BEAVER CREEK — It’s amazing how a pale, slightly bitter lager pairs with a juicy brined chicken breast complemented by the sharp bite of parsley-and-parsnip puree.
Finding that perfect partnership between a dish and glass of beer is an art form that Mirabelle Executive Chef Daniel Joly specializes in, and he adds that pairing beer with any meal immediately lightens the atmosphere.
“Something about beer really brings out a party,” said Joly, a brand ambassador for Belgian beer maker Stella Artois. “Adding beer is like bringing sunshine into the dining room.”
Joly partnered with Naomi Pomeroy, executive chef of Beast restaurant in Portland, Ore., during a lunch seminar at the Beaver Creek Food & Wine Weekend to share cooking tips and beer pairing advice with hungry learners.
While there are entire professions dedicated to pairing wine and food, there’s no counterpart for beer, but Joly said that both beverages could equally complement a meal.
“I think pairing is for me a liquid partnership to elevate the food,” he said.
Joly and Pomeroy gave diners a live cooking demonstration and served up a few dishes with select beer pairings. A European-style sausage smothered in a fruity plum jam and a tart vinaigrette salad was complemented by the lightly spiced, orange-tinged Hoegaarden. The delicate pale ale has been compared to the Champagne of beer and pairs well with strong herbs. The strong sharp flavor of fennel-brined chicken stood up to the hoppy Stella Artois in another course.
On the sugary side, Joly paired caramelized pears from a deconstructed tart with a couple sweeter brews. You could either go with the Leffe Blonde, a fruity pale ale with a slight bitter taste, or the heavier Leffe Brown, hefty with the taste of coffee, vanilla, cloves and other roasted aromas.
Thanks to those qualities, dark, spiced beers such as the Leffe Brown also go well with spicy, caramelized or sweet and sour dishes.
You might not be a beer-company sponsored chef, but Joly said home chefs and beer aficionados can still have a lot of fun playing around with pairings. He offered the following tips:
Beer or wine?
Beer can sometimes actually be a better pairing than wine. Of course, it’s all up to personal preference, but as a guideline, spicy food, many Asian flavors, strong crumbly cheeses and homey fare go really well with beers.
“Something about beer is very comforting, so it goes well with homey food,” Joly said. “For those strong, granulated cheeses, it acts like a cleanser for the palate.”
Focus on spice
There are no hard and fast rules for pairing beer with cuisine, but Joly recommends that cooks focus on the spice in the food and beer, looking for similar flavors between the dish and the drink.
With stronger flavors, make sure you pick a food or beer that can stand up to the taste. A hoppy beer might go well with game, for example. Something with a long finish might go well with strong vegetables or herb-heavy dishes.
Cook with beer
You can just as easily add some brew to your cooking just like you would with wine. Here’s the difference — simmering down a beer like you would a wine reduction will produce an extremely strong, unpleasant flavor. Instead, reduce your stock and other liquids and add in the beer at the end for a fresher taste.
Don’t be afraid to go beyond sauces, either. Joly said he’s made beer ice cream, a concoction that got rave reviews.
Use the right glassware
If you’re serving up a nicer dinner that you plan to pair with beer, then using the right glassware can add another dimension to the meal. Drinking it from the bottle or can could take away one of the senses: smell. Using a deep, open beer specific glass will waft that scent up to your nose before you take a sip or dig into the dish.
For beer that is meant to be served very cold, use a thicker, heavier glass.
When serving, tilt the glass and pour halfway up, then straighten the glass to pour the rest. This agitates some of the particles for better flavor.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and firstname.lastname@example.org.