beer pairing

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One of the benefits of being a home brewer is that you have license to try a lot of beer, and a lot of different kinds of beer. After all, you’re not just drinking for pleasure, you’re doing it as a hobby, even if your hobby happens to be a pleasure. In the last few years a new kind of beer store has popped up to help beer lovers discover the many styles of beer, a lot like wine bars and tasting rooms have done for wine drinkers.

Say you want to know more about what distinguishes a Kolsch (which is in the bottles above, photo by the inimitable Phil) and a Helles than Wikipedia and BeerAdvocate can tell you? At these stores you can taste the difference. With education as their goal, they stock hundreds of kinds of bottled craft beer and keep a constant rotation on the tap. They’ll recommend beer and food pairings and they tend to be liberal with the free samples, too (that’s not a promise though—your mileage my vary.) An article I wrote about five of these tasting rooms for beer came out today in the New York Times.

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bratwurst and mustard seeds on sauerkraut

A classic combination. This weekend I helped my buddy Bill cook and serve a snout-to-tail pig dinner. The two of us are part of a group of homebrewing chefs called Eating About Beer that concerns itself with making and pairing good beer and good food. You can read what Bill had to say about our debut dinner last November here. All the photos on this page are the work of the photographer and gourmand Phil.

Anyway, when you’re wondering how to eat sauerkraut, or what to eat with sauerkraut, bratwurst is quick to come to mind. For the dinner, Bill stuffed his own with a mix of ground pork shoulder, eggs, a bit of cream, and traditional spices. He set slices on fresh, drained kraut that had fermented for two weeks, and topped them with yellow and black mustard seeds that had simmered for 45 minutes in a mix of water, sugar, and vinegar. The creamy mustard you see on the plate is a mix of Dijon and marzen beer from Gordon Biersch, which we also served with the dish.

pouring beer

This beer has a good story. In German, “marzen” means “March”, which, before refrigeration in Germany and Austria, was the last month before the summer in which it was cool enough to brew beer. To survive the hot months, marzens would be sealed in caves and cellars with blocks of ice. The brewers would also preserve the brew by adding extra malt to boost its alcohol content. The brown beer that resulted was richer and stronger than your usual lager and would be consumed until Oktoberfest, where it is still drunk between bites of (you guessed it) bratwurst. Its malty, biscuit-like flavor cuts through the fatty sausage without overwhelming its flavor.

Here’s one more pic, just for fun.

bratwurst and mustard seeds on sauerkraut

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