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.

Thanksgiving Beer Pairings: We be all classy ‘n s$%t

As I mentioned, dangermenparenting sent out the bat signal to beerbecue to come up with some good beers for Thanksgiving. That’s right…I said beer for Thanksgiving. What? Do you think Pilgrims and Indians had a bunch of Chateau Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux at the first Thanksgiving? That’s not what I learned in grade school. They had beer, dammit….and this:I received several suggestions from friends on past successes. I will try to give credit to them where possible. So, here we go..

We need something that can hang with heartiness, but not overpower earthy comfort. So for Thanksgiving, beerbecue says: screw the hop bombs for one day out of the year, and go with earthy, sweet, lightly spicy or fruity, or a combination thereof. There are several beers that can fit this bill, and I will throw a couple variations for turkey prep differences, and some dessert selections.

Pretty safe, but very tasty: Latch on to the sweet, earthy, and caramel with a Dogfish Head Indian Brown, a Brooklyn Brown, or, as Tom suggested, a good German Marzen. Or even go a little darker with New Belgium’s 1554 Enlightened Black Ale.

A little more adventurous: Belgian Tripels. These little beauties have a light to moderate sweetness, some fruit (like apple, banana, pear, or oranges), earthiness, and sometimes a slight peppery, clovey, or spicey flavor from the Belgian yeast. The carbonation does a good job of clearing the palate, but the high carbonation can turn some off…like the Haybag. Also, they usually manage to mask their high ABV, even though they aren’t correspondingly heavy. And we all know high ABV can help in dealing with in-laws.

Try any of the following tripels: Allagash (a suggestion from Tony (not the DMP Tony) in the comments to the previous post); Unibroue La Fin Du Monde; Westmalle, St. Bernardus, or even New Belgium’s Trippel, which is now pretty easy to find in the DC-area. Also, some sweeter variations include Gouden Carolus, Weyerbacher Merry Monks, and Green Flash Trippel.

Perhaps even more adventurous: Although typically a Spring and Summer beer, the Saison/Farmhouse style would work. These will be dry, earthy, spicy, crisp, and light-bodied. You can try Saison Dupont (see the poetic description from Tony on Beer Advocate that says its all). Or I can also vouch for Ommegang’s Hennepin. The Dupont has a passing, but typical, barn funk (wet earth and hay), that is worth giving a shot. The Hennepin, on the other hand, lacks da funk.

What funk? I don

Smoked turkey curveball: I think the above suggestions work for roasted or fried turkey. But for smoked turkey (like the beerbecue residence) you might could go for something to stand-up to and compliment the smoke, like Founder’s Dirty Bastard or Oskar Blues Old Chub.

Additional curiosities: Tom suggested Troeg’s Mad Elf (cloves, honey, and cherries…not a bad Turkey Day combo). Ommegang’s Three Philosophers has dark fruit, cherries, and brown sugar (slight sourness from the cherries). Tony suggested Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse, which apparently paired very well with a thyme-roasted chicken his wife made (I imagine the Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse would work well, too). And Chris suggested Guinness with a Jameson chaser, which gets the prize for most efficient.

Dessert: For dessert, you can go with Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, or any of Southern Tier’s Blackwater Series Imperial Stouts or their Backburner Barleywine. Alternatively, if you don’t want guests sleeping on your couch, you could try Tony’s “lighter” suggestions for dessert: Chimay Blue (fruit, spice, rich malt) or a Unibroue Noire de Chambly (fruits, spice, and slight chocolate).

Uncle Sal had the Chocolate Stout...and a Budweiser.

The Haybag: I give a thumbs up on those Browns. Also, even though ruling out hop bombs is blasphemy in this house, I think we are going to roll with Oskar Blues Old Chub to complement the smoked turkey. And I am cooking, so keep ’em coming, “Uncle Sal”.