Pairing menus are all the rage, but there’s no reason to limit your options to wine. Garrett Oliver, brewmaster for Brooklyn Brewery and 2012 James Beard Award nominee for outstanding wine, beer and spirits professional, contends that beer too can lend itself to almost any dish. In his award-winning book, The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food (Harper Collins, 2003), he divulges his secrets about pairing traditional beer with modern cuisine. W.E. caught up with Oliver at a special beer dinner hosted by The Tap House, a popular gastropub in Tuckahoe, New York, to get his best tips.
Beer Should Balance Your Bite
To achieve the most complementary pairing, Oliver first considers the flavor characteristics and texture of the food. It’s important, he says, to select a beer with similar qualities. For example, when pairing beer with hamachi sushi, he prefers something crisp and fresh, like his Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. With beef, he recommends something more muscular and full bodied, such as a brown ale.
Pair Beer With Cheese
Yes, that’s right—serve beer with your cheese platter. Oliver believes that in a cheese pairing competition, brews will trump whatever wine they’re up against. He suggests selecting beer that can stand up to the cheese flavors without overwhelming them. Light lagers and ales pair with mild cheeses, like American and cheddar. IPAs or other hoppy brews work well with pungent cheeses, like blue or gorgonzola. Another plus to pairing beer with cheese is that the cleansing aspect of the carbonation in beer intensifies the flavors of cheese on the palate.
Keep An Open Mind
Oliver admits that some dishes simply pair better with wine than with beer, so don’t force it. When searching for a proper pairing for a rack of lamb, for example, Oliver favors a terroir-driven Burgundy over a brew. However, when it comes to the majority of pork dishes, he finds wine “unconvincing” and prefers one of his heartier crafts, including Brooklyn East India Pale Ale.
Here is one of his favorite brunch recipes. It pairs perfectly with a hoppy, golden farmhouse ale.
Goat Cheese & Apple Omelette
Recipe courtesy Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn
3 tablespoons butter, divided
½ Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick
1 pinch of sugar
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 small log of fresh goat cheese, about 4 ounces, cut into 3 slices
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
Melt two tablespoons of the butter in a nonstick saucepan set over medium heat. Add the apple slices and cook until they begin to brown, about 2 minutes, then add the sugar. Stir the mixture until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Beat the eggs and milk together until they are well combined. Next, in a saucepan set over high heat, add the remaining butter. When the butter foams, add the eggs and milk mixture, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer. When the omelet is cooked halfway through, carefully flip it and cook until fully cooked.
Arrange the goat cheese slices on one half of the omelet, place apple slices on the cheese, then fold the omelet in half. Turn off the heat and let cook for one more minute. Place the omelet on a warm plate, and sprinkle with black pepper to taste.
Beer Pairing: “Brooklyn Sorachi Ace is a classic saison—a dry, hoppy, unfiltered, golden farmhouse ale, but made entirely with now-rare Sorachi Ace hops grown by a single farm in Oregon,” says Oliver. “It tastes like sunshine in a glass!”