We’ve all seen two poles of beer presentation. Some bars or taprooms will pour their beers into one or two types of glasses, for simplicity, cost, or ease. Usually the beer style itself won’t matter–it’s the total volume of glassware is the determining factor–schooner, pint, maybe liter. At home, similarly, you might use any kind of vessel: shaker pints, beveled water glasses, wine stemware, coffee mugs. Most people in fact do not stock all the types of possible beer glassware (newsflash: there are a lot). On the other side of the spectrum, some brewery taprooms or bars (or super-aficionado home drinkers) will strongly insist on serving each style (or brand, sometimes) in select, “proper” or official vessels. I’m not here to insist upon using specific glassware, nor am I going to tell you that you can just use any glass you want. Wait: you can, in fact, use any glass you want, but there are reasons why certain choices are going to be better than others, and you might actually care. This could be a mind-boggling, endlessly pedantic or pop-sci article, sure–but I’m just going to stick with the main concepts, so fear not. The following breakdowns don’t just apply to beers–wine and other beverages can play too.
Biscuits. They’re one of the best things to come out of ovens, ever. I know everyone has a preferred version–cream, buttermilk, lard, shortening, butter, baking powder or soda, cheesy or sweet, and so forth. To me the buttermilk biscuit is the standard, made with butter and maybe lard or bacon fat: not too tall and fluffy but nicely leavened with some floury heft to withstand toppings or fillings. Okay, so this isn’t a food blog, but I had to wax for a moment about biscuits. I hope you understand.
You like beer (I assume, since you’re reading this now). You probably also like vanilla. It’s a flavor present in so many food products (usually sweet and/or rich) that we’ve all been basically conditioned to like it. But the mysteries of vanilla are many, and I’m here to give you a quick and useful rundown on the beautiful bean and how and why it’s used in some beers. So first, the basics.
It’s hot out. If you’re feeling like me, you’re seeking the most refreshing, cool, and satisfying foods and drinks right now. To me this means a lot of things, but at the forefront of my desire is a light, crisp and refreshing lager, an uncomplicated but clean and bright flavor profile, nicely carbonated and cold. Cucumbers are in season and are lovely and watery, calming and cooling. There’s no need to complicate them with a crazy dressing–a dash of lemon, salt and fresh pepper is often enough, although a sprinkle of sugar and dill fronds are my favorite additions. It’s all about balancing here.
Ah, Europe. The birthplace of many modern types of beer and the motherland of cultivated hops. The first documented hop cultivation is from 936 in the Hallertau region of present-day Germany, an area that remains important in the global hop-growing outlook. In fact, according to the Brewers Association, 80-90% of Germany’s hops came from Bavaria in 2015 (and most from Hallertau, a mere 180 square kilometer area). Overall, Germany produces 60% of Europe’s hop crop and holds about one-third of the world’s hop-growing acreage, says the European Commission for Agriculture and Rural Development.
It’s not a simple act to find a beer to pair with sweets and dessert. Beer doesn’t always play well with other sweet things, and can easily overwhelm or be minimized by dessert. The trick is to not only think about complementary flavors but complementary mouthfeel (texture) and body (richness) as well. You probably wouldn’t have great success in pairing a barley wine with a lemon sorbet, for instance, but a light-bodied brighter beer (like a tripel or a strong golden) would probably do just fine. So here I put rich, buttery (and rather crumbly) shortbread cookies alongside a malty, caramel-y beer for good effect.
New Zealand’s hops have become some of the most coveted varieties for craft brewers around the globe. Sharing some similarities with both Australian hops and newer American hops (such as Mosaic™ or Citra™), NZ produces a number of tropical, bright, fruit-forward hops that are shaking up flavor profiles in beer. New Zealand currently exports 85% of its hop harvest and has been funneling a lot of dedicated time and funding into breeding and development programs for new varieties.
Berry season is upon us here at last! This means: consistently warm weather is (hopefully) going to arrive soon, summer’s bounty is about to unfold, and the season for outdoor enjoyment of food and drink is here. I love so many summer fruits I can’t pick favorites, but some call to mind successful beer pairing options immediately, like strawberries, which I think go very well alongside an American-style wheat beer. That is to say, a wheat beer that doesn’t focus on a highly fruity, banana or bubblegum-like yeast note (like a Baviarian Hefeweizen might). Some breweries might call these American beers blondes to distinguish them from other maltier, less wheated pale ales.
Australia produces around 1% of the world’s hop supply. Not a significant number by itself, but what is significant is their focus on breeding, development and global marketing. Most of the hops currently grown down under are well regarded by American and other craft brewers for their unique flavors and aromas and high alpha acid content (re: IPA appropriate).
It’s asparagus season (and roses are in bloom). Rejoice! Asparagus is known to be a difficult food to pair with wine–notoriously difficult, even. Beer, however, is new territory. I chose a light-bodied, crisp lager that was well hopped with bright citrusy and piney hops to go with a simple blanched asparagus salad–a little lemon, nice salt and fresh pepper is really all you need, but a homemade mayo or aioli would be even more exciting.
Beer writer, maker and server, bartender and spirits enthusiast. All things beer and booze photodocumented here.