BEER. IT’S NOT just for breakfast any more.
Or only for mowing the lawn, playing softball, hazing fraternity pledges and bingeing after work.
Following wine’s success a generation ago, beer – especially handcrafted ales and lagers – is looking for a place at the dining table. Increasingly, restaurants chefs and cooks at home are making everything from pilsner to stout a part of their cuisine.
And, just as wine buffs are careful to serve white wine with fish, beer fans are matching an even broader variety of styles with their food.
It’s a bubbling trend that will be on tasty display on Sunday at the Brewer’s Plate, the unofficial kickoff to the following week’s Association of Brewers annual Craft Brewers Conference held this year in Philadelphia.
Brewer’s Plate will feature 15 of the region’s top craft breweries, paired with 15 of the city’s most popular restaurants at the Reading Terminal Market. Organizers hope the dinner, which benefits the Fair Food Project, will become an annual event.
What’s the best beer to match with your meal? Having devoted a lifetime of brain cells to beer consumption, I’ve come up with a sixpack of suggestions:
1. Whoever came up with the idea of serving wine and cheese at art openings was an idiot. After a mouthful of Roquefort, you just can’t taste the wine. Beer’s carbonation, on the other hand, is perfectly suited to cut through the cream. Try cheddar and Yards Philly Pale Ale; blue cheese and Weyerbacher Quad; and one of my favorite combos: aged gouda and Victory Storm King.
2. If you’re eating pizza with toppings, keep it simple: Try a basic lager. It’ll complement the cheese, the tomato sauce, the crust, even the anchovies. Yuengling and mushrooms and pepperoni is fine, but Stoudt’s Gold Lager with black olives and extra garlic is even better.
3. Ask for extra spice on the Kung Pao Chicken when you drink refreshing but watery Tsingtao at your favorite Chinese restaurant. Otherwise, try a hearty Belgian-style ale like Flying Fish Belgian Abbey Dubbel with duck and black bean sauce.
4. Everybody’s tried dumping a can of beer into chili, but try adding it to other simmering meats. Mom raised me on pork chops and onions cooked in Ortlieb’s and brown sugar; today, I eliminate the sugar and use Dogfish Head Raisin D’Etre instead. Belgium’s classic beer-and-meat dish, by the way, is carbonade flamande. It’s beef cubes (yes, sometimes horse) cooked in Liefmans Goudenband, a complex-tasting brown beer (make sure you have an extra chilled bottle on hand to accompany the meal).
5. Bring beer to a restaurant instead of wine. Guaranteed, everyone will be wondering what you’re pouring when you crack open that corked bottle of wonderfully funky Cantillon Gueuze instead of fizzy champagne.
6. Yes, beer goes with dessert. Often, the temptation is to match chocolate with a dark beer like Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. But at a recent beer dinner at Monk’s Cafe, beer cookbook writer Stephen Beaumont and chef Adam Glickman paired bread pudding with Rogue Chocolate Stout, and I ate every crumb.