Suds for you buds: How to entertain with beer

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When the boss asked me to write about the secret of entertaining with beer, I asked her, Who do I look like – Martha Stewart? Grab a bag of pretzels and pop open a cold one!

Beer cuisine is, as it should be, simple. It is Everyman’s beverage. Unlike wine, it does not require a snooty sommelier to tell you that you’re doing it all wrong.

Snobs who are convinced that only vintage wine is suitable for fancy-schmancy dining should head over to Cuvee Notre Dame for a $5 lunch and a glass of Stoudt’s Abbey Triple. It’s a fabulous meal, not to mention an excellent bargain.

But you don’t have to go out to enjoy good beer cuisine. Here’s Joe Sixpack’s Guide to Drinkin’ at Home.

SIP IT

Next time the guys are over to watch the Eagles on TV, host a Philly beer tasting. Ask everyone to bring his favorite local ale, and pour each into a small glass.

For starters, smell for herbal or spicy aromas from the hops. Then taste for roasted or sweet malts.

Peanuts are all you need for munchies. A glass of water will clean your palate between brews.

Need a shopping list? Try these for a living room hop fest:

  • * Independence Ale, Northeast Philadelphia.
  • * Red Bell IPA, Brewerytown.,
  • * Victory Hop Devil IPA, Downingtown.
  • * Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady (22-ounce bottle), Adamstown.
  • * Flying Fish ESB, Cherry Hill, N.J.

DON’T DRAFT-DODGE

Though serving beer by the bottle is easier, draft beer is often fresher and more fun. A quarter-keg will fill 100 12-ounce cups – enough for up to 50 guests (or 25 if they’re my friends). Expect to pay about 40 bucks for a run-of-the-mill domestic, about $100 for a microbrew.

If a quarter-keg is too much, consider a 20-liter Shepherd Neame canister. Stone’s Fairmount Beverage (1701 Fairmount Ave.) offers the British ale for $120.

Or dash over to Dock Street Brewery & Restaurant (2 Logan Square, Center City) and ask head brewer Eric Savage for a mini-keg of his freshest ale. It comes with its own tapper and contains about 15 beers for $22.95.

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

Confused about which beer to serve with dinner? Generally, the spicier the food, the darker the brew; but a hoppy pale ale (like Sierra Nevada) will go with almost anything. Author Doug Hexter guarantees you’ll pick the perfect beer for every meal with his “Beer Navigator,” a handy guide from Fireside books.

Here are some of my favorite combos.

  • * Dos Equis and black-olive pizza.
  • * Stoudt Festbier and smoked sausage.
  • * Yuengling Porter and steamed crabs.
  • * Dolle Brouwers Stille Nacht Belgian ale and chocolate dessert.

SERVE IT RIGHT

  1. The more you drink, the less you taste. So, when serving a variety of styles, start with the more delicate light beers while you can still enjoy the subtle flavors, and finish with the heavier dark beers.
  2. Limit your selection to four or five varieties. Your taste buds will thank you.
  3. Don’t over-chill the beer. It’s OK to serve an ice-cold American lager, but you’ll lose much of the roasted flavor of a porter if you serve it at over 50 degrees. Pull the bottle from the fridge 15 minutes before you open it. And, unlike wine, don’t open the bottle to let the beer breathe. You’ll kill the head.
  4. Pour the beer with a nice head – about two fingers’ worth. Allowing the beer to foam releases its aroma and CO2.

GLASS NOTES

Go ahead and drink your Rolling Rock straight out of those little green pony bottles. But if swallowing something with a little more character, do everyone a favor and serve it in a glass.

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