Beer, once a somewhat lowly beverage in America, has experienced a renaissance over the past 15-20 years. What was once a marketplace dominated by a few cookie-cutter big companies is now dotted with microbreweries in every city. Instead of watered down lagers, the flavors of today's beer are as nuanced as...dare we say it? Wine.
Not all lagers are equal!
Want to explore some of your region's local brews? Host a beer pairing party! This is different than a beer tasting, as with a tasting there is no food to interfere with the sampling of the beer. I don't think that's quite as fun, though, so I selected five microbrews, did a little research, and set up "stations" for each beer and some complimentary food.
Here's what I chose. Feel free to change your selections according to what's available in your neck of the woods. If you get stuck, try asking for help at a specialty store that sells beer (i.e. probably not a corner liquor store). Like wine, beer should be served in order of taste - lightest to strongest.
Station 1: Lager (Metropolitan Brewing "Flywheel")
Lager is a light, goes-with-anything beer. Serve it with whatever you want! I chose triple-creme brie cheese, pepperoni pizza puffs, and kettle corn.
Station 2: Kölsch (home made brew)
This classic German beer pairs best with earthy foods such as manchengo cheese, marinated mushrooms, smoked or grilled meat, salads and shellfish. It also goes well with chocolate. Chocolate and beer? Sure, why not!
The little German dog goes for the German beer station. Coincidence?
Station 3: Weiss/wheat (Two Brothers “Ebel’s Weiss”)
Mmm....my favorite! Maybe it's a girly stereotype, but I love wheat beers (Blue Moon is a popular wheat beer). With such prominent citrus and banana flavors, I paired this with banana creme pie and a tossed salad with lemon dressing.
Station 4: Specialty (Founders "Cerise")
Many breweries create specialty, seasonal beers. You might need to taste the beer first to determine what it will go best with. Take your cues from the ingredients mentioned in the description. This particular brew utilized cherries, so I paired it with Wenslydale cheese with cranberries, cherry cola BBQ ribs, and dark chocolate.
Station 5: India Pale Ale (Great Lakes “Commodore Perry”)
This is my husband's favorite. The hoppiness is a bit too much for me, but many people love it. I think it's like cilantro - either you love it or you don't. IPA's strong flavor stands up well to strong food, so serve it with spicy or fried dishes. It also has a hint of malt, so you can pair it with malted milk balls, too.
You'll see in the photos that I included each beer's original box, so my guests could easily spot it next time they're in the store. I also typed up a description of the beer and the food it was served with. Here's a powerpoint document of my guide, which you can edit for your party.
I also provided a sheet of notes for each guests. Here's a link to the tasting notes. With the notes, your guests can take home a list of each brew along with their impressions of the taste. It can be hard to verbalize what beer tastes like (especially the lager...doesn't it just taste like "beer"?) but after a few sips and bites of food, some unique flavors should come out.
And if they don't...well...good beer, good food, and good conversation is often enough for a great party!
Learn more about the different types of beer (ale, lager, etc.) in this post.