Friday, February 29, 2008

PAIRINGS: Beer and BBQ pt. 4

This is the final article in our series of Beer and BBQ pairings. The previous three articles focused on sauces, but this time we are taking a look at a dry rub. It goes without saying that these articles could not have happened without the kind and informed assistance of Timothy Bisson and Michael Payne.

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup paprika
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
¼ cup ancho powder
¼ cup lemonade powder mix

Michael Payne

- German Pilsner, India Brown Ale

This preparation emphasizes spices, meat, and caramelization from the brown sugar. The recipe for this rub shares a lot of similarities with both Czech goulash and mexican cuisine, so I selected beers that would pair well with those foods.

German Pilsner is a far cry from the mass produced "American Pilsners" produced by the biggest domestic brewers. The best examples have a clean, crisp flavor and refreshing, herbal, earthy bitterness. The dryness will contrast well with the sweetness from the caramelized brown sugar and the unique hop flavors match well with the chilies and garlic.

India brown ale is a relatively new beer style brewed by a few American microbreweries. It combines the strong bitterness and floral hop aromas of an India Pale ale with a rich, caramel like maltiness from the darker grains. The malt flavors will naturally pair well with the brown sugar and the darker chili peppers like the ancho. The fragrant hops and strong bitterness will compliment the spice and contrast with the rich, meat flavors in a way that will refresh the palate.

Suggested Commercial Examples:

German Pilsner - Victory Prima Pils, Brooklyn Pilsner (oddly enough, Americans make some of the best German Pilsners)

India Brown Ale - Terrapin India Brown Ale, Dogfish Head India Brown Ale

Timothy Bisson

Tried three beers with the dry rub brisket and found they all were compatible. Chimay’s Grande Reserve was the best match, though. Its slight sweetness and smooth dark fruit and malt flavors soaked in the brisket adding some foundation to the spices of the brisket. There was also a slight smokiness that came out of the Chimay which was unexpected and pleasant for the meal. The McEwan’s Scotch Ale is another great match. It’s a little sweeter and cleaner than the Chimay. It’s got a little more smoky character than the Chimay. The Scotch Ale’s caramel malt heart and lingering smoke character mingle confidently with the brisket’s robust beef and spice profile. A great combo as well. One key for enjoying both of these beers is that they must be served cool and not cold. Otherwise, the subtle flavors are muted.

I also tried the Schenkerla Maerzen, a Rauchbier, which is very smoky. The smoke flavor slightly overpowered the brisket. But, it added a new layer of flavor to complement the pepper and sweet flavors in the rub. It was good with the brisket but not as good as the other two.

Pork Ribs
The pork ribs and Spaten’s Oktoberfest were made for each other. First of all, the pork ribs and dry rub was my favorite meat and sauce combo. The brown sugar melted into the fat making the pork full of juicy sweetness. Kudos to Eric on the rub recipe. The sweet and spice were perfectly balanced and made the ribs sumptuous. The Oktoberfest has a spicy hop aroma with some biscuit and honey undertones. The malt flavors sink into the pork and fat like me into my favorite chair. The hop bitterness cuts through the fat and links up with the peppers and other spices in the rub in the finish and on my lips. The slight sweetness in the Oktoberfest ties the meat and fat flavors together with the spices and hop bitterness. This was an excellent pairing. Best thing is this beer is quite affordable and available all over the US. Another good Oktoberfest or Marzen that is widely available is made by Paulaner.

Beef Short Ribs
The dry rub on the beef ribs was tasty and added some good spices. Again, the brown sugar melted into the sinew adding complexity to the ribs. For this, we had Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout. This classic American Stout is bold and full of confidence just like the guy on the bottle. It’s also full bodied and robust; and that is what the ribs needed. The beef was very flavorful and full bodied. The beer and beef stood up to other nicely in the body and mouthfeel. Also, the spices in the rub were unique to the ribs as were the roasty and smoky character to the stout. These played like old friends as I got some sweetness and heat from the rub followed by the roasted malt and then lingering spices in the finish. I kept tasting the two and wishing for more. Try Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout if you are in the Midwest as an alternate. But, I think Rogue is widely available.

Chicken Breasts
Ahhh, the dry rub comes through again. The paprika, black pepper and chili powder of the rub come out hot and looking for a fight. You can tell this charred and smoky chicken ain’t one of its own kind. It’s juicy and full of a myriad of flavors. This needs one of two kind beers; a beer that cleans the palate and blends in or a beer that stands up to the feisty fowl and throws a punch of its own. I found one for each category. Flying Dog’s Old Scratch Amber Lager is a well balanced session beer with a finishing malt character that blends brilliantly with the chicken’s sweet juices. It washes the mouth leaving it ready for more spicy grilled chicken. Schenkerla’s Rauch Ur- Bock’s intense smoky flavor grabs onto the char of the chicken and extends the smoky flavor without missing a beat. It also has a clean dark malt sweetness holding the down the fort with the chicken. This beer goes twelve rounds with the chicken and comes out on top. But it’s a split decision. A great pairing.

Amber Lager substitute: Sam Adams Boston Lager
Rauch Ur-Bock substitute: None widely available but Schenkerla widely available in better beers stores


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