I won't get into a full-on restaurant review, but suffice it to say the waitress was awful. She was pregnant too, which makes me think her child will also be a horrible waitress. The night was a blast and it really encompassed why I love beer: had we been drinking, say, wine with our meals, we wouldn't have started "speaking loudly" about private details of our respective relationships when people finally started trickling in. And then what would the night have been? 2 hours of discussing grape varietals and . . . I don't know . . . Chaupin? We would have been
Despite the service and its possible effects on future progeny, once the food and beer started coming in, I got to really wallow in some fantastic pairings, totally going off my gut as far as the lineup was concerned. Some succeeded, some didn't, but each offered insights into the flavorful nooks and crannies of each item. And that's what experimenting with beer pairing is all about. You aren't always going to hit a home run, but every once in a while you find something so great, it is almost easier to write about feelings than taste. Don't be afraid to pair beer, and in fact, pairing beer is going to be a focus of this blog henceforth. That's right. Henceforth.
I started with a Sixpoint Brownstone before the food came. I love this beer and was so happy to find it. Despite being brewed in the BK, you don't see it as often as you would think around here. Brownstone is a brown ale, medium in color but heavy on roastiness. It has a strong dark malt roast up front and the hoppiness is strong for a brown ale, though it balances well. It finishes rich and robust with some rye. Pure genius really. The finish is the absolute perfect midpoint between the roast and the hops which unifies them brilliantly. It doesn't have a ton of notes, but what it lacks in levels, it makes up for in precision and power. Sixpoint isn't half-steppin', and their beers are uniformly bold in flavor.
Once food showed up, the onion-y, marinated knockwurst took a hint of the bitterness out of the Brownstone, while a rich, spiced beef stroganoff brought up some chocolate notes. On the downside (even though I knew it would happen), the Brownstone totally decimated a poor potato pierogie.
With the Brownstone killed, we cleansed our palates and moved on to the always reliable Franziskaner Weisse. This beer is German as shit, and so started opening up really exciting flavors. Sans food, Franziskaner packs serious spiciness with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg (good call Caity and Adriana), while I've always gotten brisk mustard tones. The wheat is ever-present without being overwhelming, and it brings a hearty body that is still somehow a bit refreshing. It is a great wheat beer for the season (as opposed to lighter summer wheats) and a cold night filled with German food made Franziskaner a sure-fire hit.
The mustard tones gave me a hunch that Franziskaner would kill with the knockwurst, and so it did. It made a hot dog with onions and mustard, bun included. It brought up memories of fall baseball when I was a kid, and hopes of ballparks future. When the beer followed a few bites of pierogie, a rich breadiness emerged, though some of the beer's spice was dulled. The beer matched up well with red cabbage and a drop of sour cream, as well as some stray onions here and there. It's underlying sweetness countered those well, letting the soft spice stand out.
The beef stroganoff still needed a suitable partner. A black lager from the Czech Republic, Krusovice Dark is heavily malty, almost syrupy sweet. It has coffee aromas but little coffee flavor. Chocolate and caramel are right there, and the mouthfeel borders on downright sticky. This beer is no good. But it managed to be a success because of the beef stroganoff. Paired with this (wonderful) beef, a sip of Krusovice turned into what essentially tasted like slightly thick root beer. The sweetness of the beer was refined after a few bites of beef and gravy, and the unpleasant hints of charcoal were rendered non-existent. When the light bulb went off that we had stumbled on a way to make this beer palatable, everyone was convinced of the power a decent pairing can have.
What is so great is that beer can make even one-dimesional food better. Thankfully, we didn't have to deal with that. We did have to deal with the opposite however: lousy beer. As you read, a good pairing can even drag the lousiest Czech swill out of the gutter and "My Fair Lady" it into something respectable. That's the magic of a solid beer pairing: bad becomes good, good becomes great, and great becomes a flood of flavors, memories, and feelings. We laughed, we ate, we drank, we got closer.
That > wine.