Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Pungent Passion - Beer Pairing

Beer Pairing Flavors:
Butter sautéed leeks, simmered with potatoes in chicken broth until tender and creamy, then puréed into a smooth, luxurious soup with roasted garlic, milk and cream.

Want the recipe?

Here’s a link back to the Garlic Potato Leek Soup

Want the wine pair?
The post, A Pungent Passion – Wine Pairing, will take you there.

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


Zangs has tang.

Not bubbly.  Not sweet.  It's hard cider (“cidre” in French) with a capital "C,” and has a flavor many would describe as "funky."

I can't disagree.

Now, for those of you unsure of what "funky" is, think "earthy" or "soulful" – like James Brown, but in a glass. 

Now, imagine that. 

And if you have to ask – “Hey, who’s James Brown?”  Well, then, you best head down to your nearest classic music store to pick some up.  Then, once you've gotten it home, take it carefully out of its sleeve or liner, put it on the turntable and play it – preferably accompanied by a glass of Zangs Classic liquid funk. 

And while you're busy funking out with James Brown and Zangs cider, let me tell you just a little bit more about why Zangs Cidre (which was suggested to me by Katie Vonderheide of Silver Lake Wine) is at least, to my way of thinking, cider with a capital "C.”

First of all, the “C,” not only stands for “cider,” but for “Classic,” because Cyril Zangs cider is about as far removed from modern, mass-produced ciders as you can get.  No sweet and clear, lightly colored, sparkling beverage found here, for this is a drink that’s all about the deep, autumnal flavors of Normandy as it fades into winter.

Unfiltered, to retain as much of the apple flavor as possible (in keeping with cider’s tradition as a still, cloudy liquid), Zangs also makes his out of a blend of up to 25 varieties of apples, with each variety contributing its own particular acidic, sweet, sour, bitter, or bittersweet flavor to the final mix.  So, to put it simply, it often takes a complex recipe to create multiple layers of flavor.

But, these multiple layers are not only found just in the cider, but also happen to be reflected in the story behind his fruit. For, the very same orchards from which he harvests those apples, were also planted by his grandparents in the 1930's.

However, this story of history and tradition just doesn’t end here.  For, Zangs also makes his cider in a way far different from those mass-produced versions that you’re likely to find on grocery store shelves.  The method he uses is similar to those used to make champagne, whereby the apple juice, after its months long fermentation in vats, is transferred to bottles for further aging.  Then, once its bottle aging is complete, the bottles are opened and sediment is removed, before being topped up with the same disgorged cider.

It's a process decidedly far more labor intensive and expensive than ciders made without aging in bottles, but it’s also an important part of the process of building layers of flavor.

Now some may question how a cider could be a beer pairing, but to my way of thinking, cider is a hybrid that's part beer and part wine.  When made in a traditional manner, it can have beer-like characteristics (like sourness or malty flavors) that just aren’t found in wines.  But on the other hand, cider’s method of production mirrors that of the wine world, since it's made from fermented fruit rather than beer's brewing of malted or unmalted grains.

So, with a foot in both universes, cider is actually  a crossover artist in the beverage category, which may explain its centuries-old popularity as the second most consumed beverage in France, after wine.

And Zangs cider is a current day follower of that very tradition, a cloudy, burnt yellow orange or ocher in color, it smells and tastes just like autumn, with earthy, minerally flavors blended with crisp, sour-tart apples, along with a hint of musky yeast.

When accompanying the Garlic Potato Leek Soup, I found that the sour note in the cider was not only a nice counterbalance to the soup’s sweet sautéed leeks, but also cut through the soup’s creaminess and made it more refreshing.

And if you're willing to add some butter sautéed mushrooms to the soup, you'll pull this pairing even closer, since the meaty mustiness of the mushrooms mirrors the earthiness of the cider’s tart apples.

But now, on to comparing and contrasting the Camp Chardonnay and Zangs Cidre with the soup –

I found that the Chardonnay pairing was complementary in matching a mouth-filling wine texture with a creamy soup, while the cider offered the dish a distinctive contrast, by adding its sour note to the soup’s sweetness, and gave it a different dimension that it did not have alone.

Also, apples (in the cider) and potatoes (in the soup) are natural food partners, and although the cider is fermented until almost dry (with an ABV of 5.5%), these two flavor partners still share a natural, starchy sweetness that helps cement this pairing and draw it close.

So, either softness can meet creaminess or sourness can meet starchy sweetness.
The choice is all yours and there's no one right answer, but only one simple question.

Which flavors do you prefer to savor?

Now, here’s a peek at my next dish – 

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