The snow is in the trees, the lakes are frozen over, and the residents of the Pleasant Peninsula can see their breath – winter has arrived. Here at Short’s Brewing Company, we have decided to welcome the cold weather with a few seasonal and specialty releases. These hearty beers possess flavors that stand-up to the chill in the air and pair exceptionally well with the comfort foods of the season. Below, we will briefly discuss three different beers available in January and offer flavor profiles and pairing suggestions. While all of the beers discussed here are from Short’s, each beer’s style is mentioned and the flavors should remain the same if you choose to pair with a selection from another brewery. Pour yourself something dark, enjoy the snowy landscape, and get ready to read about some roasty, toasty beers.
Our traditional winter seasonal, Good Humans, is a double brown ale that is available from November to March. This imperial brown is dry hopped with Simcoe hops and packs big flavors of toasted caramel, brown sugar, chocolate, and toffee. Not to be outdone by the malt, the hops assert their presence with aromas of pine and citrus, and flavors of grapefruit and spice. With so many rich flavors, this beer pairs exceptionally well with a plethora of dishes. A personal favorite of mine is grilled meat or vegetables, specifically grilled pork. There is something about cooking with a grill or cast iron pan and hearing the sizzle of the meat that warms me up before I even taste the dish. The slight charring of the pork pairs brilliantly with the bready, chocolaty malt based flavors of the beer. These malt flavors are even more noticeable with caramelization and melanoidins. Using a cut of pork with large fat deposits such as pork belly enhances the hop flavors in this double brown ale. In addition to the malty flavor pairings mentioned above, the slight saltiness of the pork amplifies the citrus flavors of the hops while the savory fattiness is balanced by the overall hop bitterness. Altogether, the decadent pairing of pork with a bitter brown ale, is one that enhances both the malt and hop characteristics of the beer.
Short’s Brewing’s first specialty release of 2014 is Empress Catherine, a Russian Imperial Stout that is released in early January. This strong stout takes hearty, robust flavors of coffee, chocolate, and roasted grains and partners them with the sweet, yet subtle, flavors of molasses and dark fruit. The finish is an espresso-like bitterness that lingers on the palate, dueling the sweeter notes for quite a lasting impression! When pairing a full bodied Russian Imperial Stout with food, a dessert is a great rout to go. In general, beer is one of the best beverages to pair with dessert, since the large quantity of residual sugars found in beer naturally complements sweet dishes. I would recommend pairing this beer style with a rich, bitter dark chocolate because it will enhance the chocolaty grain flavors in Empress Catherine. Desserts made with coffee also pair well with this style of beer because the coffee flavor will draw out the the roasted java flavors from the beer. Bitter chocolate and coffee are not the only two ingredients I recommend pairing with a Russian Imperial Stout. I would also look to creating sweet dishes made with dark fruits to complement the malty sweetness of the beer style. Using dark fruits such as currants, dates, or figs will help tease out the sweet beer flavor. Since the beer also has bitter roasted notes, the dark fruits will soften, or contrast, the bitter flavors of burnt coffee and roasted grain. A great, and simple dessert, to pair with an Imperial Stout is to use a soft cheese with a high fat content, such as brie or cream cheese, works splendidly to soften the harshness of the dark roasted grain, while also allowing the fruit’s sugary notes to enhance the beer’s delicate malty sweetness. Roasted figs with a spread of cream cheese is a delicious way to start or finish a heavy meal, and pairing with one of the heartier beer styles definitely will fend off the chill of the season.
The final beer in today’s post is our second specialty release of 2014 and released in mid January. Publican Porter is an Imperial Porter that embraces the ample flavors and aromas of roasted grain, espresso, bitter baking chocolate, and slight hints of biscuit malt. Like Empress Catherine, Publican Porter indulges in the roasted flavors associated with darker malts, but in contrast, Publican Porter lacks the sweet note found in Empress Catherine. To showcase the roasted notes, an Imperial Porter can be paired with a smorgasbord of food items, from a hearty stew, to shepherd’s pie, to a grilled porterhouse steak. The dark roasted grains used to brew this style of beer dominates the palate with robust flavors of roasted bitterness, but notes of caramelization and melanoidin are also present. Publican Porter pairs exceptionally well with any dish that is grilled, roasted, or has a slight smokiness. And if you want to take food and beer pairings one step further, any time you can use beer in the food recipe as an ingredient, is great for flavor melding. Try simmering a tougher meat cut or mushrooms in a Porter for an extended period of time. This process is known as braising and will impart the entrée with the dominant flavors in the beer, as well as soften the tough textures. Cooking with an Imperial Porter will enhance the roasted grain, espresso, and dark chocolate flavors in your dish while not overwhelming the savory flavors. The end product is a hearty serving complete with notes of roasted grain, rich fat, and savory meat or mushrooms.
Hopefully the ideas discussed in this post will give you inspiration to recreate one of your comfort foods with a Short’s brew. The suggestions above are not all-encompassing and experimenting with different flavors is a fun, delicious way to experience the gourmet side of craft beer. It does not take an executive chef or certified Cicerone to make an awesome beer and food pairing. All you need is a beer, some food, a kitchen, and a sense of culinary adventure. And remember to have fun! Sharing your favorite pairings with friends and family is a great way to spend a snowy, cold evening. Organizing a beer and food pairing potluck is a great activity to help stave off the winter blues and see how your loved ones’ tastes differ.
Life is Short’s, Drink It While You’re Here!
“Brian Talpos is the Southeast Michigan Beer Liberator for Short’s Brewing Company. A lifelong Michigander, Brian is a graduate of the University of Michigan and worked as a beer buyer at retailers in Ann Arbor before coming to Short’s in order to spread the reach of his liberation to an entire region. When not cruising around SE Michigan at events or meeting with accounts, Brian is schooling his co-workers at fantasy football and forgetting his mom’s favorite rocking chair at his neighbor’s house.”