Fall Seasonal Beers: All About Pumpkin Ale!

A lot of beer styles have great stories, but Pumpkin Ale's story is one of my favorites. 

A True American Beer

Back in the colonial days of America, pumpkins were everywhere. It wasn't uncommon to find fields of wild pumpkins, and for that reason, they weren't exactly a hot commodity (because they were everywhere!). 

If a year's harvest was poor and brewers didn't have access to the amount of grains they needed to brew beer, they would turn to the excess pumpkins laying around as substitute. Pumpkins provide plenty of sugar, and that is all that brewers needed to create beer. Therefore pumpkins were used as a "last resort" in brewing--no one purposely used them in brewing unless it was absolutely necessary. 

Fast forward to the 1980s and Bill Owens of Buffalo BIll's Brewery--Bill read that George Pumpkin used to brew beer with pumpkins, so he decided to resurrect the style. However, simply adding pumpkin to the beer didn't impart much flavor, so BIll added traditional spices you'd find in pumpkin pie to give the beer a little more oomph. Other breweries followed with their own interpretations and before we knew it, pumpkin ale is a style again! 

Pumpkin Ale Profile

There is no specified flavor profile for pumpkin ale, but many brewers will commonly include pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to add "autumn" character to their beer. I've tried ones that are straight up "PUMPKIN!" like Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale, and others that are a bit sweeter and dessert-like, like New Holland Brewing's Ichabod Ale (one of my personal favorites this past year!). 

I feel like it has been a recent trend for beer geeks to poo-poo on Pumpkin Ale, but I happen to enjoy them for what they are--a historical beer style resurrected into something completely new. Although most pumpkin ales are released as early as August, I'll hold on to them through September and October and drink to get into the fall spirit. 

Do you like Pumpkin ale or despise it? I want to know! 

Pumpkin Ale.jpg

The Beers of Oktoberfest

Fall is my favorite time for beer because this is Oktoberfest season! There are two styles of beer that we associate with Oktoberfest: traditional Marzen and modern-day Festbier. Check out the video above for how these two styles came to be! 

Oktoberfest 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

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!

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!

Beers to Pair With Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is almost here! You may have thought about which wines you should put on the table, but have you ever thought of having beer instead? Or better yet, have both?! We often think of Thanksgiving as a fancy occasion and automatically rule beer out. However, beer can be just as beautiful as wine. Serve it in a wine glass! The many colors and bubbles from the carbonation will put on quite a show for your guests. Beer is also a fraction of the price of most wines, so I can’t think of why you wouldn’t serve beer with Thanksgiving dinner!

I’ve put my favorite styles to serve with Thanksgiving below. But in general, follow these guidelines and you’ll be all set for your Thanksgiving celebration:

  • Choose beers with low hops/low bitterness. In general, this rules out a lot of American styles, including Pale Ales, IPAs, Barleywines, and Amber Ales.
  • Malty beers are your best matches (think German or Belgian styles)
  • Lighter-colored beers will generally pair better than darker ones
  • Choose styles that are funky, earthy, or spicy. Stay away from smoked and roasted styles, as those will just mess with your food flavors

Saison

If there is one beer that must be on the dinner table, it is Saison. I have had Saison DuPont for the last few years and can’t imagine Thanksgiving without it. Saisons work better than any other beer because they are light and earthy, a perfect complement to just about everything on the table (besides the pie!). They are highly carbonated, (moreso than most beers) so they cleanse your palate after each sip, making each new bite taste like the first all over again. Plus many of them come in 750ml bottles, which makes for a  pretty presentation on the table.

My Picks:

  • Saison DuPont, Belgium
  • Brasserie de Silly Saison, Belgium
  • North Coast Brewery, Le Merle Saison, California
  • Goose Island Brewery, Sofie Saison/Farmhouse Ale, Illinois

Biere de Garde

As Saison’s cousin across the French border, Biere de Gardes go just as well with thanksgiving dinner as Saisons. They are even earthier than Saisons, adding a little more funkiness to the whole experience. However, finding one of these beers is difficult in this country. My advice to you—if you come across a Biere de Garde anytime throughout the year, buy a few bottles and save them for Thanksgiving. After all, Biere de Garde means “beer for holding”!

German Helles

Helles is Germany’s most popular beer style. So why haven’t you ever heard of a Helles? Because beers that are technically in the “helles” category are often mistaken for German Pilsners here in America. Helles is German for “light”, and these beers indeed are light-bodied, refreshing, and very malty, making them great components for Thanksgiving dinner. You’d be surprised that these beers actually all fall under the Helles category, and they’re all delicious:

My Picks:

  • Paulaner Premium Lager, Germany
  • Spaten Premium Lager, Germany
  • Penn Brewery, Penn Gold, Pennsylvania

Belgian Blond Ale

The Belgians seem to be winning this game of Thanksgiving beer pairings, but that’s because the majority of their beers are low in hops and high in carbonation. Belgian Blond Ale is a relatively recent style developed to appeal to pilsner drinkers, and although it is as crisp and refreshing as pilsner, it has the typical earthy/spicy characteristic of Belgian yeast. The best thing about these beers is that they are widely distributed, so you can find them at almost any liquor store. But be careful: these beers are around 7.5% alcohol, so eat plenty of food with them!

My Picks:

  • Leffe Blond Ale, Belgium
  • Troubadour Blond Ale, Belgium
  • Grimbergen Blond Ale, Belgium

Sour Ales

Sour Ales are the next “It” drink in the craft beer world. And quite frankly, I don’t understand why they are just now coming around, as they are the oldest style on this earth and one of my favorites to drink. Sours resemble more of a wine than they do beer. They have ripping, mouth-quenching acidity that begs to be accompanied by food. They almost never have bitter hop flavors, and usually have great funky, fruity elements that other beers wish they had. All of these reasons support why they will go great with your Thanksgiving meal. Serve this to your usual wine drinkers who may scoff at the thought of beer and see if you can change their minds. After all, not all beers are alike!

My Picks:

  • The Bruery, Sour in the Rye, California
  • Brasserie de Silly Sour, Belgium
  • New Belgium, La Folie, Colorado
  • Lindemans Kriek or Framboise, Belgium (fruit lambics that are great for sweet-tooths)

Have fun trying these different styles with your meal this year!

Pork Chops and Applesauce Paired with Oktoberfest

Quick—what is the best beer to pair with pork chops and applesauce? Did you guess Oktoberfest?! How did you know? Was it because you read the title of this blog post? :)

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year for beer. It also happens to be my favorite for food too….what a coincidence! This recipe pairing was actually not even intended to be a blog post, but after I made this dish, it was so good, I knew I just had to share it with anyone and everyone. ACTUALLY, this blog post exists purely because I bought a 30 pound box of apples a few weeks ago and made two huge batches of applesauce. What is the best thing in the world to pair with applesauce? Pork Chops!

Now, the applesauce should be another blog post on its own. But honestly, its so easy to make--Cut and peel about 10 apples, throw it into the crockpot with 1 cup of water, about 1/2 cup of sugar and some cinnamon. Heat on high for about 3 hours. After 3 hours, the apples should be soft enough to mash. Just mash with a potato masher or puree if you want it less chunky.

The Pairing

If you were to ask me what my favorite amber-colored, malty, lightly hopped ale in the entire world is, it would be Oktoberfest. That is pretty specific, but it’s the truth. Oktoberfest is definitely up there with my other favorite beers—right behind saisons and sours—and I think it deserves such a high placement. Oktoberfest is one of the easiest beers to pair things with since it isn’t too hoppy, has a great maltiness, and is light enough not to overpower most dishes. However, it can also stand up to big, flavorful foods as well. Think about what the Germans eat during Oktoberfest—sausage, brats, sauerkraut, cheese, pretzels…Oktoberfest beers go with all these. But what makes Oktoberfest even better is that it goes with sweet accompaniments too, like the applesauce in my recipe, which is a little more difficult for other beverages to do.

Sam Adams is my favorite domestic example of the Oktoberfest style. Note: American versions of Oktoberfest beers are usually darker, stronger, and maltier than examples from Europe. I’m also in love with a local Las Vegas brewery, Tenaya Creek’s, version of Oktoberfest. Unfortunately they don’t bottle theirs, but I’ve got a keg coming my way in just a few days for the house :)

Paulaner Oktoberfest and Spaten Oktoberfest are my favorites from Germany, and actually, I think the Paulaner went a little better with this dish than the Sam Adams. Maybe not better, just different. Its worth it to pick up both and compare them for yourself, not only to learn what you like better but to get an understanding of the differences between an American Oktoberfest-style and a European.

The Recipe

This recipe is nothing fancy--in fact, I take pride in knowing its a simple, weeknight-dinner kind of meal. The kind of meal you can make quickly and enjoy a beer with. I made these pork chops with the applesauce and also potato pancakes, making for a complete anything-but-green meal. I originally found it on The Pioneer Woman and make it whenever I want to make a nice meal but have zero time. I hope you enjoy this one!

Easy Pan-Fried Pork Chops

6 thin-cut, bone-in or boneless pork chops

3/4 Cup All-purpose flour

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp seasoned salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 Cup canola oil

1 Tbsp butter

Instructions

1.  Combine all dry ingredients in a shallow pan. I use a small casserole dish.

2. Salt and Pepper both sides of the pork chops. Place into the dish with the dry ingredients and dredge both sides, making sure every side of the pork chop is covered in the flour mixture. Repeat with all pork chops.

3. Heat oil and butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, place 3 pork chops in the pan and cook 3-4 minutes per side. When finished, set aside and continue with the second batch of pork chops. Serve with homemade applesauce and potato pancakes, and of course, Oktoberfest.