MELISSA Monosoff distinctly remembers what she calls her "aha!" beer moment.
Monosoff, a master sommelier at Savona Restaurant in Gulph Mills, was working at Maia, the sadly short-lived eclectic American restaurant on the Main Line. She was trying to find the right wine pairing for an appetizer of barbecued house-smoked eel served with a foie gras torchon and hazelnuts.
"I tried different Alsatian wines, a Pinot Gris," she said. "Not this, not that - nothing worked. It was the eel that was driving me crazy, with its combination of sweet and smoky. Then the lightbulb went off. It's not wine at all - oh, my God! It's beer. Belgian Chimay Red, which is also a little sweet and smoky, was perfect. From then on, I was hooked."
Monosoff now frequently turns to the complexity of beer when she's looking for the ideal flavor match for everything from bitter summer salad greens to sushi to chicken and vegetables on the grill. "You'd be missing something if you didn't experiment with beer and food pairings," she said. "Beer makes so many foods taste better."
With the third annual Philly Beer Week kicking off tomorrow, a riotous 10 days of 872 brew-related events at more than 140 bars in the city and 'burbs, it's no secret that Philadelphians love their beer.
Thinking about how the many complex flavors in craft beer can work with food takes the whole beer experience to the next level.
"That's something wine drinkers don't always realize," said Erin McLean, director of Tria's Fermentation School, the ongoing education academy concentrating on Tria's toothsome triumvirate: beer, wine and cheese. Originally directed just to Tria staff, the academy also offers fun classes for the general public, including the upcoming Beer for Winos, offered by McLean and Monosoff in July.
"We're so spoiled in Philly," said McLean, who combines an education background with a passion for food and drink. "We have an amazing array of beer available to us from all over the world. Beer offers as complex a tasting experience as wine does, so why not explore it?"
Al Paris has been attending his own version of Beer U. in the past year. Paris, a familiar figure on the local restaurant scene for more than two decades, is executive chef at the newly opened City Tap House, an ambitious craft brew pub in a stunning lodge setting that would be right at home in Vail, Colo. Notable for its 60 beers on tap - each line fed straight from a changing array of kegs - City Tap House's impressive beer program is managed by beer steward Andy Farrell , who, along with company culinary director Brian Cooke, a former general manager at the Fountain at the Four Seasons, worked with Paris to develop the beer-friendly menu.
"We did a lot of tasting," said Paris, whose culinary background includes extensive experience with Californiawine. The chef found himself surprised at just how similar wine and beer pairing could be.
"I thought I knew what I liked, but the more I tasted, the more my flavor profile changed," he said.
Pairing light beers with lighter foods and darker beers with heavier foods is a pattern familiar to wine drinkers, added Paris. "And you can often correlate wine to beer - for example, taste the astringent, tannic qualities found in really heavy Barola or Cabernet in a more heavily hopped beer."
Philly's love of beer is downright historical, said Paris.
"Pennsylvania once had more beer breweries than England and Ireland combined," he said. Pay a visit to the City Tavern, in Independence National Historical Park, and you can quaff a pint of Thomas JeffersonAle, one of the restaurant's Ales of the Revolution, brewed to 18th-century specs by locally based Yards Brewing Company.
At MidAtlantic, Daniel Stern'shandsome neighborhood taproom on the ground level of the Drexel Science Center, chef de cuisine Steve Lamborn came up with an array of craft-beer matched dinners for Philly Beer Week.
"Our emphasis is on both the cuisine and craft beers of the mid-Atlantic region," he said. Each evening, from Monday through June 11, he's creating a $35, three-course menu to pair with the likes of Cricket Hill East Coast Lager, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Erie Railbender Ale.
"Beer can be much more forgiving than wine when you're eating something tricky like red sauce, artichokes or asparagus," he said. A hoppier beer, like Indiapale ale, is the perfect complement to traditional bar food and anything with spice. Lamborn makes a zippy dish of pork "wings," boneless pieces of pork shoulder fried and tossed in a molasses chili sauce. "The heat of the wings and maltiness of a beer like Troegs' Troegenator are just made for each other."
Paris' beer-loving menu includes an outstanding sausage trio of lamb merguez, bratwurst and sweet fennel, an array of brick-oven pizzas, mussels spiked with spicy chorizo, roasted garlic or shaved fennel and a daily supper that might include a pan-seared grouper (Monday) or suckling pig (June 11).
When pairing, said Paris, think about matching the flavor notes in the beer - the citrus, earthiness or sweet fruit - with like foods. A few more general thoughts: The hoppier and more bitter a beer is, the stronger flavor profile you'll need to stand up to it.
For vino lovers, red wine is akin to ale and white wine to lager. Hop-forward beers can stand in for a more acidic wine.
But, Paris added, "Really, there are no hard and fast rules. The point is to be adventurous. Try matching complementary flavors, and then try contrasting pairings to see how you like them."
"Just like with wine, there are guidelines, but no definitive right or wrong. Whatever you like is the best pairing for you."
Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20100603_Menu_with_a_brew__Chefs_refine_the_art_of_pairing_beer_and_food.html#ixzz0ppUPIAhR
The National Football League is getting a new official beer.
In one of the largest-ever league sponsorship deals, the U.S. division of brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev NV will make Bud Light the official beer of the nation's richest sports league starting in 2011. A person familiar with the terms of the deal said it is worth nearly $1.2 billion over six years.
Bud Light will replace rival Coors Light, which is brewed by MillerCoors LLC, whose deal with the NFL will expire after the 2011 Super Bowl. A spokesman for Chicago-based MillerCoors said the company tried to reach a deal with the NFL but could not come to terms on the price.
The U.S. arm of Anheuser, based in Leuven, Belgium, already sponsors 28 NFL teams and has advertised on 22 consecutive Super Bowls. "This gives Bud Light real ownership of professional football within the beer category," said Dave Peacock, president of the U.S. division.
Bud Light is the best-selling beer in the U.S., but shipments of the beer declined last year for the first time since it was introduced in 1982, fueling recent efforts by Anheuser to ramp up advertising of the brand.
—By MATTHEW FUTTERMAN, David Kesmodel contributed to this article.
Kiss My Bundt Bakery owner Chrysta Wilson always stocks her fridge with Tecate. Not because she craves the light Mexican beer but because she bakes with it. Her Tecate cake is moist, light and crumbly. It's the carbonation, she says.
Now that beer culture is exploding in popularity in Southern California, beer is even finding its way into desserts, as pastry chefs use it to make dishes that are not only sweet but also have layered textures and flavors that wouldn't be possible otherwise. What started with quirky beer and ice cream floats has now spread to shakes, cakes, gelato, fritters and even candy.
Jason Bernstein started making beer and ice cream floats more than a decade ago, just for fun, while he was in college. Now, at the Golden State, the beer-forward Fairfax Avenue cafe that Bernstein co-owns with James Starr, he's forged a symbiotic relationship with Scoops gelato mad scientist Tai Kim. Their signature collaboration is a float that pairs North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout and "brown bread ice cream" — vanilla ice cream streaked with caramel and loaded with caramelized Grape-Nuts.
"Grape-Nuts are like a wheat berry," says Bernstein. "It was bringing out very grainy qualities that were present but latent in the Rasputin."
Wine has long been part of European cooking traditions. Now, local pastry chefs are discovering beer's even more diverse flavor spectrum, which includes citrusy wheat beers, tangy sours and bitter India Pale Ales, plus stouts and porters with chocolate and coffee notes. Beer is frequently used in batters for savory fried foods, and it can help to lighten cakes as well. Floats, shakes and popsicles are also benefiting from beer's contrasting flavors.
Initially, the Golden Staters focused on earthy flavors, such as chocolate and coffee, but recently started pairing sour beers with tangy, fruit-forward gelatos, matching New Belgium Brewing Co.'s Fall Wild Ale with black currant-mango. "In some ways it works better," says Bernstein. "With sour beers, you can play into more fruit-based aromatics."
The Golden State was just the start of the L.A. beer float revolution.
BottleRock-Downtown LA currently scoops vanilla ice cream into Allagash Curieux, a Belgian-style tripel aged in bourbon barrels, which imparts added vanilla flavor.
In Hollywood, Essex Public House co-owner Greg Link has developed two beer floats: the Espresso Biru with Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout, vanilla ice cream and crumbled Oreos, and the Blueberry Bomber with chocolate ice cream and Sea Dog Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale, which Link insists "tastes like a blueberry pancake." Essex serves each float with the bottle, so diners can customize the richness.
Other restaurants offer beer shakes, in which beer and ice cream are blended. For example, Simmzy's gastropub in Manhattan Beach blends vanilla ice cream with Port Brewing's Old Viscosity, a dark chocolatey ale.
By Joshua Lurie, Special to the Los Angeles Times
CHICAGO—Brewing giant MillerCoors LLC plans to test-market a new beer called Batch 19, which is based on a pre-Prohibition recipe, as part of several initiatives aimed at rejuvenating sales in the sluggish U.S. market.
MillerCoors will start selling the new brew next month in draft in bars and restaurants in Chicago, Milwaukee, San Francisco and Washington, said Peter Swinburn, chief executive of Molson Coors Brewing Co., which co-owns MillerCoors.
Mr. Swinburn said in an interview that Batch 19—named for the year, 1919, before Prohibition began—is designed to attract consumers looking for "a true, authentic, original beer." He said Keith Villa, master brewer at MillerCoors, found a recipe in the archives of Coors Brewing Co. in Golden, Colo., that was used to make one of its beers before alcohol was banned in the U.S. for a 13-year period. "It's the beer that got beer banned," Mr. Swinburn joked.
MillerCoors, a joint venture of Molson Coors and London's SABMiller PLC that was formed in 2008, is rolling out new products and packaging styles amid one of the biggest slumps in demand the industry has faced in years.
Shipments of beer in the U.S. fell about 2% last year. Miller Lite's shipments fell 6.5% and Coors Light's rose 0.8%, according to Beer Marketer's Insights newsletter.
MillerCoors, the second-largest U.S. beer maker by sales after Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, said previously that it would expand to the whole country its $20, refrigerator-friendly draft-beer systems for Miller Lite and Coors Light. It also has said it plans this year to unveil a new type of bottle for Miller Lite that is designed with grooves inside the neck. The new bottle, when poured, will "actually increase the aroma" of the brew and "explode the flavor more," Mr. Swinburn said.
Coors Light has been a bright spot for MillerCoors, but it has struggled to find a way to revive Miller Lite, which has faced declining sales for much of the past decade. "It just takes time given where the brand was," Mr. Swinburn said. "Yes, we're committed to the brand. Yes, we think we'll get it right."
MillerCoors, based in Chicago, is trying to be innovative in a crowded market in which new products have shown a mixed track record. MillerCoors made a hit of MGD 64, a light beer with just 64 calories, and Anheuser did so with Bud Light Lime, a lime-infused version of the nation's top-selling brew. Some other beers, such as lime-and-salt-flavored Miller Chill, have done well initially but then foundered.
Molson Coors has a 42% stake in MillerCoors. Its other big markets are Canada and the U.K. In February, it said its fourth-quarter profit more than doubled to $222.1 million as net sales jumped 11% to $820.8 million. Sales volume in the U.S. and Canada has been down in recent months because of high unemployment and penny-pinching by consumers.
Mr. Swinburn said Molson Coors is seeing some encouraging signs for new products it recently rolled out in Canada, including a 67-calorie version of Molson Canadian, but "it's really, really early."
He also said the beer giant, which has dual headquarters in Montreal and Denver, would consider more acquisitions, but only if they meet stringent criteria, such as adding to Molson Coors's per-share earnings in the short-term.
Mr. Swinburn said the company was encouraged by the growth of Coors Light in China, and might look into buying a brewery in China or starting its own. Coors Light is currently brewed under contract in China by China Resources Snow Breweries, which is 49%-owned by SABMiller.
"We will look to, when the time is right, underpin that volume because it's getting to the stage now where the margin that we would enjoy from producing it ourselves would justify a certain level of capital investment," Mr. Swinburn said. "We've painstakingly built that market over eight years, city by city."
The company sells Coors Light in 42 cities in China and has about 400 employees in the country. Sales of the brand are growing about 30% each year, though off a small base.
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