Thursday, March 20, 2014

Swallowing Clouds - Beer Pairing

Beer Pairing Flavors:
Plummy, salty sweet pork & cabbage filled wontons, floating in a chicken broth flavored with stir-fried cabbage, wilted & sweet, and peppery baby bok choy, then finished with beaten eggs, a drizzle of hoisin sauce and freshly chopped chives.

Want the recipe?
Here’s a link back to the Hoisin Wonton Soup.

Want the wine pair?
The post Swallowing Clouds - Wine Pairing will take you there.

Want the beer pair?
You've come to the right place.


You'd think that a beer with a shark on the label would deliver quite a bite.  Well, guess what.  You thought wrong.

In fact, its name and eye-catching label are all actually a result of what I like to call the "whatchamacallit" syndrome.  The what?? I'm sure you're asking yourself.

You heard me.  The “whatchamacallit”, and we all know what that is, so, just give me a minute and I'll try to explain.

According to customers of the brewery/restaurant, Lost Coast, in Eureka, California, where it's produced, one of the beers they'd frequently like to order was always white and always great.  But hey, as for the name, they just couldn't remember it.

So, when they’d come calling, which, from what I can gather, was pretty often, looking for a quaff of their favorite brew, they’d nestle up to the server, probably leaning in and with a slightly sheepish look on their face, ask, not for that "whatchamacallit” beer.  That would be pretty lame.  No, they'd lean in and ask for a glass of that "great" white beer.

Well, it seems that this little event played itself out on such a regular basis, that brewmaster Barbara Groom and co-owner Wendy Pound decided that so many customers just couldn't be wrong.  And so, the name was changed from “White Beer” to “Great White.”

But, getting back to that bite that I mentioned in the beginning, that shark on the label may have a big one with its large, pearly whites, but the beer does not.  This unfiltered, refreshing ale that I picked up from Danny at Cap N’ Cork Liquor in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, is an American spin on a Belgian-style wheat beer.

Traditionally called white beer (“bière blanche” in French or “wit bier” in Flemish), the "white" in white beer refers to this Belgian-style wheat beer’s unfiltered, cloudy appearance in the glass.  Originating in the Middle Ages in Belgium, these Flemish beers differed from their German white or wheat beer counterparts in that they used unmalted wheat as well as spices, such as coriander in their brews. 

And for those not in the know, malting happens to be the process of soaking grains in water to jumpstart their germination.  For when they germinate, they begin to create the enzymes needed to convert starches and proteins into the fermentable sugars that the yeasts can later feed on.

The traditional style is also spiced with only a a small quantity of hops in order to keep the bitterness low.

Brewmaster Barbara Groom's take on a Belgian white beer follows through on all the great points that have made this style so enduring for so long.  A hazy, pale golden yellow in color (Barbara describes it as "translucent golden with white clouds"), the ale also has a nose and flavors of lemon, coriander and yeast. 

With its pleasant medium-bodied mouth feel, I find the Great White smooth and refreshing, with a finish that is only mildly bitter accompanied by a slight note of wheat.

And when paired with the fairly salty Hoisin Wonton Soup, the beer’s moderate 4.8% alcohol  is a real assist (since salt accentuates alcohol), while on the flavor front, it’s fresh citric tastes add a whole new dimension to the soup’s salty-sweet plums. 

So, to sum it all up, I find the beer pairing refreshing by way of contrast – herbal coriander and citric lemon versus the soup’s plummy, slightly peppery, salty and sweet.

And as far as the matchup of the beer and wine flavors with my Hoisin Wonton Soup, for me, the beer is a contrast, refreshing the palate like a fresh squeeze of herbal lemon with each sip, while the Loire bubbly, with its pronounced flavors of flowers and strawberries, draws out the fruity sweetness of the plum in the soup.

Softer and sweeter or crisper and brisker.
There's no one right answer, so it only comes down to one simple question.

Which flavors do you prefer to savor?

Like some more?

Here's a peek at what’s coming up next –

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