Some people love sweet swirls of flavor like PB&J or chocolate and strawberries, but for my money, savory will always reign supreme. Since college, I’ve considered pizza and beer to be the ultimate combination – a cold, bubbly lager and a hot, bubbly pie are logically delicious. But my faith in the ultimate pairing has been shaken lately by a force greater than delivery: beer dinners.
Last month, Mei Mei Street Kitchen – food truck royalty and home to the Double Awesome scallion pancake sandwich — somehow managed to wrangle Boston all-stars High & Mighty, Berkshire Brewing Company, Jack’s Abby, Night Shift Brewing, and Pretty Things and roll them into an evening of pairings with charcuterie, chops, dumplings, and sausage po’ boys in what can only be described as a pork lover’s paradise – or as they put it, the Big Ol’ Pig Pop-Up Dinner.
After swinging by Washington Square Tavern to sample a dessert consisting of a donut and pig’s blood chocolate pudding (yes, really) paired with Berkshire’s Coffee Porter, I was eager to dive headfirst into the world of curated mashups. Here’s what an on-the-scene witness had to say:
“The spring roots and greens plate featuring confit pork collar was paired with Purity of Essence, our India Pale Lager,” said Rebecca J. Millette of High & Mighty. “The pairing was probably more subtle to the casual beer drinker, but the earthy, grassy, and citrus notes in the beer shined really well with the veggies on this plate. Granted, the entire table may have been swooning over the pork collar and forgetting to sip beer while enjoying this plate, but we won’t hold it against them.”
If you missed out on all the piggy revelry, fear not – beer pairings do translate to your own front door. Bill Leahy, Brewery Representative/Fine Dining Specialist for Harpoon, explains: “There is really no limit to what you can do. Where some dishes and types of cuisine may be too bold or overwhelming for wine, beer has the advantage of being carbonated, and is thus able to stand up better to things like very spicy, salty, or bitter. The advantage of carbonation also helps to cut through some of the less lean meats. The bubbles act as a sort of effervescent scrub brush to cleanse the palate.”
He goes on to add, “Richer dishes usually pair best with malty beers; the sweetness that caramel malts impart help to match with the savory aspects of meats and game. Steak, duck, lamb, pork belly – basically any really rich dish – goes well with red ales, dunkels, Marzens, and barleywines. Light seafood and fried foods usually pair with hefeweizens and kolsch beers, like our Harpoon Summer. A pot of moules frites [mussels & fries] is best accompanied by a Belgian-style wheat beer, but a real sleeper pairing for seafood is malty beer with raw shellfish. The roasty maltiness of stouts and porters serves to bring out the mineral and salty flavors of clams and oysters.”
Co-Founder of Night Shift Michael Oxton tossed in his two cents: “IPAs are a great pairing with Indian or Middle Eastern food. The beer’s strong, hoppy bitterness can cut right through those powerful spices, giving the rich food a really nice balance. I love pairing our Oasis IPA with a couple vegetable pakoras. A Berliner Weisse – a growing style in craft beer – is often a great pairing with seafood or sushi dishes. Their refreshing, lemony, tart flavors can really complement a fresh fish or oyster and never fails alongside a plate of sushi.”
If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some drool to wipe off my keyboard.