Dean McGuinness pairs some brilliant craft beers with sausages...
Dean McGuinness discusses the pairing of craft beer with food:
To-day’s Irish Times has their Winter Beer and Food feature magazine included in it – look inside, and you will be able to read an article by Sorcha Hamilton (@ITBeerista) about some fun that we had at Fallon and Byrne pairing different beers with cheeses. To-day’s Movies and Booze involves a little more beer and food pairing – this time beer and sausages, with a touch of mustard thrown in for good measure.
Given that yesterday was International Stout Day, it would be remiss of us not to include a stout/porter in our line up. We are pairing Old Engine Oil (which was previously described by the brewery as a ‘porter’, but now is described, style-wise as a ‘black ale’ – more on this later!) And given that this is coming into the end of 2016, it would also be remiss not to mark the 500th anniversary of the Rheinheitsgebot. This we are doing by including a traditional German style of beer – a Weizenbock. Jeff’s Bavarian Ale is a hybrid style between a wheat beer and a ‘bock’.
We are pairing each of these beers with sausages from Tormey’s craft butchers in Mullingar (Harbour Place Shopping Centre, Mullingar) and with mustards from The Lodge, Barna, Galway (Contact – firstname.lastname@example.org). The Old Engine Oil is being paired with Tormey’s Barbeque Sausages and Old Engine Oil mustard and the Jeff’s Bavarian Ale is being paired with Garlic and Herb Sausages and with Clove Spiced Mustard.
Beer and Food Pairing –
One could write many books about beer and food pairing. Beer is incredibly well suited to pair with a wide variety of foods. Because of the diversity of flavour in beer, one could argue that there is a beer to suit (almost) any food, and often pairing different beers with the same food can result in wonderfully different flavour consequences.
Part of the reason why it would be so easy to write multiple books about beer and food pairing is because pairing food with beer is not a science. There are no hard and fast, unbreakable rules when it comes to beer and food pairing. However, there are some guidelines, and in recent times a lot of work has been done in putting these guidelines into practise to provide a set of train tracks to direct people who are trying to pair beer and food. While veering off these tracks can result in a pairing that is the proverbial ‘train wreck’, one has to recognise that these guidelines are just that – guidelines. The most interesting and exciting pairings come about when one discovers that something works even though it seems to break all of the rules. Nothing is more exquisite than pairing a beer with a food where all logic says that the pairing should not work, but the flavours blend beautifully – by subverting all expectations, the pairing takes on a different, and surprising, dimension!
So, what are the guidelines when it comes to beer and food pairings?
The first, and most generally accepted rule of beer and food pairing is to match intensity. What does this mean? Different foods have different levels of flavour intensity. Salads (or at least lettuce and other ingredients in a salad) will often have very low flavour intensity. A rich, robust casserole is likely to have greater flavour intensity, as would a vindaloo curry. Flavour intensity is looking at how much ‘punch’ of flavour is delivered by a food or dish.
The same idea of intensity can be applied to beer – some beers (such as light lagers or witbiers) are less intense in their flavours, and some are more intense. In general, three key factors influence the level of flavour intensity in a beer – the level of alcohol content (more alcohol generally means more flavour intensity), the colour of the beer (darker generally means more intense) and the presence of distinctive flavours from another source. This third factor is a bit of a catch-all that includes the flavour intensity associated with (for example) highly hopped IPA’s, distinctly sour Oude Gueuze Lambics and Chilli Beers.
Matching flavour intensity involves making sure that the level of flavour intensity in the food roughly matches the level of flavour intensity in the beer. Again, not an exact science, but having a similar level of intensity on both sides of the pairing ensures that one flavour does not drown out the other.
The second guideline is appreciate the qualities of the two sides of the pairing. In terms of broad guidelines, this one is about as broad as it can get, because this translates into ‘make sure the beer and food match’. Not much help unless we delve a little deeper.
Food and beer can have two general qualities. We’re going to call these ‘flavour qualities’ and ‘interactive qualities’ (the second term could mean anything, especially when we are talking about pairing two things, but it is the best I can come up with! ).
Flavour qualities are very simple – if you break down the flavours in the food or beer that you are eating/drinking, how would you describe the individual elements of the flavours that make up the total flavour experience. We then want to make sure that the flavours in the beer match up with the flavours in the food – and again, there are two ways that they can. Flavours can Complement eachother – two similar flavours matching and present in both the beer and the food can form a happy marriage. Flavours can also Contrast with eachother – two different flavours that make a whole that is bigger than the individual parts because they fit together nicely.
Interactive qualities are a little bit more fiddly. What it comes down to is this – how do the qualities of the beer or food interact with other things. “This is just matching flavours, again”, you might say, but we are talking about something a little different here. Food will interact with your palate to provide a mouthfeel – creamy or oily things can be mouthcoating, spicy things can deliver heat etc. Likewise, beer will interact with your palate to provide a mouthfeel – sometimes mouthcoating, sometimes rich, sometimes ‘cutting’ cleansing the palate. Likewise, food and beer can interact as they are consumed – beer can ‘cut through’ oily or creamy food to cleanse the palate, flavours can interact resulting in potentiation (increasing the intensity of one or other flavour) or masking (covering up the flavour of one or other), and flavours can combine to provide the perception of an entirely new flavour resulting from these flavours sitting side by side.
Our third and last guideline for today is think about the entire flavour package. Earlier we said salad can have low flavour intensity, but anchovies in a Caesar Salad can provide their own burst of intensity. Likewise, while certain elements of the flavour of a food might pair perfectly with certain elements of the flavour of the beer, a key question to ask is ‘Do the other flavour elements of the food and beer either further enhance this pairing, or stand out of the way and let the pairing happen?’ If the answer to this question is ‘No, the other elements of flavour clash horribly, not letting me appreciate what should be happening in the pairing, and leaving me to run screaming into the mountains clutching my throat and swearing to Jesus’, then logic would suggest that this is not a good pairing!
Jeff’s Bavarian Ale Paired with...
Beer Style – Weizenbock Garlic and Herb sausages from C.R. Tormey’s Mullingar and
Alcohol by Volume – 7.1% a.b.v.
Brewed by – Maisel’s Brewery Clove Spiced Mustard from The Lodge, Barna, Co. Galway
Brewed in – Bayreuth, Bavaria, Germany
Jeff’s Bavarian Ale is a weizenbock – a traditional German style that fuses the wheat beer style and the Bock style. A wheat beer (specifically, a German Weizen or Hefeweiss) is characterised by two key things – brewed with a large proportion of wheat in the grain bill, and brewed with a German Wheat Ale yeast. The former provides a crispness to the flavour and the latter provides two dimensions of flavour – spiciness (usually in the form of clove) and fruitiness (usually in the form of banana, but sometimes also other fruit flavours). The bock style is characterised by above average strength (anything from 6.3% up to 14.0%), and the ‘pure’ form of the style is brewed with a lager yeast. Bocks are more often darker in colour, though a ‘Maibock’ or ‘Helles Bock’ can be golden.
When these styles are fused to give a weizenbock, the wheat ale yeast takes precedence in that it is used instead of a lager yeast, the strength is bumped up, and often the beer will have a deeper colour than might be associated with a hefeweiss. The result is a fusion of caramel and toasty malt flavours with the crispness of the wheat, joining with fruit and spice flavours from the wheat ale yeast fermentation.
Our pairing with Garlic and Herb Sausages and clove spiced mustard brings a few different things to the party. Firstly, garlic is a flavour that incorporates a quality associated with a family of flavours called ‘phenolic’. Clove belongs to this family of flavours, so the garlic and clove can sit together nicely in a complementary fashion. Using clove spiced mustard is a little bit of a cheat (but if it works!!) – again, you have complementary clove flavours in the mustard joining with the clove from the wheat ale fermentation. Once we have these complementary flavours established on both sides of the equation, we have the starting point for a great pairing. The logic is simple – if the clove in the beer works well with the caramel and fruit flavours in the beer, then these flavours have to be complementary (otherwise, the beer wouldn’t be nice). Likewise, if the clove flavour in the mustard works well with the mustard, and mustard works well with sausages, then clove has to be complementary to this flavour bundle as well. Clove becomes our bridge, and the symphony of flavours all join together and work. The fruit and caramel flavours in the beer provide a balancing sweetness to the pairing that just directs the pairing in another direction. With both of these pairings, we are relying on the acidity of the beer to cut through the oiliness of the sausages in a palate cleansing way. The last step is to try the pairing out to make sure that it works, and that no other element of the pairing stands in the way.
Old Engine Oil Paired with...
Beer Style – Dark Ale (Stout / Porter) Barbeque sausages from C.R. Tormey’s Mullingar and
Alcohol by Volume – 6.0% a.b.v.
Brewed by – Harviestoun Brewery Old Engine Oil Mustard from The Lodge, Barna, Co. Galway
Brewed in – Alva Clackmananshire, Scotland
Old Engine Oil used to be described as a ‘porter’ but recently the brewery has opted to call it a ‘Black Ale’. Given that the definition by one writer of ‘stout’ is a ‘black beer called “stout” by the guy who brewed it’, then this puts Old Engine Oil firmly in the Porter/Stout family. We don’t have time here to go into the differences between porters and stouts (if there truly are definitive differences at all) – suffice it to say that we are expecting rich, dark, malty flavours (coffee, espresso, chocolate, cocoa, charcoal, and roast acidity) together with other dimensions of flavour in the beer. Because Old Engine Oil is brewed with a certain amount of oats, you find that you have a slightly creamy texture to the beer, but this texture is fused with the natural acidity in beer. There is also a bittersweet quality to the beer – a background sweetness joining with the dark malt character to provide balance and complexity.
Again, we have a little bit of a cheat in our pairing. This time, the mustard is made with Old Engine Oil as an ingredient – so if the Old Engine Oil works in(side) the mustard, it should work beside the mustard. This cheat extends a touch farther. When sausages are cooked, there is a browning reaction that happens in the cooking process (called the Maillard – pronounced ‘My-yard’ – reaction). This same process happens in roasting malt to make dark malt. While the flavours that result cover a broad family of flavours, it is a basic reason why cooked meats can pair well with so many beers – particularly darker beers.
Our mustard fuses a slight sweetness, and this sweetness is further in evidence in the barbeque dimension to the sausages. Mustard spice complements the roast acidity and dark malt flavours in the beer. The creaminess of the oats provides a counterpoint to the palate cleansing nature of the beer’s natural acidity. The crisp, browned skin of the sausages provide a dark, roast flavour intensity which further complements the dark malt flavours in the beer. With this all going on, the pork flavour of the sausages is almost along for the ride, and again, the acidity of the beer cleanses the palate of the oiliness of the sausages.
Looking at the whole picture of this pairing, we needed to consider a further factor when we were trying out the pairing. Another contender for pairing was Tormey’s Black Pudding sausage – a sausage that provided a richer flavour intensity. By itself (without the mustard) the black pudding sausages possibly paired a little better with the Old Engine Oil – flavour intensities were pretty much on a par. However, the introduction of the mustard to the mix increases the intensity of flavour on the food side, and restores the balance between the food flavour intensity and that of the beer.