our pie holes, whatever the occasion, restaurant, or meal. I just hope that as it does so, it doesn’t become less approachable, more pretentious, and subject to a slew of inviolable rules. Because if you want Miller High Life with your filet, I support that.

With that out of the way, and nearing my word limit, maybe we should finally get to the damn purpose of this post. Can Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale beat out a decent Cabernet Sauvignon (2009 Black Stallion) on red wine’s home turf: Lamb Chops (seared, then finished off for a couple minutes at high heat in the oven) with a Haybag-concocted mint chimichurri on the side?

Luckily, I briefly paused to breathe…and take a picture.

Founders Dirty Bastard: It smells and tastes like the morning after a Heath Bar and a Medjool Date went on a brandy and scotch bender and made some bad decisions together (this is a good thing…albeit awkward for the Heath Bar and date). I thought its smooth maltiness and ever-so-slight kiss of smoke would be a good match with the seared lamb.

2009 Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon: I picked this because…hell if I know. I just always pick Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon with lamb.

This round: Wine won. The Dirty Bastard was good with the lamb, and they didn’t fight. But it was sort of like well-behaved, 2-year-old parallel play: It’s nice, but the lack of interaction is a little boring, and in the back of your mind you worry about it suddenly all going to shit when one of them smashes a Tonka truck over the other’s head.

The wine was a better match. It communed with the lamb in a way that Dirty Bastard didn’t. Its rich flavors and velvety mouthfeel went nicely with the richness of the medium-rare lamb. And its peppery and chocolate notes were a nice addition, too, especially with the chimichurri. They were all like OMG BFFs 4 evs. P911 TML8R.

So what next time? Actually, in a Twitter exchange, the Beer Wench suggested a smoked porter and pointed me to these handy suggestions. She also acknowledged that mint is an odd herb with beer, but perhaps just a dry stout or porter would work. I can’t believe the Beer Wench actually responded to my tweet. Between that, and the fact that beerbecue is the #1 Google search result for “Loch Ness Monster’s G-Spot”, I am running out of blogging goals.

You win this time, red wine. I’ll keep you around for steak, lamb, and red sauce pasta dishes. But there will come a day, and I hope that day is soon, where I will just have a bottle of you around for guests.

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12 thoughts on “Beer vs. Wine: Lamb Edition, Round 1

  1. I think sommeliers really need to get it together when it comes to beer. A lot of people go for wine because that’s what they’ve been told. I’m thankful to live in a beer-centric town (Eugene Beer Week is kicking off today, holla!) and we frequently have beer dinners hosted by breweries and wine vs beer wars (beer always wins, but the wine is good too). There is even a dessert and beer pairing event this week. I think that given a little more time and a little more love in the shape of posts like this, beer will get it’s long overdue time in the sun. Long live beer!

    • Nice: Eugene Beer Week.

      It seems that, at least outside beer-centric towns, too many people still automatically think “wine” when they go out to a nice dinner for there to be the critical mass necessary for most Sommeliers to need to care (or for most restaurants to concern themselves with a Cicerone).

      I think there is also an attitude that wine choice is a more critical choice from a cost perspective. Wrong bottle of wine and you are down a much more significant chunk of change than with beer (unless you ordered a Mikkeller or Evil Twin :)). Although, your expensive meal won’t end up as nice as it could have been. So that sucks. I guess we are in a transitional period. Hopefully, it will turn out for the best.

      I will say that in DC it seems that more and more places are at least trying to carry some local or regional stuff.

  2. Great post. I share your mixed feelings. One blogger I read called this recent trend of beer pairings and Cicerone certifications, “the great pussifying of beer!” And warned that if continued, it would cause beer to spiral down only to end up like wine – over thought, over analyzed, and over priced.

    While I’m certainly not to that extreme, I do find myself hard pressed to come off my opinion that, where most people are concerned, if you like the beer/wine and like the food, you’ll enjoy the meal.

    The truth (as they say) probably lays some where in the middle.

    On a personal note, I want to thank you in advance for the beating I’m going to get when I tell Tracey that you’re doing a multi-round study of beer and wine pairings with lamb. The whipping will continue until the chorus of “WHY DIDN’T YOU THINK OF THAT FIRST? YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE LAMB!” fades from my ears due to unconsciousness.

    • The Haybag is vegetarian. So lamb isn’t made around here but once or twice a year (at least on Easter). That being said, the Haybag is really good at making lamb. And couching this as a series is perhaps part of my agenda to get lamb more frequently.

  3. That sounds like some nasty-ass beer to begin with. I will have to seek it out, minus the lamb. But yeah, mint would be all wrong with that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mint beer, although one probably exists.

    • It’s one of my favorite Scotch Ales (probably a toss-up between it and Oskar Blues Old Chubb). The mint is definitely subdued by the vinegar and shallots in the chimichurri, but it is there, nonetheless…and I suppose vinegar and beer might be a whole different issue, too. It sounds like I need an LB sommelier/cicerone.

  4. I’m not simply a wino, but a glutton of all libations (I actually run the beer ordering for the Grape at one time), so I love the idea of this competition. My immediate thought is you went too dark and heavy for the pairing…meaning that I think the Beer Wench is leading down the wrong path. What’s my recommendation? Well, I’m too busy to figure that out right now, so do it yourself.

    #1 on google searches for “Loch Ness Monster’s G-Spot?” Well congrats to that. I used to get regular hits for “dominatrix slave” because of an image I used for a quirky story out of the Fatherland that I once posted. I always wondered what people thought when they clicked on the link and found a website dedicated to sports, food, libation not bondage.

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