Saturday night was my first actual multiple course beer dinner. We had made plans with friends and of course I figured why not do some pairings. I was put in charge of desert and of course, the beer. I needed to know what was on the menu for the evening in order to do any successful pairings. After talking with my friend, I got to work pairing some beers with her meal. We were planning three courses, so I needed 4 beers one for each course and an aperitif. Turns out her husband had a great desert beer, so I just needed to pick out desert for that pairing. I started my pairings by doing the desert first, then moving on to the aperitif, then the first course and finally the second course. All the pairings went quite well with each course, starting us off was the aperitif.

An aperitif is meant to wet the palette and stimulate the appetite, to get you ready for your meal. I figured for this night we would need such a stimulant, given we (us guys) would be grilling. For this task I chose Pilsner Urquell which fit the bill just perfectly. It has a sharpness about it that cleanses the palette, your taste buds don’t get exhausted by malt sweetness, which makes it the perfect beer for preparing your taste buds for dinner. Now I have already paired this beer, but this is a great everyday, all around beer. I can’t get past the simplicity, yet the depth of this beer. This pilsner is a world renowned classic and the oldest of all the pilsner’s currently offered. Pilsner Urquell actually started the style, which makes this the original. This beer has it all, a sharp bitter flavor, light malt sweetness and a refreshing amount of carbonation. We enjoyed several of these around the grill as we prepared our main course and it certainly did prep my palette for what was coming up.
Our first course was a salad, which is a very common first course. The difference was in the ingredients of this salad, which were lettuce (of course), strawberries, sharp cheddar cheese and a white wine vinaigrette. I was a tad leery about strawberries, but I must say, it will be a must have again, perhaps on a summer night. With this course I paired an old original much like Pilsner Urquell, though this one brought a different dynamic to the table. Paulaner Hefe-weizen was the choice to accompany the salad. It matched perfectly; light bodied, light carbonation and light hop bitterness. Hefe’s tend to have a citrus flavor due to the yeast, which accentuated the strawberries and vinaigrette very well. Hefe-weizen’s are wheat beers, which keeps the body light, something you need so that you do not over power the lightness of a salad. You can easily go overboard and kill the flavor the of the beer depending on the dressing, keep it light, stay away from creamy and spicy toppings and you’ll be good to go. Now we’re on to the main course.
Grilled pork tenderloin. If that doesn’t get the mouth watering you must not have a pulse. The pork was sliced and served over a bed of linguine noodles with a very light white sauce, with mushrooms and bleu cheese. My word, what a dish, the succulent sauce and bleu cheese with a nicely caramelized piece of pork tenderloin. It was divine to say the least. Pairing this beer was a success as well. When heard what the main course was I knew exactly the beer. With this dish I paired Victory Saison, which is an American version of a Belgian classic. The Saison or Farmhouse Ale is a very rustic yet very refined beer. The layers of flavor are enhanced in every taste by the still active yeast. These beers were first brewed by farmers during the winter time, then stored and drank during the summer months. The malt sweetness of the beer matched the pork perfectly, that beautiful caramelized outer layer of pork finished remarkably by the beer. The hop bitterness sliced through the fat pointing you straight to the flavor. The earthy, floral hop aroma accompanied the grilled meat very well, what a terrific blend. To finish, the carbonation easily cleansed the palette preparing you for the next bite. It was incredible. I’m not sure how I made it to desert after this meal, but I was sure glad that I did.
Finally, we settled in for our final course, desert. This course seemed to be the crowd favorite, although I was stuck on the pork and Saison for the remainder of the evening. For desert we had a double chocolate fudge cake, two layers of cake, iced with dark chocolate fudge. This was a magnificent piece of cake and finding the right beer wasn’t too hard. Actually, we had the beer and I found the desert, but either way. Sly Fox Raspberry Belgian Wheat was a perfect match. Once again, we had a wheat beer, which was light in body, perfect for not overpowering the cake and the other flavors of the beers. I wouldn’t pair just any wheat beer with this cake, but the fruit flavor lent a lot of mouth feel to the beers flavor. There was a low hop bitterness, which again was good not to overpower the sweetness of the cake or the fruit. The best part was the finish, the raspberries picked up where the cake left off, leaving you with a chocolate raspberry flavor. The moderate carbonation sliced through the thickness of the icing, cleansing your mouth for the next bite. A small bite of cake was so enhanced by the fruit dynamic of the beer, what a fantastic pairing.
I would have to say that the night, with all the foods and all the beers was a terrific success, Barleydine’s first multi-course dinner. The crowd seemed to be pleased by the beers that I chose to accompany our many courses, they seemed to all land on the desert as their favorite. Turns out the beers, except the aperitif, were all of Belgian influence. For years I have passed on Belgian beers, recently I have become very bored with the American Craft Ales and all the “different” versions coming from breweries all over the country. I needed a change and Belgians have offered up a nice, refreshing, incredible change. They bring a whole new level of flavor and complexity of depth. They taste historical and rustic, yet refined and delicious. Absolutely incredible beers. Unfortunately, tonight, I have no recipes for what was cooked, as I did not prepare the meal, But remember the key notes of food and how they relate to the beers. The pork and it’s caramel flavors with the rustic depth of Saison. The light, vinaigrette salad with a citrus wheat beer and the raspberry flavored wheat finishing the chocolate cake. Try these, try different pairings, experiment and remember:
beer + food = Barleydine


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