Thursday, May 22, 2014

Spring for Lamb - Beer Pairing

Beer Pairing Flavors:
Rack of lamb, salted, peppered and seared, then covered in a softened herb butter of lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley and chives, before being slowly oven roasted until juicy and rare.

Want the recipe?
Here’s a link back to the Chive Lemon Rack of Lamb

Want the wine pair?
The post Spring for Lamb – Wine Pairing will take you there.

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


It’s a tradition built on improvisation, just like jazz –

Miles Davis – Duke Ellington – Saison

Wait a minute.  "Saison who?"  I suppose you're asking.  Saison (pronounced “SAY-zoh”) means "season" in French and it was in the changing of those saisons where all the trouble, or rather, the ingenuity began.

Summer to autumn and winter to spring.  It's the way of the life cycle and one that holds the key to a need satisfied long ago in Wallonia, the grain growing and French-speaking southern region of Belgium.  At the time, almost 200 years ago, the area was dotted with hundreds of small farms and their breweries, each crafting beers for their everyday needs.

But once the heat of summer set in, their safe drinking beverage just couldn't be brewed.  And at a time before refrigeration, it would spoil in the heat before it could even be drunk. 

And to add to their summer troubles, that's when the“saisonniers” or seasonal workers would appear and they'd need to have something to quench their thirst.  So that's when some enterprising farmer/brewers got inventive and decided to let the seasons help with much of the work.  They’d brew the beers when it was cooler, in the winter and very early spring, which was also a time when their farm help had much less to do.

And then after brewing, the ales would be stored until summer, for drinking by “les saisonniers” after their thirsty work in the fields was through.  And so it made sense that the brew be dubbed "Season," in honor of the "help” that had brought it all about.

Plus, that “help” also paid out dividends, for when the farmers finished brewing, the spent grain could feed the livestock during the cold winter months.  It was a perfectly synchronized cycle, however, the farmers’ improvisation was just getting going.

For although they weren't brewing during the hot summer, the beers had to be strong enough in alcohol to preserve them through the heat, but yet, not so strong when finished that they affected the workers, who after quenching their thirst, might forget they were saisonniers.

So, the answer to that question, well, it lay in the yeast, which had to be one we'd call “well attenuated,” today.  For a “well attenuated” yeast is a hungry, sugar eating machine, who will convert every bit of a beer’s sugars into alcohol, leaving nothing behind to go sour later on.  And once finished dining, the yeast happily goes on its way.

Well, they found their yeast and as for the ingredients, the farmer/brewers would use whatever they had on hand, which was usually something they had raised themselves.  Sometimes wheat, sometimes barley, and sometimes rye or spelt.

And so, as we fast-forward to today, let me introduce our beer pairing partner.  It's a Saison by which all others are measured, the Vieille Provision from Brasserie Dupont.  But first, a word of caution about the Dupont’s most showstopping feature.  And it happens as it spills from the bottle, and you'll want to watch out.

I only wish that Rick Devo, who recom-mended it to me at the Beverage Warehouse had given me a head’s up on the pour.  For not far behind that pour is a massive, dense and creamy head that’s a virtual tower of luscious foam.

The beer is hazy, since it's unfiltered, but that also means it's full of flavor, and the nose is bursting with yeasty citrus and spice.  Sipping through the foam is like dropping, with mouth open, into a bready, malty, sweet caramel cloud, and the beer’s flavor echoes this cloud, before finishing with a note of lemon citrus and mild hops bitterness.

It’s a celebration beer if ever I've seen one and with the lamb, the combo is elegant city swagger meets Belgian country sophistication.  The beer’s lemony, sweet, malty cloud nestles up with the lamb’s earthy and gentle roasted gaminess, while both beer and dish combine through their shared lemon flavors.

As the lamb’s chive lemon butter coats, it floats on the beer’s lush and sweet, malty foam.  It's a satisfying combination, unexpected and unique.

In comparison with the Ch√Ęteau Altimar Lalande de Pomerol, the wine's tannin provides a more cleansing contrast to the fatty and buttery gaminess of the lamb, while the Bordeaux's dark cherry and blackberry flavors serve to heighten the meat’s earthy and mouth filling flavors.

And as for the Saison, it's malty lemon flavors bring out an earthy sweetness, that without the beer, is not readily apparent in the meat.

Foamy lemon malt versus dark cherry and blackberry flavors.  Only you can choose and there's no one right answer, but only one simple question –

Which flavors do you want to savor?

And here's a peek at what's coming up next – 

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