Photo By Hillary Ehlen
Baseball, football, golf, fishing, barbecues. What do those all have in common? They’re all American pastimes. And what do most American pastimes often have in common? Drinking beer.
Since the birth of beer in the 5th millennium, roughly 7,000 years ago, beer has rarely been romanticized in any way, until now. With the recent craft beer renaissance starting around 2008-2012, beer has become insanely popular within the United States, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Before the craft beer movement came, the main places you would see beer being consumed were sporting events, barbecues and concerts. And of those beers being drank, there would be copious amounts of the domestic company’s “light” draft.
But now, beer is reinvented. Beer can be used in many ways besides social occasions. With the many different styles of beer, the possibilities are endless. Moreover, different beers are better during different seasons, and some beers are even better when served in the correct glass. To me, I like to treat the beer like it’s wine. You can braise with it, make soups, make sauces, desserts, batter fish, etc. When cooking with the beer, it adds rich, hearty and toasty flavors. When certain recipes call for wine, beer can be substituted in with few exceptions. Those recipes substituted with beer will come out with a malty, toasted and roasted flavor. Just like when using wine, you should pair what wine/beer you cooked with to drink while eating the meal.
When pairing beer with the food you’re eating, the number one thing is to get the most pleasure out of each, which means taking into account certain elements, including fat, acidity, aromatics, carbonation, bitterness and sweetness. Another factor in pairing the two would be if you want to compliment or contrast. When contrasting, you can look at eating a basket of fried chicken and drinking a light hoppy ale to cut through the fatty crust of the chicken, or when complimenting, you’re wanting the food and the beer to intensify one another. For example, with this dish, I braised a piece of beef chuck eye in Drekker’s Hell Bent American Brown Ale and served it with a pint of the same, the concept being that when cooking the beef, we are caramelizing the surface sugars to create complex flavors, as well as the flavor of the beer is being infused during the hours of slow cooking. The same is going on when brewing Hell Bent, where the barley is caramelized to develop the roasted and toasty flavors that compliment the beef.
Choosing which beer to pair for this dish was simple. At Mezzaluna, the popular vote for favorite local brewery is Drekker, our neighbor down the street. Our morning prep cook, Nate Dickmeyer, was the creator of Hell Bent while working at Drekker. Since hearing that, Hell Bent was been my go-to when it is on tap at the brewery. With that being said, the caramel, toffee and small hoppy notes were perfect to pair with a braised winter dish.
Brown Ale ‘Pot–au–Feu’
1 Beef Chuck Eye roast, cut into three portions
Salt & pepper
2 large onions, chopped
½ bunch of celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 turnip, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart beef stock