Thursday, July 10, 2014

In a Recipe State of Mind

Recipe Pairing Flavors:
An intensely flavored brew bursting with deep, darkly roasted coffee accompanied by notes of caramel, dark malts, char and hops.  Concludes in a long and lingering, bitter espresso-like finish that’s both powerful and mouth-filling.


Want the breakfast recipe?
You’ll find it in next Thursday’s post.

Want the entrée recipe?
It’ll be following the breakfast recipe post.

Want the dessert and snack recipes?
They’ll be appearing after the entrée recipe post, so be sure to check back.

Some came with friends to chill and relax, while others came alone to meditate on the brews.  And Belgium was busy pouring into every empty glass at the tasting.

But me?  I came to recipe with Belgium on my mind.

I've found that some brews are like solo acts, like solitaire, meant for savoring alone, while others just plead for a partner in crime.  Well, it's the partners that I'm here for and Belgiums like plenty of company at the table, so I'm here to create recipes using some of these solitary brews.
The lineup would be a long one - 11 ales scaled from lightest to most robust.  And with Harley "Sir Cicerone" Rogers at the helm, it was sure to be engaging here at Vendome Wine & Spirits in Toluca Lake.

First up were two offerings from Belgium's acclaimed Brasserie DuPont.  Their Saison Avril began the tasting, quickly followed by their Saison Cuvée Dry Hopping 2014. 

The Avril, which was the lighter of the two, was golden, effervescent and yeasty, with a light, lemony flavor that was dry through to the finish.  While Brasserie DuPont’s second poured Cuvée Dry Hopping was just like Avril’s bigger brother – he was fuller, citrusy and richer and ended in a pronounced and extra dry finish that just lingered on and on.

Harley suggested aperitif, which got me thinking about appetizers.  These champagne-like ales with their crispness and yeast would make great companions for dry wine bubbly’s usual food suspects – salty appetizers and fruit plates and especially creamy, soft, white cheese.

Then, once our glasses were emptied, in poured Brouwerij Van Steenberge’s Witches’ Brew.  This was a potion that was hazy, golden orange and foamy, with a slightly malty sweet nose and taste controlled by a healthy portion of bitter, taming hops.

While the Halen Marienrode Tripple that followed, had little interest in casting spells, for this forceful Belgian Abbey ale was one that simply took no prisoners.  Orange amber tinted in color, its malty sweet and fruity nose hid a powerful punch of heavy toffee accompanied by a hit of bitter hops.  And when Harley asked for a pairing, I answered, "Bring on the stew!"  For although it may sound cliché, you'll need a dish with big flavors to take on such an ample and mouth-filling brew.

And then we took a turn away from toffee with the Les 3 Fourquets Lupulus Ale.  Pale yellow golden in color, this ale with its frothy foam head, sported a floral nose and an herbal taste that finished long, slightly hoppy and pleasingly dry.  With its pronounced note of coriander, this brew would work wonders with Asian dishes, such as Thai, that are accented with coriander, and could also cut through the heat with its freshly tart and long finish.

Number six in the lineup was the Piraat Amber Tripple Ale.  Hazy golden orange in color, with its slight foamy head, this unfiltered brew teased you with its malt bomb nose, before sending bombs away with a mouthful of hops. 

Several refused Harley's offer of a bite of key lime pie to accompany the Piraat, but they didn't know what they were missing, for its sweetness was an amazing bridge and contrast, and all at the very same time.

The tart sweet pie versus the beer’s bitter hops was an incredible flavor sensation, while the pie’s sweetness and graham cracker crust harmonized with the beer’s nose of richly caramel malt.  It was a combo so good, it may need its very own name, so if I ask for another, I'm calling it, Key Lime Triple Piraat.

And now moving away from lime pie territory, we pass into the Brewmaster's Edition Whiskey Barrel Aged Gulden Draak.  Gold with orange highlights and with a malty sweet nose and mouth, the long lingering finish is smooth and full of spice and dry hops.  Complex, and with an almost mouthwatering quality, perhaps from its barrel aging, this special brew would partner well with fatty, savory dishes, and it's 10.5% alcohol would give it the heft to cut on through.

The Westmalle Trappist Dubbel was next to fill the glass.  Reddish brown with a pale yellow head, this Trappist was smooth and malty but well-balanced with bittering hops, that not only drove it's long, dry finish, but also balanced out the ale’s fruitiness and malt.

And as the Trappists drained away, in poured the Belgian Abbey ale, St. Feuillien Speciale, which is their Cuvée de Noël, or full-bodied holiday brew.  Ruby amber in color with herbal aromas and tastes, this smooth and aromatic ale had a leading note of bitterness to balance out its caramelized malts.  Rosemary or Thyme Roast pork with apples would match this holiday brew nicely, with the herbed pork echoing the beer’s herbal flavors while the apples’ caramelized sweetness draw out the brew’s sweet roasted malt.
But with no roast pork in sight, I moved on to the next brew.  Scotch Silly Barrel Aged was aged for six months in Bordeaux barrels and its dark caramel brown color and nose of heavily toasted dark malt give you a hint of what lies ahead – a celebration of full-bodied bitterness with a tannin-like lingering finish.

And then the tasting concluded with a last surprising jolt, but not of tannin, but rather of high-octane coffee in the uniquely original Mikkeller Beer Geek BreAKfast.  An oatmeal Stout brewed with coffee and then fermented in oak tanks, this beer is a joint project between the micro-brewery, Mikkeller, and the Anchorage Brewing Company in Alaska.

And spurred on by this sip full of caffeine and hops, here's where my flavor wheels began to spin.  And out poured several recipes, two of which take you way beyond breakfast –

Which is fitting for a beer that goes way beyond Stout.

And now, here's a peek at my Mikkeller powered recipe that’s coming up next –

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