Well, it’s Valentine’s Day—yet another time of the year where commercialism takes over our lives and television commercials shove as many clichés down our throats as they possibly can. Hell, last week I saw a commercial advising me to buy one of the “Twilight” movies. I mean…really? What has this world come to?
Anyway, I digress… This isn’t a kvetching (Yiddish for ‘complaining’) column, so I’ll steer back towards what matters—beer. We’ve all heard that, apparently, the “best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Yeah, it’s true, but over the years, I’ve also found that it happens to apply to both genders. Bonus points if you’re a good cook—it certainly makes life easier. So, this year, when you’re cooking up a storm (well, some of us will be, at least), you may find it beneficial to pair every course with a different beer. Besides getting your date drunk (and making for some ruckus fun later on), it’ll be the perfect complement to whatever you’ve chosen to make.
Course 1: Appetizers
Or, for the lazier (and classier) people among us, the cheese course. One of the cool things about certain cheeses is that you can pair pretty much any beer with them—it certainly helps when you’re going for variety with the food. I like to start the night off with a lighter beer, particularly a wild ale or a lambic. These kinds of beers typically have a lot more bite to them, giving the beer a very tart finish. They go extremely well with really sharp cheeses such as an aged (but not smoked) gouda, cheddar or a softer cheese like brie.
As for the beer, I’d suggest Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Wild, a wild ale (no, really?) that has a nice combination of fruitiness and hops upfront and a highly carbonated, slightly sour aftertaste. It’s a great way to start off your night and, at 9.4% abv (I may have lied about going ‘light’ to start off the evening), it will certainly help you get a little buzz going. For the big spenders out there who really want to class it up, do yourself a favor and snag a bottle of the Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge. Brewed with cherries, this beer has an amazingly sweet and sour flavor combination that makes it the standard sour ale for most beer fanatics.
Course 2: Dinner
Honestly, there are so many different kinds of food out there that it’s sort of hard to try pairing a beer, so I’ll just give a few suggestions. My signature dish is eggplant parmesan and almost all Italian food demands a lighter beer to be paired with it, so you’d probably want to shoot for something along those lines. Maibocks, which are generally a light-bodied golden lager, certainly fit the bill—Sierra Nevada Glissade or Rogue Dead Guy (warning: this brewery hates unions) are great choices.
For those feeling a bit more adventurous with their choice of food—think along the lines of Indian, Mexican, Thai, etc.—I’d suggest a more complex beer. In an attempt to stay local, give Furthermore Knot Stock a try. The brewery does their own take on a typical pale ale and adds in, of all things, black pepper. Yeah, you may not think it sounds great, but the pepper gives the beer an added level of spiciness that makes it a wonderful complement to the spicier foods you may choose to consume tonight. The kick that the black pepper adds is wonderfully complemented by the bitter notes of grapefruit and hops, and it has a terrific dry finish.
Course 3: Dessert
Personally, this was the easiest pairing for me. If you’re going to be eating anything with chocolate in it (and really, how could you not?), then it’s time for the first experience with a dessert beer. Dessert beers perfectly pair with even the most decadent sweets. You can usually go one of two ways when choosing what to serve: a tart, fruit beer like a lambic or a heavy, creamy beer along the lines of a stout or porter. Because we’ve already done the whole wild/lambic ale thing, a stout is probably what you want to lean towards. There is no beer I’d rather have with dessert than Southern Tier Crème Brulee. Brewed with sugar and vanilla bean, this beer is simply spectacular (and definitely one of my favorites). The combination of vanilla, coffee and burnt sugar is a near-perfect replica of an actual crème brulee. When you combine that with the creaminess from the added lactate (it’s a milk stout—better texture on the tongue), the beer is simply superb. Oh yeah, it’s also 9.6% abv, so if you weren’t drunk from my previous suggestions, I’d certainly hope that you are by now.
Well, there you have it. A rather intoxicating (best pun ever?) combination of food and beer that’s bound to make your date appreciate you a hell of a lot more than they already did. And, let’s be honest—if they don’t like any of these suggestions, then it’s them, not you.
Have beer and cuisine pairing suggestions for Dylan? Want him to dazzle you with his cheese platter and eggplant parmesan on this day of love? Either way, send him an e-mail at email@example.com.