It’s winter here in Seattle, which means it’s time to enjoy all the sauerkraut (and drink all the beers, but that’s not limited to one season)! I love a good fermented vegetable, and I have a particular affinity for well-made German-style beers, and it turns out the two go great together. Of course, you would not really eat sauerkraut alone–it is usually a side or garnish to sausage, roasted meats, or other hearty fare, although I also enjoy it with a variety of other foods. Because meat is typically easier to pair with beer than a funky sour veggie, we’ll start with sauerkraut and go from there. I chose a lovely kölsch from Zoiglhaus Brewing in Portland because I recently discovered them (their beer is fantastic!), but you’re welcome to pick your favorite kölsch from elsewhere. Keep in mind that the majority of American-made kölsches are a little softer and less crisp than a traditional German style. As for the sauerkraut, live (unpasteurized) is best for flavor complexity. If you need a little more background on kölsch as a style, check out my style spotlight article here!
Three Reasons This Pairing Works
1. Kölsch is an ale that is treated like a lager in the conditioning process of brewing (in other words, held a cool temperature post-fermentation)–it’s an interesting combination of crispness and moderate graininess, a rounded-edge mouthfeel and body. These characteristics alongside tart and salty sauerkraut help balance the intensity of the pickly-ness–almost like a piece of toast might do.
2. There can be a lot of interesting flavors in a lacto-fermented vegetable–from fruity, vanilla notes or musky, dusty flavors. The beer helps your palate sense more levels of flavor at once without confusing them–it helps separate flavors, essentially.
3. The tart funk and cabbage flavor helps bring out the gentle sweetness and honey notes in kölsch. How fun!
I hope this helps inspire you all to consume some classic European winter foods and drink some delicious beers alongside. Prost!