Microbrews & Holiday Meals
By Seared Lightly
Here we are, agonizing about the budgetary excesses of the holiday season when a few sips of a signature Oregon product, a microbrew (or craft beer), would ease both pocketbook and nervous system. Champagne and ultra premium wines are traditional excesses for the holidays, but good beer costs far less, and has its own gustatory matchups to enhance your fare.
For instance, the toasted grain flavors inherent in small batch beer compliment those of roast turkey. Enjoy your bird with amber lager, or a strong golden ale. Ham, another holiday staple, is a fine match for weizen beer. Don't miss the pairing of roast duck with a rich craft beer such as a dark porter, or Belgian-style ale...also ideal for the goose that Charles Dickens memorialized in A Christmas Carol.
IPA-styled brews are ideal accompaniment for roast beef, while light lagers allow the character of fresh salmon to shine through. It makes good culinary sense to know that delicate dishes work best with delicate beers, while strongly flavored foods demand assertive beers. We've enjoyed dark ale with rich cheeses such as Stilton and well aged Cheddar featured on sideboards in English pubs.
When serving the local brews, buy fresh...it's instructive that every German town approaching McMinnville in population has its own brewery and that folks in Deutschland eschew consuming packaged product in favor of what pours from the tap. Buy large bottles if you must transport the elixir home...many Oregon craft brewers bottle in 22 ounce or 750 millileter sizes.
Table service for craft beers can be enhanced by pouring even smaller 12 oz. bottlings into a glass pitcher that can be passed about...the pouring also enhances beer flavors. Offering pitchers each of light and dark beer styles can also be entertaining. When it comes to individual glassware, small tumblers holding 8 ounces are ideal for savoring brew, and if serving a choice of light and bold, place two tumblers at each place setting. Pint pub-style glasses are not recommended, and do not add to the 'special occasion' feel of a holiday feast.
Characteristics of beer and food interact with each other. Match flavor strength with strength and find harmonies in flavors common to both brew and food. Many sauce accompaniments for entrees can be achieved with beer as well as wine. We heartily recommend acquiring a copy of Lucy Saunders' The Best of American Beer & Food, just out from Brewers Publications. The author is a syndicatd columnist on beer topics, appearing in the Chicago Tribune and other papers. She has spent time in the beer cultures of Belgium and the U.K. Her recipe collection even includes crafting desserts with beer.
© 2008 Oregon Magazine