The Chinese/Lunar New Year began Sunday, February 18, with a massive celebration ushering in the Year of the Boar, or more specifically, the golden boar. This year is very special, as it comes once every 600 years and is considered extremely lucky. In fact, in China, many would-be parents are trying to conceive to give their children this birth year.
Harbin Lager kicked off the celebration a few days earlier with a lunch at renowned New York City hotspot Tao, hosted by George Reisch, a 5th-generation brewmaster by trade for Anheuser-Busch. While feasting on a menu that showed the versatility of beer as the perfect agent to pair with Pan Asian cuisine, Reisch shared tips and tricks for enhancing your beer-drinking experience, as well as a menu to pair with Harbin Lager that will kick of the year of the boar in style.
Harbin Lager, now nationally available in time for the Chinese/Lunar New Year, is brewed from a Chinese aroma hop variety, Quindao Duhao, which is responsible for giving this superpremium lager its complex fruity and floral aromas. In honor of the New Year, Harbin Lager is available in a gift box wrapped in red rice paper, a traditional red envelope containing a ceramic board good-luck charm attached to a good-luck knot, and a Year of the Boar zodiac card insert.
To enhance your beer-drinking experience, Reisch offers the following tips:
Use the correct glassware. Beer benefits from the right glassware, just as wine does.
Share your beer. Reisch said that when he goes out with friends, they each order a different beer and a glass, and try some of each. It’s a good way to get to try beers you might not have ordered otherwise. At the Tao lunch, the 600-ml bottles, wrapped in transparent rice paper, were kept in the middle of the table to experience the Chinese ritual of sharing beer.
Use a glass. Beer is made overly carbonated to withstand being poured into a glass. The beermakers purposely factor in enough carbonation so when it is poured into the glass, it maintains the proper amount of bubbles. This is why drinking straight from the bottle can give you an uncomfortable, overly full feeling.
Don’t drink it ice-cold. Beer from the refrigerator is about 38° F, which is good if you are parched but not if you want to taste the flavors. While it seems beer commercials are always encouraging you to drink a refreshing ice-cold beverage, you can get much more of the aroma and flavor components from beer that is warmer, about 50° F. Reisch recommends letting the first few sips refresh your palate. After that, drinking at the recommended temperature will allow you to get the most from your beer.
Bite, sip, bite, sip. Alternating bites of food and sips of suds will not only allow the flavors to interact, but is especially helpful when you are eating spicy food, which is neutralized by the beer’s carbonation.
When pairing beer, match the key flavor elements. Is the food charred or smoky? Try a darker beer, whose richness (from it’s own roasted grains) will pair well. Sweet beer does well with sweet foods, whereas citrus go well with fruit beers. Reisch warns that whatever you do, “Don’t make it cerebral, make it sensory.”
No matter which pairing you chose, be sure to kick off your Chinese New Year celebration with the tradional toast: Gung hay fat choy (Happy New Year)!
The menu at Tao (www.taorestaurant.com) was an excellent showcase for Harbin Lager as an Asian cuisine pairing agent. Below are some of the highlights:
Satay of Chilean Sea Bass: Skewered Chilean sea bass marinated in a miso teriyaki, seared until golden brown and glazed with a miso teriyaki sauce and chives.
Dragon Tail Spare Ribs: The baby back pork spare ribs were marinated in hoisin sauce, ketchup, garlic and soy sauce, and flavored with Chinese wine (wu shai pi chew), then roasted until caramelized.
Wasabi Crusted Filet Mignon: Marinated in a wasabi, soy and sesame oil marinade and coated with a crust of wasabi, panko breadcrumbs, mustard oil and butter and served with tempura onion rings.
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