How to Pair Beer With Thanksgiving

Everyone remembers to put wine on the dinner table for Thanksgiving, but what about beer? You can't forget about the beer!

Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite meal of the year because I put about 9 bottles of both wine and beer on the dinner table (as if I need an excuse...). Wine is a great contribution, but seriously, beer is where it's at.

Beer is excellent with a meal like Thanksgiving because it is carbonated and can have a dry finish, which cleanses your palate after every sip and makes the next bite of food taste like its your first. With so many flavors going on in the meal, it is excellent to have a palate cleanser like beer. 

There are two beer styles that I recommend pairing with Thanksgiving dinner: Saison and Biere de Garde. Saison is from Belgium, and Biere de Garde is from France. The two styles are very similar (their differences are a discussion for another day) in that they both have spicy, earthy components that will pair excellently with Thanksgiving. Many of them actually have spices IN them, but many just taste that way naturally because of the yeast strain used. 

Saison and Biere de Garde are also excellent because they come in 750ml bottles which makes a great presentation on the Thanksgiving table. They are usually cheaper than wine as well, so you can open plenty up without feeling guilty. 

These two beer styles from Europe may be difficult to find depending on where you buy beer, but don't fret: many American craft breweries are making interpretations that you can substitute easily. Just look for "farmhouse" or "saison-style" on a beer label and you know you've got a winner.

 

DANI'S SUGGESTIONS:

Saison

  • St. Feuillien Saison (Belgium) 
  • Saison Dupont (Belgium)
  • Brasserie a Vapeur Saison de Pipaix (Belgium) 
  • Brasserie St. James Daily Wages (Nevada)
  • Ommegang Hennepin (New York)
  • Brooklyn Sorachi Ace (New York) 
  • Dogfish Head Saison du BUFF (Delaware)
  • North Coast Brewery Le Merle (California) 

Biere de Garde

  • Brasserie La Choulette Amber (France)
  • Brasserie St. Sylvestre Gavroche (France)
  • Brasserie Theillier La Bavaisienne (France) 
  • Sierra Nevada Trip in the Woods (California)

If you can't find these beers, fear not! Here are some other Belgian styles ales I recommend that can be found easily: 

Belgian Tripel

  • Chimay Cinq Cents (White Label) (Belgium)
  • Unibroue la Fin du Monde (Canada) 
  • Westmalle Tripel (Belgium) 
  • Tripel Karmeliet (Belgium) 
  • Victory Golden Monkey (Pennsylvania) 
  • New Belgium Trippel (Colorado)

Golden Strong

  • Delirium Tremens (Belgium)
  • Duvel (Belgium) **Dani's fave! 
  • Russian River Brewing Damnation (California)
  • North Coast Brewing Grand Cru (California) 
thanksgiving beer pairing.jpg

How to Pair Beer With Enchiladas

Hey guys! I'm so excited to share with you today some footage from last weekend's camping trip in the Sierras. Since I'm trying to make as much content as possible, why not make a video of what we ate and drank?

So I give you, Dinner and Drinks, camping edition.

Andrew and I like to go all-out when it comes to eating while camping, but that doesn't mean we want to spend hours cooking (unless that means sitting around a campfire while your food cooks!). So prepping ahead is key.

This was the first time I made this enchilada recipe, and it was very easy to prep at home and then just assemble in camp. We just cooked them on the stovetop, but if you're making these while camping, feel free to use a grill or a dutch oven in the campfire, whichever you prefer. The meat is already cooked prior to camp so you basically just need to warm everything up and melt the cheese!

Check out the video for some fun camping footage:

The Pairing

To me, the best beer to pair with Mexican fare like enchiladas is American Pale Ale, which is a snappy, refreshing beer that showcases the flavors of Cascade hops. Pale Ales have a fresh, citrusy quality (from the hops!) that match the spices in dishes like enchiladas. They are also fairly bitter, which will cut through the fattiness of all the cheese as well.

I brought along Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on our camping trip, but feel free to use any American Pale Ale you prefer. If you can't find any Pale Ale, American IPA will also work nicely, although since it is more bitter and has less FLAVOR from the hops, it is not my first choice. But then again we were camping, so I wouldn't have been too picky on any beer I drank with dinner. Cheers and happy pairing!


Camping Enchiladas

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1.5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into small pieces
  • 1 (4 oz) can of diced green chiles
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can black beans
  • flour tortillas
  • shredded cheese
  • 1 can red enchilada sauce
  • 1 can refried beans
  • sour cream (for topping)
  • salsa (for topping)

At Home:

In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add diced chicken and green chiles, season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked completely through. Remove from heat. If making for camping, let cool and store in a container in the cooler until ready to use.

At Camp:

1. Lightly oil a cast iron pan or dutch oven. Place some of the chicken mixture, refried beans, enchilada sauce, and shredded cheese into a tortilla, then roll up and place in the pan.

2. Continue filling remaining tortillas (we ate 2 per person and were STUFFED!) then place, rolled up, into a line in the pan. top with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Any remaining beans may be heated separately and served on the side.

3. Place pan over medium-high heat on a grill or stovetop. To make the cheese melt quicker, place foil on top. If using a dutch oven in a campfire, place near hot coals...the enchiladas will be done in about 15 minutes.

4. Serve with sour cream, salsa, chopped onion, cilantro, or whatever other toppings you desire!

beer enchiladas pin.jpg

Sweet Buttery Sauerkraut Noodles with Sausage and Festbier

Here's a new recipe for tonight--these sweet, buttery sauerkraut noodles are a great change to your typical pasta dish. They're ready in under 30 minutes! Serve with some sausage and a big glass of festbier to celebrate Oktoberfest at home!

Sweet Buttery Sauerkraut Noodles with Beer Brats and Oktoberfest--this is a super-easy weeknight meal that is a good change from your usual pasta! Serve with any kind of sausage and a big glass of Oktoberfest beer to make it a complete meal | CaretoPair.com

Somehow its the end of September, Oktoberfest is over in 2 days, and I haven't shared any beer pairings for the occasion yet. Where. does. time. go??

You may or may not know this already, but Oktoberfest beers, recently somewhat changed to be called "Festbiers" are my favorite beers of all time.

Big statement, I know.

But it's true, and why? Because Festbier is the absolute best beer to pair with food. Seriously. 

Festbier, formerly known as Oktoberfest, or Marzen, is the best beer to be in your fridge this fall. It pairs with everything, including this recipe for sweet buttery sauerkraut noodles and sausage! | CaretoPair.com

Festbier/Oktoberfest/Marzen

Festbier, Oktoberfest, and Marzen are the three styles of beer commonly associated with the Oktoberfest celebration held in Munich every year. They are all pretty similar, but can still have some differences. For example, the "Oktoberfest" style that is actually served at Oktoberfest seems to be getting lighter and lighter every year. Marzen is the traditional style that Oktoberfest beers derived from, and festbiers are what we call any beer commemorating those beers served at the festival. Confusing!

What these three beers mostly have in common is their color and maltiness. Festbiers can be light or dark, but in general we like to see them the color of this beauty in my pictures today...golden with some amber highlights. The flavor is exactly what you'd expect from this color as well. Festbiers are the perfect balance between malty, biscuity sweetness supported by a crisp, clean hopped finish. They go great with everything...literally...because they stand up to most foods but won't overwhelm them. Any food you associate with Germany will pair excellently with Festbier (like pretzels, sausage, mustard, cheese...) but these also go great with bar food like burgers, sandwiches, and even salads. If there's one beer to have in your fridge this season, it's Festbier!

Sweet Buttery Sauerkraut Noodles with Beer Brats and Oktoberfest--this is a super-easy weeknight meal that is a good change from your usual pasta! Serve with any kind of sausage and a big glass of Oktoberfest beer to make it a complete meal | CaretoPair.com

My Favorite Oktoberfest/Marzen/Festbiers

  • Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen
  • Firestone-Walker Oaktoberfest
  • Victory Brewing Festbier
  • Brooklyn Brewery Oktoberfest
  • Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest (I was pleasantly surprised by this one, amazing)
  • Paulaner Oktoberfest-Marzen

The Recipe

Where did this recipe come from? My momma! Since I grew up in the midwest with a Polish heritage, these kinds of dishes are the ultimate comfort food for me. I'm pretty sure these buttery, sauerkraut noodles originally came from the traditional Polish dish called Haluski that uses cabbage, but personally I prefer the tang that sauerkraut gives the dish (It's quicker to make, too!).

This dish isn't much to look at but oh-is-it-good. I served it with brats that I simply boiled in beer, but you can serve it with any sausage you prefer or just alone. My mom usually brings them to potlucks and family gatherings because it can easily feed a crowd. All of the ingredients are pantry-staples (or am I the only one that readily keeps sauerkraut at home?) so you can easily whip this up on a night where you just don't feel like trying too hard. Within 30 minutes you'll have a beer in your hand and food in your tummy.

Side note: I used artisan-type wide-and-flat egg noodles for this dish, but if you can't find something like that, any egg noodle (including the curly kind!) will work just fine.

Sweet Buttery Sauerkraut Noodles

Author: Dani 

Prep time: 3 mins

Cook time: 20 mins

Total time: 23 mins

Serves: 6 big servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb wide egg noodles
  • 8 oz butter, plus more to taste
  • 1 medium onion, quartered and sliced (not chopped)
  • 1 14.5 oz can of sauerkraut (bavarian-style, if available)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the egg noodles. Cook until the noodles are soft, then drain. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile in a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and stir. This will essentially become the "sauce" for the noodles. Cover and cook the butter and onion over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are nice and soft (about 10-15 minutes). If you wish, you can raise the heat of the pan for the last few minutes to brown the butter and onions a bit, but make sure the butter doesn't burn or evaporate.
  3. Once the onions have finished cooking, pour the drained sauerkraut and noodles into the pan. Stir until noodles are coated and add more butter if needed. Season generously with salt and pepper to your liking.
  4. Serve with beer brats or any kind of cooked sausage and a stein of festbier!
Festbier, formerly known as Oktoberfest, or Marzen, is the best beer to be in your fridge this fall. It pairs with everything, including this recipe for sweet buttery sauerkraut noodles and sausage! | CaretoPair.com

The Best Beers to Pair With Chicken Wings

This beer pairing may be a no-brainer since wings and beer go together like PB and J. But beers come in all shapes and flavors, so some will accentuate particular wings moreso than others. Read on to find out which beer is best with your favorite chicken wings.

Here's a list of the best beers to pair with chicken wings! It may be an easy pairing, but some beers accentuate flavors more than others! via CaretoPair.com

You may remember this post I did about a month ago on which wine to pair with wings...which is a difficult pairing because wine and wings are not best friends like beer and wings.

There I said it. Sorry, wine lovers. Beer wins this round. Can you imagine a night at the bar with your favorite basket of wings without a cold, delicious beer alongside it? (But not too cold, because icy cold beer has no flavor [wink wink].) Beer naturally works well with wings because the carbonation cools down the spicy flavors in whatever wing sauce you've got going on. If the wings are sweet, the malt in the beer will also complement that. Whether you want to accentuate the spiciness of the wings or calm it down is another story though. Depending on if you can handle the heat or not determines which beer you should have alongside.

Here's a list of the best beers to pair with chicken wings! It may be an easy pairing, but some beers accentuate flavors more than others! via CaretoPair.com

If You Like It Hot and Want It Hotter

...then go with a hoppy beer. Hops in beer actually accentuate the heat in foods, so the IPA you have next to your wings will actually make those wings taster hotter. So for people like me that can't handle the heat, IPAs are a no-no. But people like my husband? Bring on the heat! The hoppier your beer, the more it will accentuate the spiciness of the wings, so here's a list of beers to pick out going from medium to most-hoppy (with my suggestions in parenthesis):

  • Hoppy Lager (Anchor Lager, Sudwerk California Lager)
  • American Amber Ale (Speakeasy Prohibition Ale)
  • American Pale Ale (Victory Headwaters, Sierra Nevada)
  • India Pale Ale (Firestone Union Jack, Great Basin Icky IPA)
  • Double IPA (Harpoon Leviathon, Dogfish Head 90 Minute)

If You Eat Hot Wings But Want to Cool Down With Beer

...then go for a malt-focused ale or straightforward lager. If hops aren't at the forefront of the beer profile then surely the malt will be, and malt will ease the heat of those chicken wings so you can cool down. These are my favorite beers to pair with spicy wings because I like to get some spice but then cool down from the refreshing swig of beer. Basically, malt (the grains in beer) provide the sweetness in beer, which is balanced by the addition of hops. Beer that doesn't have a lot of hops in it will therefore be more malty, which will cool down the spice in hot chicken wings. This includes all of those mass-market American Lagers too, so don't worry about pairing one of them with your wings (I give you permission!). Here are some of my suggestions of beer to cool down your wings:

  • Oktoberfest/Marzen (Ayinger Oktoberfest-Marzen, Victory Festbier)
  • English Brown Ale (Newcastle, Sam Smith's)
  • Pilsner (North Coast Scrimshaw, Firestone Pivo)
  • Hefeweizen/Wheat Ale (New Belgium Snapshot, Weihenstephaner)
  • Kolsch
Here's a list of the best beers to pair with chicken wings! It may be an easy pairing, but some beers accentuate flavors more than others! via CaretoPair.com

If you Like Sweet or Tangy Wings

If spice just ain't-yo-thang, don't worry--beer will still keep you covered. Any of the above beers in the "cool you down" category will work just fine, but you also have some other options. Belgian ales in particular are going to be your friend with sweet wings, because almost all of them have some sort of fruity spiced component going on. Whether its the dark fruit flavors  like plum, raisin and dried cherry you get in a Belgian dubbel or the citrus, orangy, peppery character coming from a Belgian tripel, all these flavors will do well with your sweet wings. Here are just a few that will work great:

  • Belgian Dubbel (Chimay Red, Affligem)
  • Belgian Tripel (Westmalle, Unibroue La Fin du Monde)
  • Belgian Dark Strong (Chimay Grande Reserve, Rochefort 8)
  • Belgian Golden Strong (Duvel, North Coast Pranqster)
  • Saison (Saison Dupont, Ommegang Hennepin)
  • Sour Ales (Rodenbach Grand Cru, New Belgium La Folie)
The best list of beers to pair with chicken wings, whether you want them to heat things up or cool things down | CaretoPair.com

Isn't that a lot of beer to choose from?! Holy Moly beer and chicken wings like each other. Bottom line: enjoy the two together and don't think too hard about the pairing...most beers are going to naturally work. Just know that hoppy beers will accentuate the spice in your wings and malty beer will cool the spice down. Happy Pairing!

Thirsty for More? Try Out These Beer Pairings:

Caesar Salad + Helles Lager

What Beer to Pair with Fish and Chips

Beef Carbonnade + Belgian Dubbel

Classic Caesar Salad Paired with Helles Lager

This classic Caesar salad recipe and beer pairing may seem a little simple, but oftentimes the simplest things in life are the best things in life, right?

A classic caesar salad recipe and a beer pairing to go with it! This pairing may seem simple but sometimes the simplest things in life are the best :)

So that bowl of caesar salad in the picture really doesn't look too big but let me assure you that it is. In fact, it may have just been my dinner on a night last weekend when I was feeling particularly lazy. Like, there's-no-food-in-the-house-but-I'm-not-going-grocery-shopping kind of lazy. So I had lettuce, old bread, and a few other staples in the house. Cue: caesar salad for dinner.

Have you ever made caesar salad dressing before?

Why do we even buy dressings in the store anymore??

This salad dressing was impossibly easy to make plus made me feel great that I wasn't downing some store-bought, preservative-packed dressing that I probably would have poured too much onto my salad anyway (aren't we all guilty of that?). It still boggles my mind how we forgot that anything prepackaged in our homes could also be made from scratch.

Anyway, this salad took me a whole 10 minutes to make using ingredients I already had in the kitchen (score!). Do recipes with raw eggs and anchovies scare you? Too bad. Take the risk, its worth it. And no, caesar salad does not taste like anchovies. I promise you its all in your head!

The Pairing

Now onto the important stuff...the beer pairing! Just like this recipe, the beer you pair with it should always be stocked in your fridge: a Munich Helles Lager.

What's that, you ask? I had the same reaction when I first learned about this beer that happens to be the most popular beer style in Bavaria. "Helles" in German means "light", so essentially this is the German equivalent to the light beers we drink here in America...except the Germans actually keep the flavors in their light beers (ooooh...burn).

Helles Lager accounts for about half of Germany's beer consumption because it is light, refreshing, and easy to drink. The style originated in Munich in 1895 by the Spaten Brewery to compete with Pilsner-style beers. Unlike German Pilsner, Helles Lager emphasizes on malt sweetness rather than bittering hops; the beer isn't sweet by any means, but the hops just balance the beer rather than provide a bitter edge. I like to describe these beers as "bready", and the style happens to be one of my go-to's for simple meals like this (and thus why I always have some in the fridge).

And that, my friends, is exactly why we are pairing a Munich Helles Lager with this Caesar Salad instead of a regular ol' Pilsner. Most well-made Pilsners these days contain substantial hop bitterness which might overwhelm this dish. A Munich Helles Lager is light enough to complement the salad while providing carbonation to calm down the bright acidity from the dressing. The lager's "bready"  nature also goes great with the croutons. You could almost say the beer acts as an additional crouton to the salad (and there is no such thing as too many croutons). Like I first said, this pairing is a simple one, but oh is it good.

Examples of Munich Helles Lager

  • Weihenstephaner Original (used in this post!)
  • Spaten Premium Lager
  • Paulaner Premium Lager

If you don't have access to any of these beers, go ahead and pop open your favorite Pilsner with this salad and it will still be delicious. If you have any session beers or "light" versions of beers as well, those will work too. I particularly love the entire lineup of Session Ales from Full Sail Brewing.

The Recipe

If you already have some store-bought Caesar salad dressing in your fridge, go ahead and use it for this pairing, I don't mind! But I'm telling you--homemade is sooooo much better and so easy to make. Thanks to my husband's unusual love for anchovies, we have plenty of canned ones in the pantry. I can't go near the stuff, so I keep a handy tube of anchovy paste stocked for any recipes that call for it. Anchovy paste can be found in any grocery store near the canned anchovies.

Classic Caesar Salad

Author:

Dani

Prep time:

35 mins

Cook time:

3 mins

Total time:

38 mins

Serves:

2 Salads

Serves 2 (or 1 very hungry person!) Original recipe adapted from simplyrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • A few thin slices of baguette (3-4 slices per serving)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp anchovy paste (or one anchovy)
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
  • 1 lemon, cut in half for juicing
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Mince the garlic cloves very fine and add them to a large bowl with the olive oil. Let sit for 30 minutes (and get yourself a beer!)
  2. Meanwhile, make the croutons: brush the baquette lightly either with butter or a bit of the garlic-oil mixture. Place under a broiler for about 3 minutes, until golden and crispy.
  3. After the oil has sat for 30 minutes, add the egg, anchovy paste, and parmesan. Squeeze one half of a lemon into the bowl and whisk to combine. Taste, and add more lemon juice as needed. I used about 3/4 of a lemon total. Taste again and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  4. Break up the lettuce leaves with your hands and toss in with the dressing, coating all the lettuce leaves well. Place the salad into bowls and break the toasted baquette slices over to create croutons (you can also leave some full slices on the side like I did).
  5. Shave additional parmesan cheese over the top and serve immediately.

3.5.3208

Thirsty for More? Try these Pairings!

Battered Fish and Chips Paired with Cream Ale

Homemade Brownies Paired with Sweet Stout

Whiskey Barbecue Chicken Paired with Pale Ale

Alaskan Brewing Heritage Coffee Brown Ale Paired with Coffee-Rub Steak

Beer? Coffee? Steak? Yes please.

A few weeks ago, I received a treat in the mail.

It was the new "Pilot Series" release from Alaskan Brewery: a Heritage Coffee Brown Ale. Plus I got a packet of coffee beans from Heritage Coffee Roasting Co. (also from Juneau, Alaska) which were the same blend used to make the beer.

I'm not a coffee drinker, but I have enjoyed some coffee stouts and porters in the past. But a coffee brown ale? I had never seen one before. I was immediately intrigued by this new style.

Andrew and I opened up the bottle to taste it. Since I'm not a coffee drinker, I didn't really know what to expect. Sometimes coffee stouts and porters accentuate coffee flavors so much that it turns out too roasted, too intense, and sometimes even on the edge of burnt and bitter.These attributes are usually too much for me. The Alaskan Coffee Brown Ale had none of these overpowering attributes. Because its a brown ale, everything is scaled back and the true essence of the coffee beans take center stage.  I was pleasantly surprised and never thought I would enjoy something so coffee-flavored before!

After doing a bit of research, I learned that Alaskan Brewing made the beer by roasting some of the malt for it in the coffee roaster used at Heritage Coffee company. Since malt roasts at a much lower temperature than coffee beans, they had to be very careful not to start a fire. Doing this clearly was well worth it!

The Pairing

I made Andrew go to the store and buy two more bottles of the Alaskan Coffee Brown Ale so we could play around with them. I wanted to pair our next bottle with a nice batch of brownies, but he had the idea of using the coffee beans to make a coffee-rub steak. Winner!

I often warn people about pairing flavors in drinks with the same exact flavors in food. For example, I once made some spicy tacos and paired them with a chile-flavored beer. On its own, the beer was amazing. But with the food, it didn't taste like anything. Quite often if you pair food and drinks together with too-similar flavors, they'll end up cancelling each other out.

I was afraid that would happen to this meal, but that was not the case! In fact, giving the steak a little coffee flavor with the rub accentuated the Alaskan Coffee Brown Ale just perfectly. Nothing about either was too overwhelming for its partner.

If you live in a state that carries Alaskan Brewery beers, I strongly suggest treating yourself to this Coffee Brown Ale! Like I said, I don't even drink coffee, yet I loved this beer. It goes great with steak but will also pair nicely with anything that you'd eat with coffee. Beer for breakfast, anyone?

Side note, this beer is a limited release so if you're not reading this in the fall/wintertime, it might not be available for purchase. But you can sub a different coffee-flavored beer in if you'd like.

Coffee Rubbed Steak with Alaskan Brewing Coffee Brown Ale | CaretoPair.com
Coffee Rubbed Steak with Alaskan Brewing Coffee Brown Ale | CaretoPair.com

The Recipe

Andrew created this simple rub by grinding the coffee beans down to espresso and adding other ingredients to complement the steak. We didn't want to make things too spicy, which might contrast with the beer, so we kept the cayenne pepper low. If you prefer a bit more spice, feel free to add more cayenne to the rub. To cook your steaks, we suggest following our recipe for the reverse-sear method. Its the only way we make steak anymore because they turn out perfectly every time!

Rub recipe adapted from food.com.

Coffee-Rub for Steaks

Serves: 4 Steaks

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp finely ground espresso
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (or sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix. Coat your steaks on all sides with the mixture and rub in well.
  2. Follow our instructions for reverse-seared steak (link above) or cook normally to your own preferred method.

Happy Pairing!

Favorite Beer Cheese Soup Paired with Oktoberfest Lager

Let's throw all our reservations about health out the window and enjoy this beer cheese soup. Made with 3 types of melted cheese and beer, how could it be anything but amazing? Its the perfect accompaniment to a cold night and a stein of Oktoberfest.

I am quite the sucker for dairy. I would say Andrew and I eat pretty healthy, but there are a few ingredients I must have in my fridge at all times: butter, sour cream, heavy cream, and cheese. It would be a healthier problem if I always needed vegetables in the crisper, but that's not how I roll. Last week I actually had to reach for the larger sour cream size at the grocery store than what I usually buy because...well...we just go through a lot.

This soup is my ultimate comfort food. It is beer and cheese, after all. It's also really bad for my waistline, so I treat myself to it once or twice a year when the air starts getting a little crisper and the temperature drops. Right around this time in October when all I want to do is cuddle up on the couch with a warming bowl of soup (and beer).

I've tried a few different variations of the recipe and the one I'm sharing with you today is hands down my favorite. If you've never tried beer cheese soup before, be prepared for a new level of love for cheese. If you're prone to heartburn, you might want to be prepared for that too. I promise its worth it though.

The Pairing

Do you think this pairing is a little obvious? It's a no-brainer that beer goes with cheese, that's why they are in the soup together. Many beers will go with this soup, but my favorite is Oktoberfest lager. My reasons are purely because I have this soup in the autumn which is when I'm in full Oktoberfest mode. And although this soup isn't technically German, it definitely fits the profile for something you might have with Oktoberfest fare. If you want to make this soup when Oktoberfest is not in season, don't be afraid to try something else. Below are my favorites to pair with this soup next to Oktoberfest lager:

  • German Pilsner, like Weihenstephaner or Spaten
  • Amber Lager
  • Marzen
  • Brown Ale (but nothing too roasty)

Avoid:

  • hoppy ales, like Pale Ale and IPA
  • roasty stouts or imperial anything (too much alcohol and depth)

The Recipe

Go ahead and splurge on high quality cheese for this recipe! It can make the difference from a great soup to a mind-blowing soup. When choosing a beer for it, many options will work. You can use anything from a cheap domestic lager with minimal flavor to a dark, malty doppelbock. Just stay away from adding a beer that is bitter, citrusy, hoppy, or super roasty. (My suggestions above apply to which beer to put in the recipe as well). If you want to serve something alongside the soup, check out these awesome homemade pierogi.

Favorite Beer Cheese Soup

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 30 mins

Total time: 35 mins

Serves: 4

Adapted from the Sprecher Brewing Company's recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Cup Shredded Pepperjack Cheese
  • 2 1/2 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 1/2 Cup Shredded Swiss Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 4 Cups Milk
  • 9 oz of Beer (see note above)
  • 1/2 Cup Cream
  • 1.5 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1.5 tsp Garlic Powder
  • pinch of White Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Tabasco Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the flour, whisking to incorporate. Cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile in a large soup pot, heat the milk to a simmer until steaming but not boiling. Add all remaining ingredients except for the butter and cheese; whisk to combine. Bring the soup to a steaming state again (without boiling), then slowly add the flour and butter roux from the other pan. Stir to thicken the soup up a bit.
  3. Add a little bit of the shredded cheese and stir consistently until it has melted into the soup. Continue adding cheese and stirring. When all the cheese has melted and been incorporated into the soup, reduce the heat to very low and let steam for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Happy Pairing!

Pumpkin Ale Pairing: Apple Donuts with Maple Glaze

Its time for round two of pumpkin ale pairing! If you missed last week's post for pumpkin ale and brown sugar chicken thighs, make sure you go check it out. If you're craving a donut and beer pairing though, make today's recipe!

You may be thinking, "pumpkin beer and donuts??". Yes. Duuuhh! Okay, yes I know that donuts are generally known as a breakfast food. And you may not think to ever, ever have donuts with a beer. But there are two solutions to this: one, you could have beer for breakfast. Or two, you could have donuts for dessert. I think the second solution is fitting for most scenarios, but don't forget that beer for breakfast indeed IS a thing.

The Pairing

In case you didn't know already, beer goes great with sweet things. When it comes to dessert pairings, I don't look to wine to do the job--beer always wins this category. I was looking for something sweet to pair with these mouth-watering apple donuts with maple glaze, so I turned to the original pumpkin beer of America: Buffalo Bill's Original Pumpkin Ale.

Did you know that pumpkins used to grow wild in fields back in the colonial days? Since they were so widely available, no one really liked them back then. But if the grains to make bread and beer ran out, people would substitute pumpkin instead. Legend has it that George Washington used to brew a pumpkin beer. When Bill Owens of Buffalo Bill's Brewery read about it in 1985, he decided to brew his own pumpkin beer just like George. However, what made his beer so good was the addition of an entire jar of pumpkin pie spice...and pumpkin beer was reborn!

The specifics of why pumpkin beers go with these apple-maple donuts is relatively simple: the spices in the beer match the fall-driven spice in the donuts. Doesn't cinnamon naturally sound good to have with maple and apple? Its an easy pairing. My biggest suggestion is to choose a pumpkin beer that is relatively sweet and displays these spiced flavors pretty heavily. My favorite "sweet" styles besides Buffalo Bill's include New Belgium Pumpkick, Wasatch Pumpkin Ale,  and Magic Hat Wilhelm Scream. I'm sure there are plenty of other options out there though, so give any a try!

The Recipe

Apple Donuts with Maple Glaze

Author: Dani 

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 15 mins

Total time: 30 mins

Serves: about 20

Recipe adapted from yummyhealthyeasy.com

Ingredients

  • 3 apples (I used Gala)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 Cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 Cups coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp cream
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 5 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp maple flavoring

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease 4 donuts pans (or however many you have, you can make these in batches).
  2. Begin by peeling and coring the apples. Place them in a food processor and process until smooth with minimal chunks. Scoop them out and place into a mixing bowl along with the 3 eggs and sugar. Mix until combined.
  3. Add the orange juice, vanilla, flour, salt, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and baking powder and mix well. Finally, add the melted coconut oil and mix one more time.
  4. Pour the batter into the greased donut pans and cook for about 15-18 minutes or until cooked through. Let the donuts cool in the pan for a few minutes before popping them out with a spatula. My batter made 21 donuts, so if you need to work in batches, just make sure the pan is cooled before regreasing and placing more batter in.
  5. While the donuts are cooling/cooking, make the glaze: Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. The batter should be thick but not difficult to stir. Add more cream/milk to either thin or thicken up the frosting. Dip the donuts into the frosting to coat, then place on a cooling rack until the frosting hardens.

Happy Pairing!

Pumpkin Ale Pairing: Brown Sugar Chicken Thighs with Apples

It's pumpkin ale season!! Are you as excited as I am? I think pumpkin ales come and go too quickly every autumn. They get released in August when it seems way too hot to even think about the changing of the seasons. I usually begin craving them sometime in September, but this year summer still stuck around too long. And then last week October 1st hit. The temperature dropped and the rains came. I'm currently wearing sweaters and slippers. Pumpkin ale season has finally arrived.

Fall is my absolute favorite time for beers because both Oktoberfest and Pumpkin ales are released. Even better, there are two types out there for us to choose from. There are the sweeter, spiced ones that taste like you're eating a piece of pumpkin pie, and then the ones that are just... PUMPKIN. I like them both, of course, because anything pumpkin is a winner in my book.

The Pairing

Right off the bat it can seem overwhelming to pair pumpkin ale with a meal. Sure, we like to drink them, but do they actually pair well with food? The answer, my friend, is YES.

For this brown sugar chicken thigh recipe I made, I chose the new pumpkin ale Alaskan Brewing just released. In previous seasons they made a pumpkin porter, but this year they lightened it up into a brown ale. The beer has some of the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors we all love in pumpkin ale, but its definitely more of a PUMPKIN beer than a sweet dessert beer. If you're not a fan of tasting super sweet pumpkin pie and want more of a "beer" flavor in general, then this ale is for you. How does it pair? The slight sweetness from the pumpkin spice complements the brown sugar in the chicken thighs, but isn't too sweet to overwhelm it. Since it is a style of brown ale, the caramelized and toasty malt really plays on the charred, roasted skin on the chicken. And the slight sweetness coming from the apples ties it all together. Is your stomach grumbling yet?

Other Beers That Work

If you're reading this and pumpkin beer isn't in season, fear not--other beers will work. Pick a beer with those caramelized, toasty flavors, like a brown or amber ale. You could even go as dark as a porter, but be careful: if the beer is too roasty or burnt (like stout), it will overwhelm this dish. Also, stay away from hoppy beers like IPA or pale ale that will be too fruity and bitter.

The Recipe

I've got to make a shout-out to Chung Ah over at damndelicious.net for providing the original recipe for this dish. It is amazing what a little brown sugar and butter can do to a seemingly boring weeknight chicken dish. Feel free to make this with any cut of chicken, but bone-in chicken thighs are particularly juicy (and budget-friendly). To make this an autumn-appropriate meal, I added thinly sliced apples to give it that hint of sweetness. It really was a match made in heaven with the Alaskan Pumpkin Ale. Serve with mashed potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts for a complete meal!


Brown Sugar Roasted Chicken with Apples

Author: Dani (CaretoPair.com)

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 40 mins

Total time: 45 mins

Serves: 4

Original recipe adapted from damndelicious.net

Ingredients

  • 4 large bone-in chicken thighs
  • 3 Tbsp butter, devided
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 Cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In an oven-proof skillet, melt 2 Tbsp of butter over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs, skin side down. Sear until golden brown for about 2-3 minutes. Flip chicken over and sear other side the same.
  3. Set the chicken aside when both sides are golden brown. In the same skillet, melt the remaining 1 Tbsp of butter and add the garlic, stirring frequently until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
  4. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the brown sugar, honey, oregano, thyme, and basil. Place the chicken back in the skillet, skin side up, then place in the oven.
  5. After 20 minutes of cook time, remove the skillet from the oven. Place the sliced apple into the sauce of the skillet and stir. Return the skillet to the oven and cook for an additional 15-20, or until the chicken juices run clear when cut into.

Happy Pairing!

Oktoberfest Beer Pairing: Homemade Pierogi

Although pierogi are Polish and it may be considered a sin to pair with German beer, I'm doing it anyway! These babies are filled with potato, garlic, and cheddar and are just begging for an amber lager like Oktoberfest to accompany them.

I just spent the entire afternoon making pierogi. Yep, an entire afternoon. And I'm not going to lie that besides it being time consuming, it also took a lot of elbow grease. This is not meant to discourage you though!  The good news it that I now have about 60 pierogi nicely packed away in the freezer for future dinners.  So the next time I'm too lazy to cook, I'll have plenty of homemade freezer meals! I will gladly take one afternoon of hard work for that!

Bonus: This is one of the most budget-friendly meals I have ever made. All it really cost me were a few potatoes and a block of good cheddar cheese.

The Pairing

These Pierogi could honestly go with any beer. After all, potatoes and cheddar are pretty accommodating ingredients--they're really not going to overwhelm any beer nor be overpowered by one either. Since its the end of September (already!) and I've got my mind on all things Oktoberfest and...German??...whatever. I really had a hankering for making these!

So, why pair these with an Oktoberfest lager? Oktoberfests, being German, are very malty lagers. This means  they have a great "breadiness" to them. You won't find any hoppiness in these beers my friends, as the bitterness is there  to just balance out the beer. German Oktoberfests are tending to get lighter and lighter each year whereas American Craft versions are a bit darker and maltier. Since the pierogi are packed with potato and cheese filling, they are a natural accompaniment to the caramelly toastiness of the beer. And the sour cream makes this pairing even better.

My favorite Oktoberfests

German Oktoberfest

  • Paulaner
  • Spaten
  • Weihenstephaner (almost drinks like a pilsner. Try this one if you're weary of darker lagers)
  • Ayinger
  • Erdinger

American Oktoberfest Styles

  • Brooklyn
  • Victory "Festbier"
  • Sam Adams
  • Tenaya Creek (local Las Vegas brew)

Don't have access to this seasonal style yet? Fear not, as I said pierogi go with almost any beer. They're especially great with German Pilsner and Vienna Lager.

The Recipe

Pierogi can often be an accompaniment to a meal or a meal in itself--its all up to you! I put together a delicious sauce for these cheddar-potato pierogi so they can shine on their own as a main course. Think sour cream in a garlic-sauce form... its absolutely amazing and worth the 5 extra minutes rather than putting a dollop of plain cold sour cream on top.

Can I mention again how CHEAP this recipe is to make? I didn't intentionally make it for that reason, even though I'm on this ridiculous $30/week grocery budget goal, but check out the ingredients to make these...my wallet is super thankful!

Pierogi dough adapted from Martha Stewart's basic pierogi recipe

Ingredients

For the Dough:

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1 Cup whole milk
  • 1 Cup water
  • 5 Cups all purpose flour, plus more for surface dusting

For the Filling

  • about 5 lbs (or 11) yukon gold potatoes (substitute floury potatoes okay)
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3/8 Cup milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 C sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 Tbsp butter

For the Sour Cream Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 Cup dry white wine (or chicken broth if you don't have one open!)
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard (do not use a grainy mustard)
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh chives

To Make the Pierogi

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg and sour cream. Stir in the water and milk. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, whisking into the mix fully before adding more. By the 5th cup, the dough will be very thick.
  2. Place the dough onto a floured surface and start kneading. To knead, push very hard into it with the palms of your hands. Fold the dough in half then turn a quarter to the right. Knead again, then repeat the folding and turning steps for about 8 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky. Add flour to your work surface as needed throughout this process.
  3. Place the cough back in the bowl and cover with saran wrap. Let sit for at least 1 hour before using again.
  4. While the dough is resting, make the filling: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel and quarter the potatoes and place in the boiling water. Add the smashed garlic cloves to the water as well. Cook for about 18 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.
  5. Drain the softened potatoes and garlic. Add them to a large bowl along with all the remaining ingredients for the pierogi filling. Use an electric mixer to blend everything together. A kitchenaid comes in really handy for this part!
  6. After the dough has sat for an hour, break it up into about 4 pieces. Roll one piece out onto a floured surface and roll until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Take a mason jar, large cup, or 3" round cookie cutter and stamp circles closely to each other in the dough.
  7. Take each circle of stamped dough and place about a tablespoon of filling in the middle. Fold the dough in half and pinch the outside edges together, making a half-moon-looking dumpling. Repeat this with all the remaining dough (this is the time-consuming part!). After your dumplings are created from each batch of dough, be sure to store them on a cookie sheet or platter covered in saran wrap. Do not pile them all together or they will clump together (as I unfortunately learned).
  8. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and submerge about 10 pierogi at a time in it. The pierogi will sink to the bottom for a few minutes, then rise to the top. Let them float at the top for 2 minutes, then remove. Continue this step with all the pierogi until completed.
  9. If you are intending to freeze your pierogi, this is the time to do it. Place pierogi in a single layer on a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet. Place in the freezer for about 10 minutes, then remove and place in a freezer bag. This ensures that the pierogi will not stick together.
  10. If you are intending on eating some of the pierogi immediately, you can either eat them as-is or pan-fry them (which is my favorite). Just put some oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat, then place the pierogi in a single layer. Fry for a few minutes until browned, then flip and do the same.

To Make the Sour Cream Sauce

  1. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and stir until fragrant for about 1 minute. Be careful not to brown the butter or garlic.
  2. Add the white wine and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer until reduced about half. Mine reduced very quickly, taking about 2 minutes.
  3. Slowly add the sour cream, little by little, along with the mustard. Stir continuously until the sauce has thickened. Make sure the sauce does not come back to a boil.
  4. Once thickened, turn off heat. Stir in the fresh chives and serve over the pierogi.

Happy Pairing!

Homemade Peanut Butter Ice Cream and a Chocolate Stout Float

Every blog I've been reading has been either excited or depressed that its the end of summer. For the first time in 10 years, I can finally feel it happening! In Las Vegas, autumn would always hit us overnight at Halloween time. I know this because throughout October it would still be hot enough that you'd think you could pull off that skanky halloween costume. And then like 2 days before Halloween the weather would be all "nope!" and you'd freeze your butt off. Those were the college days...don't worry, since I've grown into my late 20s I no longer wear those skanky halloween costumes. Last year I was Andrew for Halloween, beard, cigar, and the rest of the getup. Hardly any skin showing:

Now that I live 8 hours north of Vegas, its safe to say seasons are a little more prominent. Our days are still 90 degrees but it drops to the low 60s at night. Talk about a mountain town!

So before the summer totally slips away from us, let me share this awesome beer float I made this weekend. In attempts to spend only $30 on our groceries each week, I'm obviously not buying any snacks or desserts. But sometimes you've got to satisfy that sweet tooth! Ice cream can be a super inexpensive dessert to make and will last you as long as you can let it in the freezer (before eating it).

The Pairing

I don't think I need to go into too much detail of why peanut butter ice cream goes with chocolate stout. Thanks to Reese's ads, I grew up knowing the two go hand-in-hand.The key here is to make sure you're putting a sweet, chocolate-y stout into that beer float. Stay away from traditional dry Irish Stout like Guinness or Murphy's (unless you intentionally want a coffee-flavored float, which I do not prefer). I also paired sweet stout with those mouth-watering brownies I posted a while back, so the same principles apply here. These are some of my favorite stouts to pair with dessert:

  • Great Basin Outlaw Milk Stout (used in this recipe!)
  • Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
  • Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout
  • Hitachino Nest Sweet Stout
  • Samuel Adams Cream Stout

Just look for "sweet", "cream", or "milk" stout on the label. That means you're good to go.

The Recipe

Now I am no expert at creating ice cream recipes from scratch yet. The recipe I used to make my peanut butter ice cream was from Ashlee Marie's blog. (And side note, I've totally fallen in love with her blog and started following it...I love the simplicity of her recipes and layout of her posts.)

So to make the float...do I really need to explain? I put 3 scoops of the peanut butter ice cream in my glass and filled it with sweet stout. Then I ate it (and drank it). If you feel like being really creative you can put a few salted peanuts or chocolate sauce in the float, but it was absolutely delicious just as it was. Eat it quickly as the ice cream will melt!  I may just need one of these for dessert tonight...mmmm....

Happy Pairing!

Easy Lemon Spaghetti Paired with Wheat Beer

This lemon spaghetti is a recipe my husband concocted when we were searching for something to eat from our very low stocked pantry. It stuck and has become a staple! Bonus: it goes REALLY well with wheat beers.

Andrew and I are about to embark on the 3rd week of our "mega-raging grocery budget". If you missed my last post, we have made it our goal to only spend $30 a week on groceries in order to super-save for a down payment on a house. And I'm not going to lie, friends, its tough. We are so close, but it is really hard not go out or even splurge on fancy meals at home. But it will be all worth it. I've got the first week's progress posted here if you'd like some inspiration to do some budgeting in your weekly meal planning. And today's lemon spaghetti recipe is featured on the meal plan for week 2.

Since this meal is so budget-friendly, I see us incorporating it into our weekly plan many times in the future. Its also great for one of those we-don't-have-anything-in-the-pantry kind of dinners.  Don't have fresh Parmesan or spinach? Not to worry! Just omit them or substitute something else. Just make sure you have a fresh lemon...

The Pairing

Wheat beer is my pick for this week's beer pairing. Did you know the traditional accompaniment to a wheat beer is actually not an orange slice, but a lemon wedge? Need I say more on why this beer pairs well with this dish?

There are wheat beers coming from all different parts of the world these days. The granddaddy of them all, however, would be our friend hefeweizen from Germany. Also referred to as weissebier, weissbier, and weizenbier, weizens  are generally unfiltered beers made from wheat with a special yeast strain that gives them flavors of banana, clove, or even bubblegum. The fruitiness of the beer gives it a refreshing character that lemon flavors accentuate.

Wheat beers that come from America generally have a little less banana and bubblegum flavor to them while accentuating more of a lemon or citrus note. They are often lighter in character than their European counterparts and have higher acidity, also making them a great match for this lemon spaghetti dish.

Craving wine with this lemon spaghetti? Check out my previous post on what wine to pair with lemon chicken...the same wine will work great with this too!

My Wheat Beer Suggestions

From Germany

  • Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (used in this post)
  • Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse
  • Paulaner Hefe-Weizen
  • Hacker-Pschorr Weisse

From America

  • New Belgium Snapshot Wheat
  • Sierra Nevada Kellerweis
  • Harpoon UFO
  • Widmer Hefeweizen
  • North Coast Blue Star
  • Alaskan White

Be adventurous...the possibilities are endless with this pairing!

The Recipe

This dish keeps everything simple. Feel free to substitute some reserved cooking liquid from the pasta or chicken broth if you don't have any dry white wine. Add chicken if you need some protein!

Easy Lemon Spaghetti with Spinach

Author: Dani (CaretoPair.com)

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 15 mins

Total time: 20 mins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb of spaghetti
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (from fresh lemons)
  • 1/4 Cup dry white wine (or reserved cooking water or chicken broth)
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1/2 Cup loosely packed fresh spinach leaves (optional)
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain.
  2. After, heat the 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the drained pasta to the skillet, the lemon juice, and a pinch of black pepper. When the oil has almost disappeared from cooking, add the 1/4 cup of white wine, chicken broth, or reserved cooking water from the pasta.
  3. If adding the fresh spinach, add it now. stir the pasta constantly until the spinach has wilted completely.
  4. Serve the spaghetti in individual bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese. Garnish with a lemon wedge (to squeeze over while you're eating!) and serve.

Happy Pairing!

Camping Edition: Whiskey BBQ Chicken and Coleslaw Beer Pairing

Warning! This post is filled with camping fun that may make you want to grab your tent and head to the woods to enjoy a delicious campfire dinner.

Andrew and I went camping last weekend for the first time since moving to northern Nevada. Ahhhhh nature how I've missed you! Camping is one of my favorite ways to relax and wind down...and usually to hang out with friends. But this time, for the first time since we started dating, it was just me, Andrew, and the dog...

This camping trip was different though because my love of cooking meal planning is starting to get out of hand. Gone are the camping days of hot dogs and beans and boring sack lunches. This time I researched and planned every meal in advance. On top of that, my sister bought my husband The Great Outdoors Cookbook by Sunset Magazine and the pictures in this book  have had me itching to get out to nature and cook over a fire. And by that I mean have Andrew do all the work of getting the fire going.

I'm quickly realizing that the key to eating well on camping trips really is preparation, which is such a win-win now that I've come to terms with my obsession of meal planning. I knew we wouldn't be getting into camp until the sun went down the first night so I prepared marinated steak kabobs that we could just throw on the grill while setting up. Then for the next night's meal, Whiskey BBQ Sauce Grilled Chicken, I made the barbecue sauce and chopped all the vegetables for the coleslaw the day before we even left on the camping trip. This way, minimal dishes were made dirty while camping (amen!) and we didn't have to work too hard to get our dinner on the table--all we had to do was cook the chicken and glaze it!

Kudos to Andrew by the way for starting our campfire without matches! (intentionally)

The Pairing

Okay, I have to admit that drinking good beer and pairing with food on camping trips is not on the top of my priority list. In fact, camping is one of those situations where I fully believe in "time and a place for every beer" and look forward to drinking PBR, High Life, Olympia, Hamms, or Ice House (yeah, I went there). Not to say you can't be drinking good beer on a camping trip by any means...its just when you're drinking beer all day like we do on camping trips, the lightest beer in weight and flavor work better in our bellies than heavier craft beers.

However, pack a few of the good ones to treat yourself at dinnertime. Especially with the dish I'm featuring on this blog post: whiskey barbecue glaze served with homemade coleslaw. The chicken has a decent amount of sweetness from the barbecue sauce so a beer with balanced malt (nothing too hoppy) will work well. There's also a good amount of char on that chicken so a beer with slightly roasted qualities is ideal to match that char.  These beers are my top picks in descending order:

  • Brown Ale (think Brooklyn Brown, Lost Coast Downtown Brown, etc)
  • Amber/Red Ale
  • Vienna Lager
  • English Pale Ale/ESB
  • American Pale Ale
  • Kolsch
  • Pilsner

The Recipe

This dinner was possibly the best I've ever had while camping. But I'm not taking credit for it, we indeed used one of the recipes in The Great Outdoors Cookbook my sister gave us. You do the majority of the prep work at home so putting it together at the campsite is a cinch! Just make sure to keep the sauce and the veggies for the coleslaw separated until only a few minutes before you eat it. I can tell why the recipe said to do that; the veggies soaked up the sauce pretty quickly and could be mushy and gross if you let it sit too long before eating.

I hope you enjoy this recipe next time you go camping! I found a digital version of this recipe so click here for the directions. I'm looking forward to finding more camping recipes to pair with beer or wine for our next camping trip!

Happy Camping and Pairing!

Fish and Chips Beer Pairing

What beer do you pair with Fish and Chips? An English staple, fish and chips screams for an English ale. But this alternative beer pairing won me over.

This recipe came into my life from the back of a case of beer. That's right, on a regular ol' case of seasonal Full Sail Session Cream Ale, their summer offering. I had already poked fun at Andrew for buying this case of cream ale since, in all of my studies, they are the red-headed stepchild of the beer world.

I'm actually being very serious here. In the BJCP guidelines (possibly the best resource to distinguish different beer styles) cream ale is described as "A clean, well-attenuated, flavorful American lawnmower beer". Lawnmower beer?! How is that a term to describe a style of beer? And what kind of brewery would continue making these lawnmower beers? (Joke's on me...New Glarus Spotted Cow and Anderson Valley Summer Solstice, two of my favorite drinking beers, are actually in the Cream Ale category.)

The Beer

Okay, time to put my beer snobbiness away. "Time and a Place", I always say, meaning, every beer has a situation that calls for it. So in the case of cream ales, should we be drinking them while mowing the lawn? (Not recommended.)

Getting to the point, cream ales are not so bad. Actually, they are quite refreshing. They are the craft-beer drinker's option for a light beer with high drinkability without having to reach for a Bud or PBR. They were originally created as an ale to compete with the American lager style. So, they were intended to be light and refreshing. Okay, bad idea to give Andrew crap about buying cream ale. Now he won't share with me.

The Pairing

Disclosure!! These pictures were not taken with Full Sail Session Cream Ale. That's because I had it imprinted in my mind that fish and chips need to be paired with an English ale. Its only right, isn't it? Aren't fish and chips like the national dish of England?

With this dish, Andrew had the cream ale, I had an English ESB. They both went really well with the fish and chips. However, my ESB naturally had a little more bitterness to it. It was good because the bitterness cut through the fatty, fried fish and chips, but for some reason the cream ale just tasted better. The cream ale was nicely balanced between malt sweetness (think corn) and just enough bitterness. I think this cut through the fried fish AND played off the sweetness of the batter. It also went better with the sweet tarter sauce. Even though ESB is one of my favorite beers to pair with food (like in this awesome BLTA sandwich pairing) cream ale won this time. Which is totally awesome.

Examples of Cream Ales

  • Full Sail Summer Seasonal Session Cream Ale (my pairing in this post)
  • Genesee Cream Ale
  • Anderson Valley Summer Solstice (Seasonal)
  • New Glarus Spotted Cow

Other Fish and Chips Beer Pairings

Don't have any access to these cream ales or want a beer with a little more going on in it? As I said earlier, English Ales are naturals with fish and chips. And many other styles go with the dish too, thanks to the fried nature of the dish. Try:

  • English Bitter
  • English ESB (Firestone Walkder Double Barrel Ale is the most common American example of this style)
  • English Pale Ale (American styles might be too hoppy though so be careful)
  • Dusseldorf Altbier
  • California Common (such as Anchor Steam)
  • German Pilsner

The Recipe

Once again I'd sincerely like to thank Full Sail Brewing Company for putting this recipe on the back of their case of beer. It turned out absolutely delicious. Make sure you make some homemade tartar sauce to go with this as well!


Session Summer Ale Fish & Chips

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 30 mins

Total time: 45 mins

Serves: 4

recipe adapted from the Full Sail Pub recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 baking potatoes, julienned to make french fry strips
  • 11 oz beer (cream ale is what we used)
  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp old bay seasoning
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless cod fillets, cut into 1-inch wide strips (may be up to 5-6 inches long)
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.
  2. In a dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil to 375 degrees F (stick a wooden spoon handle to see if the oil is hot enough. If bubbles form on the spoon, the oil is ready)
  3. Fry the potatoes until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Keep warm in the oven while making the fish.
  4. Fish: to make the batter, pour the beer into a large bowl. Sift 1 1/2 cups flour into the bowl and add old bay seasoning, cayenne pepper, and baking powder. Stir gently until combined.
  5. Pat the fish dry and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Drop the fish fillets one by one into the batter to coat evenly, then into the frying oil. Fry each fish and turn frequently in the oil until deep golden and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. When each fish filet is done, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and onto a baking sheet with paper towels. Keep in the warm oven until all other fish filets are done. Fry the remaining fish in batches until complete.
  7. Serve the fish with the french fries.

Happy Pairing!

What Beer to Pair with Barbecue Ribs

There's nothing quite better in the summertime than a good barbecue. This beer pairing with sweet, sticky barbecued ribs is the reason "opposites attract" in the pairing world.

The Fourth of July is this weekend! I thought I would help y'all out on how to celebrate by showcasing these delicious ribs I cooked up recently. I'm especially excited for the fourth this year because I finally live in a normal town that celebrates holidays. Vegas was always too hot to do anything for the fourth. This year, my sister is coming up to celebrate and I plan on barbecuing all. weekend. long.

The Pairing

For the first time ever I made these sweet barbecued ribs; did you know these take HOURS to make? Not going to lie, almost every time I crave ribs its on short notice so we end up just making some grilled with a dry rub. But if you want the sticky, finger-lickin kind, you gotta put in the time!

Sweet foods can be really difficult to pair with beverages. Forget wine on this pairing--nothing will work. The sweetness from the glaze would just make any red wine taste bitter and astringent (from the tannins). White wine wouldn't really stand up to the meat either. What we need here is beer. Its more appropriate for a barbecue, anyway.

For this meal I chose one of the best things with barbecue: Brown Ale. Some of you might think "BORING!" but have you tried Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron? Ringing in at 12% alcohol, its anything but boring.

Why brown ales work with sweet barbecue: contrast. Brown ales have a good roastiness to them without being too roasty (like a dry stout would be). This character works with any char you'll get from the grill (see that beautiful char on those ribs above?) while also balancing out the sweetness from the glaze. On top of that, most brown ales also possess a little bit of sweetness as well, which will complement the sweetness in the dish. When it comes to barbecue and grilled foods, brown ales are your winning ticket.

Side note--although I initially chose (and took pictures of) the Dogfish Head Marron for this post, when Andrew and I were eating the meal, the high alcohol and super-duper extreme roastiness of that beer was borderline overpowering to the ribs. We tried it with a few other brown ales with lower alcohol which fit much better as pairings.

My Beer Pairing Suggestions

Brown Ales

  • Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale
  • Anchor Brewing Breckle's Brown Ale
  • Victory Brewing Victory Village
  • Brooklyn Brewing Brooklyn Brown
  • Abita Turbodog
  • Tenaya Creek Bonanza Brown

Other Beers

  • English Brown Ales (more sweetness than American Brown Ales)
  • Milk Stout
  • Foreign Extra Stout (high alcohol but overall sweeter)

The Recipe

This barbecue rib recipe doesn't actually require any barbecue sauce, instead you make your own glaze. And the glaze has beer in it! Use whatever you're drinking, or brown ale since that's what we're pairing this recipe with. Also--if you don't have a grill that allows you to cook with indirect heat, feel free to use your oven to make these.


Barbecue Ribs

Author: Dani (CaretoPair.com)

Prep time: 45 mins

Cook time: 2 hours

Total time: 2 hours 45 mins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs. pork baby back ribs (or spare ribs will work too)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 1/2 Cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp beer (American lager, pilsner, or brown ale will do just fine...whatever you're drinking)
  • 1 tsp red chile flakes
  • 1 tsp dry mustard

Instructions

  1. Heat a grill (or oven) to medium-low (about 325 F). The key to cooking these ribs is with indirect heat, so make sure there is no gas burner or charcoal area providing direct heat to where the ribs will sit.
  2. Remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs. We do this because it can cook the ribs unevenly while grilling. There are lots of online resources if you need to learn how to do this.
  3. In a small bowl, mix salt, pepper, and cayenne. Sprinkle each side of the ribs with this mixture and rub in if necessary. Wrap the ribs in foil and let sit for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, place the ribs in their foil bone side down on the grill over indirect heat. Place a drip pan underneath the meat so your grill/oven doesn't get any liquid on it. Cook, covered, for about an hour, until the ribs are fairly tender when pierced through the foil.
  5. Meanwhile, make the glaze: in a bowl, combine the light brown sugar, cider vinegar, beer, red chile flakes, and dry mustard. Whisk together and add a little water if you want it to be a bit more "saucy". Set aside 1/4 cup of the glaze to use as sauce when eating.
  6. After the ribs are done, transfer them to a rimmed pan, carefully remove the foil and place them on the grill again, bone side up.
  7. Baste ribs with the glaze. Cover the grill and cook for about 10 minutes. Every ten minutes, turn the ribs over and baste with more glaze, until the ribs are browned and tender, about 30-40 minutes total.
  8. Remove the ribs from the grill when finished and tent loosely with foil for about 10 minutes. Brush the 1/4 cup of reserved glaze over them and serve.

Happy Fourth of July, and Happy Pairing!

Jalapeno Poppers Paired with IPA

Game-day Hot-day Cold-day Whatever-Day, snacking on jalapeno poppers with a cold glass of IPA will make whatever time you're having a better one.

I made these jalapeno poppers on a whim last Sunday. Andrew and I had a fairly late brunch and it was nearing 4:00...so...I think we missed the mark for lunchtime. Thirty minutes later, we had successfully devoured all of the poppers, leaving no trace that I had ever even made them. The beer was gone pretty quick too.

The Pairing

I've always read that IPAs heighten the heat of spicy food, so I've stayed away from them as a pairing. With my Polish roots and Midwestern upbringing of eating meat and potatoes without any seasonings, I've had to really work at handling spicy dishes since venturing out of the meat-and-potato diet. However, as these poppers were coming out of the oven, an IPA just seemed so good with them. So I opened up my go-to, Great Basin Brewery's "Icky" IPA.

Me-oh-my what a pairing! IPAs do heighten the heat of spicy food, but in a good, refreshing way. The bitter hops in the beer react with the pepper-sweet heat from the jalapenos all while complementing the fattiness you get from the cheese. Its a great pairing. Just make sure you don't pick an IPA that has an overwhelming amount of hops/bitterness in it, like an Imperial IPA. If you get a beer that has way too much going on in it, it'll overpower the jalapeno popper and you won't be able to taste anything. So keep it a simple IPA, yo!

The Recipe

I think almost all variations of jalapeno poppers will work with IPAs (yes, even the bacon-wrapped ones everyone on pinterest seems to be going nuts for right now). I wanted to keep it simple, so I found this great recipe for a 3-cheese jalapeno popper topped with panko bread crumbs on Damn Delicious' Blog (I have made so many of her recipes...she's really got some good stuff on her site). I love the recipe I used because it was quick, easy, and a nice presentation. The only problem is I didn't double the recipe--we could have ate those poppers all day long!

Other Libations You Can Serve with Jalapeno Poppers

If IPA isn't your thing, don't worry, there are some other great beers (and wines!) that will quench your thirst. Here are some of my picks:

  • Traditional Pilsner--these have a good amount of hops that will react with the spice of the poppers like the IPA does, but won't give you as much bitterness. Also, some breweries are marketing "hoppy pilsners", like Firestone Walker's "Pivo Pils"...those would be great too.
  • Grapefruit Beer--the last beer fest I went to had like 10 grapefruit beers from different breweries; they seem to be all the rage right now. The fruitiness will complement the jalapeno very nicely
  • Sauvignon Blanc--the most refreshing wine in my opinion, most sauvignon blancs have flavors of jalapeno in them anyway. This is my go-to wine for all dishes with some decent spice to them. Go for a sauvignon blanc from Chile or New Zealand for this pairing.

Happy Pairing!

BLTA Paired With DBA

I love this play on words for this pairing! What in the world is a DBA? And...dare I suggest that maybe not everyone knows what a BLTA is?

I've been obsessing over lunchtime lately. Its because I really, truly, hate breakfast. It used to be my favorite meal as a kid; I looked forward to the typical breakfast of cereal on weekdays and waffles or pancakes on weekends. But about 5 or 6 years ago, it all turned sour. Literally. The thought of drinking a glass of milk now makes me cringe, whether it be slurping up the remnants after my morning cereal is gone, or side by side with delicious brownies like these. And don't get me started on yogurt--I still force myself to eat it most mornings with some fruit and granola, but it is definitely something I equally don't look forward to.

Needless to say, I usually skip breakfast. This means that by 11 am, I am STARVING, and thus lunch has become my new favorite meal of the day. It is also an appropriate time in my book to crack open a beer (depending on how productive my morning was, of course) and pair it with whatever deliciousness I'm making myself .

The Sandwich

A BLTA is simply a bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich with the addition of avocado. In my opinion, I think we should do away with BLTs altogether and make them all BLTAs. Avocado gives a boring BLT that needed savoriness, creaminess, fattiness that we love so much. As a kid, BLTs would hurt my mouth given that the bread was toasty and the bacon crispy. That's not the case if you add avocado! I took my pictures with the avocado sliced on top of the sandwich, but you can easily make it a substitution for mayo by spreading the avocado on the toast....mmmm. Too bad its so early in the morning, otherwise I'd go make myself another one of these right now.

The Beer Pairing

So what is DBA anyway? DBA is the short way of saying Firestone Walker's Double Barrel Ale. Technically characterized as a British Pale Ale, this little gem from California is a great lunchtime beer. I think the name is a bit deceiving; you might think this is a dark, heavy beer given the words "double" and "barrel" in the name. But look at that color! The beer has a great maltiness with toasted biscuit notes; the hops balance it out rather than overpower it, giving it just enough bitterness to cut through that bacon and avocado on our BLTA! This is a great day-drinking ale because it is still light and refreshing while giving you a mouthful of flavor. Although a BLTA could go with something as light as a Pilsner or American Lager, you really want this added toastiness in the beer to complement the toastiness of the sandwich. (Get it?) Side note--if you're just getting into beers or aren't the biggest fan, this is a great one to try since it has lots of flavor but isn't overpowering by any means.

Other Beers to Try with this Sandwich

Lets be honest--there are a lot of beers you could make work with this sandwich--It is subjective, after all! In my opinion though, browns and ambers go best with the smokiness from the bacon and savoriness of the avocado. Try these other beers if Firestone Walker DBA isn't an option for you:

  • Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale
  • Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale
  • Speakeasy Prohibition Ale
  • Goose Island Honkers Ale
  • Newcastle Brown Ale (England)
  • Adnams (England)
  • Samuel Smith's Old Brewery Bitter (England)

The Recipe

This sandwich is not hard to make, but if you've never made one before, here's your recipe!


BLTA Sandwich (Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato-Avocado)

Author: Dani (CaretoPair.com)

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 5 mins

Total time: 10 mins

Serves: 1 sandwich

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces good-quality bread
  • 1 large leaf romaine lettuce (or any lettuce will work)
  • 3 slices tomato
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 avocado
  • mayonaise (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cook bacon until crispy in a fry pan; set aside.
  2. Toast the bread in a toaster oven or toaster. Ideally, you want the bread toasted enough so that it is not floppy, but not too crispy so that you can still create a sandwich.
  3. After halving the avocado (lengthwise), cut slits into one side lengthwise. Take a spoon to scoop out the slices.
  4. Assemble the sandwich: Smear mayonaise onto the toasted bread if desired. Top one piece of toast with the lettuce, tomato, bacon, and avocado slices. Complete the sandwich with the top piece of toast.

Happy Pairing!

Perfect Pairing: Fudge Brownies and Sweet Stout

Ever had a stout with your dessert? If you haven't had that "Aha!" moment yet in pairing beer with food, this recipe will be sure to change your world!

I'm drooling over these pictures as I write this post! It is so hard not walk 15 feet over to the kitchen and eat the entire pan of brownies. I rarely make desserts--I've only posted one other dessert pairing on this blog as I'm not a huge fan of sweets, but man, every once in a while all I want is brownies.

And let me tell you, I have found the recipe of all brownie recipes. I'm writing this one down and won't ever search for another one. Its THAT good. When I stumbled upon it this morning on Yammie's Noshery blog, I knew it was the one. The first words on this girl's "About Me" blurb says she's a chocoholic, after all.

The Pairing

Pairing stout beer with chocolate desserts is a pretty common thing in the world of beer pairings--can't say I ever actually tried it though (again...I never really eat dessert!). This pairing, with the specific recipe and local Great Basin Brewery's "Outlaw Milk Stout", was almost an epiphany for me. With the first bite and sip, it brought me back to why I started this blog in the first place: to find great food and drink pairings.

The key to this pairing is to choose a very sweet, chocolatey stout. There are many different kinds of stouts out there. The one we know most commonly, Guinness, is an example of a Irish Dry Stout (Murphy's is the other popular beer in this style). Dry stouts are great but not the best choice to pair with desserts. For this recipe, choose a sweeter style like a Milk (Sweet) Stout, Oatmeal Stout, or Foreign Extra Stout. These styles are indeed sweeter and more chocolatey than their Dry Irish counterparts, thus complementing the chocolate and sweetness of the brownies. And don't think this will be chocolate overload--it is so much better than pairing the brownies with milk, I promise!

A note on milk stouts: don't think that these stouts necessarily taste "milky" which could be considered gross in any other situation than this one. To make a milk (sweet) stout, brewers add lactose, the sugars found in dairy products, to sweeten the beer. Alternatively, oatmeal stouts are created by literally adding oatmeal to the mash, which does not necessarily alter the flavor but adds a more mellowed, rounded texture to the stout. Both of these styles expose a more chocolatey character to the beer over the typical roasted flavors you'd find in dry stouts. Milk stout is truly my favorite type of stout since the added sweetness quenches whatever form of sweet tooth I have.

Recommended Milk Stout and Oatmeal Stout to Pair with Brownies

  • Great Basin Brewery Outlaw Milk Stout (paired in this blog post, and possibly my favorite stout out there--it's so chocolatey!)
  • Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout
  • Young's Double Chocolate Stout (the first dark beer I ever liked. I remember equating it to chocolate milk)
  • Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout
  • Hitachino Nest Sweet Stout
  • Samuel Adams Cream Stout

Happy Pairing!

Vienna Lager Paired with Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Malty Vienna Lager Paired with Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Cinco de Mayo is merely three weeks away. (And so is...my wedding...when did that sneak up on me?) To commemorate the upcoming holiday, my blogging buddy Kristi from South of Vanilla and I are doing a few collaboration posts celebrating food and wine pairings of Mexico!

First up--We have her amazing Paleo-diet take on tacos, using sweet potatoes! Who knew cinco de mayo could be so healthy? Kristi started her blog about a year ago and focuses on recipes that reflect her primative, paleo-diet lifestyle. Now, I'm not usually one to follow diets (and unfortunately, beer, spirits and wine usually don't fit into the majority of diet regimens) but I'm a big supporter of the Paleo ideology. I'm a big fan of avoiding processed foods at all costs, and many of her recipes allow me to do that. Like this recipe--who would have thought to substitute tortillas for sweet potatoes?! Genius.

I've decided to pair this recipe with my favorite, easy-drinking Mexican beer. No, its not Corona...

Vienna Lager

Vienna-style lager. What is it? Have you ever even heard of it? It is actually a fairly common beer but has somehow been neglected by the craft beer world as a recognized style. Us beer snobs like to associate one commonly-known beer with it, and that would be the Mexican brand Negra Modelo. Why wouldn't we associate a beer from Austria with it?? Because, my friends, unfortunately this style of beer is nearly extinct in its homeland of Vienna. Thanks to the Mexicans, though, the style lives on!

Fun fact: the Hapsburg dynasty of Austria ruled Mexico for three short years. The Mexicans quickly kicked them out, but did like the Vienna-style beer, however, so kept it...along with the polka music. That's right, the Polka-sounding Mexican music we still hear today actually originated while Mexico was under Austrian rule. Isn't it cool how beer opens up a world of historical facts??

Although not as malty as the original Vienna lagers, Negra Modelo exemplifies the style in a very easy-drinking, modern-approach way. Vienna lagers have a rich malty aroma while keeping a clean lager character. They are usually amber or copper colored and have a great, aromatic, off-white foam head. On the palate, you really get that malty breadiness from the Vienna malt, sometimes with a toasty (but not roasted!) characteristic. Hops are there but are well-balanced. This is not a hoppy beer by any means. If you generally like Oktoberfest beers, this is another style to try.

The Pairing

This easy-drinking dark lager goes hand in hand with South of Vanilla's Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. Now, essentially, this recipe is a healthy, paleo-version of the Mexican taco. I love pairing complex dishes like this one with dark beers. Especially malty ones, like Vienna Lager! The sweetness from the potatoes match with the sweetness in the malt. The balanced hops stand up to the ground beef, and altogether, the many flavors of the taco toppings aren't overpowered by any element in the beer. And thanks to the crisp, dry finish of the beer, each new bite of the taco will seem like your first. For this pairing, you don't want any beer that's TOO dark and roasty, which may overpower the more delicate flavors you get from the guacamole and salsa, so a caramel-toned beer like this really solves the equation. Plus, tacos with good Mexican beer? You shouldn't have it any other way! Click here to get the recipe!

Other Examples of Vienna Lager

Although you should DEFINITELY drink Negra Modelo with this Cinco de Mayo dish, there are other great examples of Vienna Lager to try out there:

  • Gordon Biersch Vienna Lager
  • Brooklyn  Lager
  • Saratoga Lager
  • Penn Pilsner
  • Old Dominion Aviater Amber Lager

Happy Pairings!

Beef Carbonnade Paired with Belgian Ale

Hello my libation-loving friends. Long time no blogged. If you're not a personal friend of mine, you probably don't know that I up and moved to Reno, NV. Yep, Andrew and I had about enough of Las Vegas and decided it was time for a new adventure. Of course, we couldn't have waited until AFTER our wedding, but that's how life works, right? We decided to have a new house, new city, new jobs, new marriage, new new new everything all within two months. I have been in Reno a week now, and already am at a noticeable peace with myself. Even though initially moving 8 hours away from home was ridiculously stressful, I have found in this last week, even with unpacking, starting my new job, having the in-laws in town, and not knowing what the hell I got myself into, that I am relaxed, I am happy, and I am calm. It is a feeling I haven't experienced in over 3 years--since Andrew and I started dating, in fact. So although my mind keeps asking "why again did we move to Reno?", my heart reassures me that although I don't know why it was the right decision, it was the right decision regardless.

So, lets get back to the blog now, shall we? With all this Reno talk, I must say there is one bittersweet thing I'm missing already--the Vegas weather. Reno is not bad, I PROMISE! Its actually beautiful out right now, I have the windows open (its a good 65 out right now). However, Reno is a mountain town. It gets COLD here at night (like, in the low 20's...lots colder than Vegas ever gets). So even though its March, I'm actually getting my first taste of winter.

The Recipe

So I was horribly unsurprised when I started craving this hearty dish from my favorite cookbook, The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan. Seriously, go buy it. I have made this dish four times now (which could be considered a record for me repeating ANY recipe). This dish is simple and prepares like a stew, but without all the carrots and potatoes and stuff. In fact, all it has really is caramelized onions and beer. Doesn't that just sound amazing?! Trust me, my amateur-photography photos do no justice. Willan suggested serving it with Braised Red Cabbage and I couldn't agree more. Besides making the dish beautifully vibrant, it adds a harmonious sweetness to the beef. The dish is hearty, warming, and can be made ahead of time if you are entertaining some friends. If you can, save some for leftovers--this dish is even better the 2nd or 3rd day after the flavors have had time to meld together.

The Pairing

As with all recipes that call for beer or wine in the cooking, you should choose the same or similar beer to pair with it. However, this is not a set-in-stone rule. This dish calls for a full 750ml of beer (the same size as a standard bottle of wine). That's a lot of beer! Pick a dark or heavy Belgian-style ale such as a dubbel, Belgian Golden Strong or Dark Strong. These beers will have good maltiness, sweetness, and fruitiness that we're looking for in the dish. Stay away from Tripels since they could be too hoppy and overpower the caramelized onions.

Pair this dish with the same Belgian Ales as mentioned above. After all, this dish has its origins in that part of the world, so we might as well pay tribute! The great thing with Belgian Ales is that most of them have some level of sweetness, which will pair great with the sweetness in this dish. I tried both Red Chimay (Dubbel) and Blue Chimay (Belgian Dark Strong) with the Carbonnade and, although both were good in their own way, Andrew and I both preferred the blue. A dish like this needs a boozy (+7% abv if possible), malty, heavy beer to stand up to it. An easy rule of thumb is to make sure whatever beer you choose is dark. Again, stay away from hoppy beers like Tripels that will counteract the sweetness in the onions.

If you don't have access to Belgian Ales, or just want to try something different, a dark, malty robust porter would go great with this too. Choose a beer with chocolate notes and you won't be disappointed.

Pairing Suggestions

Belgian Dark Strong Ale

  • Chimay Grand Reserve (Blue)
  • Gouden Carolus Grand Cru of the Emporer
  • Rochefort 8 or 10
  • Gulden Draak

Belgian Dubbel

  • Chimay Premier (Red)
  • Westmalle Dubbel
  • La Trappe Dubbel

American Abbey Ale

  • New Belgium Abbey Belgian Style Ale
  • North Coast Brother Thelonious
  • Unibroue Maudite

Wine Pairing

  • this truly is a dish meant for beer, but if you have a guest coming over that will only have wine, choose an off-dry Riesling (QbA or Kabinett would be fine)

 

Beef Carbonnade 

Author: Dani (CaretoPair.com)

Prep time: 30 mins

Cook time: 3 hours

Total time: 3 hours 30 mins

Serves: 4-6 servings

Recipe adapted from Anne Willan's "The Country Cooking of France" Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless chuck/stew beef
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • 4 large Onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Flour
  • 3 Cups/750ml Dark Beer
  • 1 Cup Beef Broth
  • 1/2 tsp grated Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (or a few sprigs of fresh)
  • 1 tsp dried parsley (or a few sprigs of fresh)
  • 1/2 baguette of bread (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Hot Dijon Mustard (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Trim any excess fat from the beef and cut into 2-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat butter and 1 Tbsp of oil in a large dutch oven over high heat. Place half of the beef cubes in the pot and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside; brown the remaining beef and set aside also.
  3. Add the remaining Tbsp of oil to the pan with the onions. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Reduce heat to low and cook until the onions are very soft, stirring often. This should take about 20 minutes.
  4. Increase the heat to medium and add the sugar. Continue frying until the onions are carmelized but not burnt, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the beer and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  5. Stir in the broth, nutmeg, parsley and thyme. Return the beef to the pan stir well. Bring back to a boil.
  6. Cover the dutch oven and cook in the oven until the beef is very tender, about 2 or 2.5 hours. Check the beef every 30 minutes and stir, adding any more broth if it gets too dry. At the end of cooking, the sauce should be very thick and concentrated.
  7. The dish may be cooled and stored in the refrigerator at this point for later use. To finish, simply reheat on the stove top (a longer reheating under low heat will yield the best result).
  8. Serve with toasted slices of baguette with dijon mustard if desired.

Happy Pairing!