There aren't many things better in life than a perfectly grilled steak and a glass of cabernet sauvignon, or for me, a prime bone-in ribeye, creamed spinach, fries, and a neat pour of wheated bourbon. However, beer has its place aside the grill and, well, most foods for that matter. Beer is one of, if not the best beverage in the world to have with food.
With the Samson Outdoor broiler, it's about one thing, heat to quickly sear. Ultimately, it creates that beautiful Maillard browning reaction, which is - coincidentally - found in many beer styles through the malts' various roasting levels.
The Basics of Beer Pairings
When considering beer pairings, think of what's often referred to as the 3 C's:
Carbonation: This unassuming component is beer's most distinguished element. These tiny bubbles not only make aromas pop out of the glass, they actually help cut through fat and salt, scrubbing your palette for the next bite.
Contrast: A beer's hop bitterness and roasted malts can balance fat, umami, and sweetness. This bridging of flavors is what wine does very well.
Complement: Unlike wine, beer can match flavors through many foods like chocolate, caramel, fruits, funk, tartness, and more. A rich imperial pastry stout with chocolate lava cake, for example. Or, you can combine expressions like strong beers with strong cheeses. I swoon over pairings like a barrel-aged English Barleywine with strong cheeses like Stilton as they cancel out each other's bold statements leaving rich, delicious harmony - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Pairing Like A Pro
For this post, I thought I would take some of the best Samson Outdoor meals and review some artful beer pairing to titillate your taste buds.
Aged Ribeye with Four-Cheese Mac n' Cheese, Jumbo Asparagus & Parmesan Cream Sauce
What we want to highlight in this dish are salt and fat. A pale ale like Parish Envie has citrusy hops to stand up to the nutty and creamy cheeses while also cutting through the ribeye's fat and salt flavors. Sticking to a pale ale vs. an IPA will ensure that bitter hops don't take over the meal.
Peppercorn & Garlic Filets with a Savory Teriyaki-Garlic Sauce
To highlight the Maillard reaction along with the savory elements of this dish, I'd compliment the sweetness, cocoa, caramel, and roastiness in the malt of a Belgian Trappist Dubbel, like Chimay Red, Rochefort 6, and Westmalle, all of which are brewed by actual monks. Meditate on that!
Tomahawk Steaks with Savory Brussel Sprouts
This pairing can be a fine example in contrast. Sour beers, also known as wild ales, have Belgian roots and are among the few styles we obsess over at Patience Brewing. One subset in this category is Belgian Flanders Red ales and Oude Bruins. Bottles like Rodenbach Alexander, Jacobins Rouge, and Duchesse de Bourgogne's tartness and subtle acidity take to fatty, bacon-laden Brussel spouts with ease, while the caramel malt backbone, dried dark fruit elements, and vibrant carbonation bridges the peppery, salty crust, and richness of a perfectly seared Tomahawk.
Grilled Ribeye Tacos
I'm a sucker for grilled carne asada wrapped in a fresh flour tortilla. This is truly one of my favorite tacos as it exemplifies simplicity in its finest edible form. Scoop some pico, or a rich red salsa dollop, crack a cold bottled soda and call it a day!
In this pairing, it's about keeping things basic & fun, and we should pair a beer with a little caramel sweetness, a splash of hops, and a light body. What comes to my mind are Vienna-style lagers like Bohemia and light Dunkels such as Negra Modelo. Both are ubiquitous and unpretentious, and the pairings are perfect. In the late summer/early fall, maybe venture out to pair this up with an Oktoberfest to harmonize with those richer flavors.
Blackened Sea Scallops with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes
Big flavors atop a delicate protein can typically be overpowering and a tough match but not with a Saison beer. Saisons have both French and Belgian bloodlines and are a bit dry, low-medium bitterness, tart, herbaceous, notes of hay, and can vary in strength. It's my favorite beer style and my go-to food beer. They look nice as most are packaged in 750 ml bottles and are easy to enjoy while snacking or opening the meal. It shines particular well with salads, seafood, and charcuterie.
Here the peppery, spiced scallops with the wasabi in the mashed potatoes complement most Saisons' yeast, phenolic profile. At the same time, the lighter, crackery body rests softly against the meat of the scallop.
Farmhouse Saisons from Jester King in Austin and Jolly Pumpkin definitely hit the mark and can be found around many Texas beer shops.
In the end, you shouldn't take beer too seriously. Explore beer's breadth and depth as often as you can; there have never been more choices.