Beer and BBQ Pairing Throwdown

Thursday’s BBQ was good. Not my best ever, but good. And drinking a slew of tasty brews along with it was a task, albeit one I was willing to undertake for the greater good. We all have our crosses to bear.

For BBQ, you’ll usually be safe with something light and crisp. But if beerbecue wanted shit to be safe, we would tightrope Niagara Falls with a safety harness.

Weak.

So I am going to try Duchesse de Bourgogne, Tröegs Trogenator, Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, and Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum, each with and without a vinegar-based sauce.

First up is the wild card: The Duchess:

Players love to hate on the Duchess. In fact, some sour beer freaks sneer at her as a training-wheel sour. Haters gonna hate. It has a nice, sweet, malty character and a cherry and almost balsamic-like sourness. I thought it would be good with BBQ because vinegar obviously works with pulled pork, and the experts claim that “sweet beats heat” and “sour cuts fat”.

One concern was that a sour beer combined with a vinegar-based sauce would be a little much. But apparently, kinky sour-on-sour action can actually tone the sour down a bit and help the other flavors shine.

And I think it did pretty well, especially considering I couldn’t find it recommended anywhere. And when combined with the vinegar-based sauce, The Duchess actually started to taste a little like Cheerwine (a tasty, highly-carbonated, Southern, cherry-tasting soda)…which with Carolina BBQ is legit.

Next, we had Tröegs Double Bock.

This is a great beer: Toasty bread, caramel, complex mix of dark fruits, and sweet, but not cloying. This tasted pretty good without the sauce. Although, it is pretty heavy (monks actually used double bocks in lieu of food during fasting). In fact, it might have even been a little too big for the pig. And I was a little ambivalent about it with the vinegar sauce. But, I bet this would rock the party with a mustard-based sauce (it would be like a Teutonic reunion without all the attempted world domination…hopefully). And I bet it would go well with some sweet and spicy BBQ ribs, or with barbecued beef brisket.

Then came along, Dale’s Pale Ale:

We’ve reviewed Dale’s big alter-ego, Deviant Dale (which, incidentally, also got us some search engine traffic from people curious about eproctophilia). However, don’t let Pale Dale’s comparative normalcy fool you…he’s no slouch. With citrusy and piney hops and a significant bitter finish, Dale is known for blurring the line between Pale Ale and IPA.

Dale didn’t disappoint. The sugars in my dry rub create a nice, caramelized crust; and Dale’s supporting, caramel malt hooked-in nicely with that. Also, hops are big into play-dates with savory, as well as salty and spicy, all of which can be prevalent in BBQ. Further, hop bitterness can douse any spicy flames. My one concern was that the hops would overwhelm the BBQ or wouldn’t play nicely with the vinegar, but neither happened. Good on you, Dale.

Last, Sierra Nevada Hoptimum:

Who put those pesky vegetables there?

Hoptimum is a 100 IBU Imperial IPA, with huge and complex hop flavor. It’s a beast. Perhaps too beastly for these purposes. I did enjoy it, but probably just because it’s such a ridiculously good beer. And for some reason, the alcohol seemed a little more prevalent than usual, especially with the vinegar-sauced BBQ. Maybe it would be better with some spicier ribs. Although, I have seen some sources claim that the higher ABV of double and imperial IPAs can actually ratchet-up the heat of spices and defeat the hop’s otherwise cooling effect. In any case, it’s a damn good beer, and I still enjoyed it.

Fortunately, all the beers were tasty (I already knew this), but some worked better than others with the BBQ. Ultimately though, I think the profound conclusion is: Beer tastes good with BBQ.

Smoker Mod, Smokin’ a Butt, and Beer and BBQ Pairing Throwdown

Today was too nice a day to bother myself with working. So, with a new smoker modification in mind, a butt (Boston) in the fridge, and me never having posted about beer with bbq, I’m gonna make some pulled pork and try some different beers with it.

As always at beerbecue HQ, we need our blues. Today’s selection is Junior Kimbrough. His blues legitimacy is high: He didn’t get national attention ’till he was about 60, he sired 36 children, he died with a common-law wife, his mid-tempo and droning-thumb-on-the-bass-strings style exemplifies north Mississippi hill country blues, and he looked like this:

Son, he’s got more blues in one forehead frownline than you got in your whole damn body.

I decided to fashion a charcoal ring for my Weber Smokey Joe modified smoker. The Weber Smokey Mountain has one, and it seemed that piling fuel on the charcoal grate wasn’t working very efficiently. So I made this:

Metal lathe, four washers, two nuts and bolts, and some aviation snips.

You can also use a heavier gauge expanded metal. In any case, make sure to use gloves, as metal lath and expanded metal can cut the crap out of your hands. Then you load up your fuel and just use the Minion method to get things rolling.

Today, I’m smoking a 5 1/2 pound Boston Butt with my usual rub. I was planning on using the usual vinegar-based sauce. However, last night I came downstairs, and my wife, the BBQ sauce diva, banished me from the kitchen as she tweaked her old vinegar-based BBQ sauce. I have been authorized to release the new recipe on the sauce recipes page. My native-South Carolina wife may be a vegetarian/pescatarian now, but her BBQ-Sauce-Fu remains strong.

Then after about 6-8 hours, there will be a BBQ and beer pairing throwdown. I am pitting the following beers (sampled with and without sauce on the BBQ):

The Duchess de Bourgogne: This may seem odd. In fact, after extensive Internet searching, I have not found anyone who even remotely recommends this. What do they know? Sweet and sour is good with BBQ.

Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock: Bocks and double bocks are usually a good BBQ pairing. Sweet and malty.

Oskar Blues Pale Ale: Pale Ales are generally good with BBQ. And this one will push the hop and BBQ envelope at bit, as it is a fairly hoppy pale ale.

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum: If some hops are good, more must be better. Let’s see how hoppy we can go.

Stay tuned…

Beer Review: Duchesse de Bourgogne… “The Duchess”

Next up, the Duchess:

This beer is a Flanders Red Ale, named after Duchess Mary of Burgundy, the only daughter of Charles the Bold. Charles was also known as Charles the Rash, apparently for his propensity to corner dermatologists at cocktail parties with awkward questions.

Doc, a "friend" of mine has this splotchy, itchy redness on his back...

In his later years, he became Charles the Batshit Crazy. After getting his ass handed to him twice by the Duke of Lorraine and some Swiss mercenaries, he returned with a fresh group of unwitting subjects to strut right up to the walls of the Lorraine capital. In the ensuing unpleasantness, he became Charles the Open-Minded after his head was cleaved by the business-end of an halberd. As his only heir, Mary became the Duchesse de Bourgogne, but died shortly thereafter in a horse riding accident. Why did Brouwerij Verhaeghe name a beer after her? Hell if I know.

This beers pours like a cherry Coke. It smells like a red wine cork left on the counter for a couple hours (slightly sour with a musty, earthy funk). There are also some malty notes floating around in there. It tastes like a cranberry fruit roll-up and a glass of Pinot noir that has notes of cherry, with a little oak occasionally stopping by unannounced. All this, against the background of perfectly-balanced caramel sweetness, reminding you that this is, in fact, a beer. And for its last feat, it finishes surprisingly dry and clean, considering its sweet, sour, and tannic qualities..

I love this beer. Wine drinkers who think they don’t like beer, try it. Beer drinkers interested in dipping their toe in the sour beer pool, try it. Everyone else…try it, and, like Charles, remember to keep an open mind.

The Haybag: This post is giving me a splitting headache. See what I did there?