November-December 2011 | HOLIDAY CHEER

Dogfish's Matt Patton



Pairing suggestions for some of the region’s finest craft brews with your festive foods

Because the holidays are frequently accompanied by events complete with liquid cheer, we decided to get some savory recommendations from the undisputed king of Eastern Shore microbreweries, Delaware’s Dogfish Head. Matt Patton is the assistant manager of the company’s Rehoboth Beach brewpub and has not only helped brew four of their beers, he regularly handles special events and beer pairings, making him one of the best people in the entire region to speak with on the subject of holiday feasts and the ideal microbrew. Matt gives us a comprehensive list of his favorite holiday pairings, along with an expert analysis of why they are a match made in hops heaven — or anywhere else.

A primer on pairings. There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to pairing beer with food, but there are some broad guidelines to help you find the perfect match. First, try to match the intensity of flavor on the plate with a similar level of flavor intensity in the glass. For example, a delicate lobster bisque might be overwhelmed by the intense hoppy flavors of an Imperial IPA like 90 Minute IPA. Second, try to plan your meal and pairings so that there is some progression from lighter, more subtle flavors in the beginning and progressing to more intense, heavy flavors at the end. Third, relax and have fun! Beer is the people’s drink and the world’s greatest social lubricant, so invite some friends and family over, pop open a few beers and find out what you like best with each dish. Tasting a few of the best wines in the world could cost hundreds of dollars, but you can buy a few of the best beers in the world for about $20 from your local store. 
Beef: It’s what’s for (holiday) dinner. When red meat is on the table, I’m reaching for something dark in my glass. Palo Santo Marron is fantastic with a thick steak; it also makes a great marinade. I start with two bottles. I use three-fourths of a bottle to marinate the steak and add the remaining one-fourth to a pan of caramelized onions for a great topping, then drink the second bottle with dinner! If you like your meat barbecue-style, go for some Indian Brown Ale. The roasty, sweet flavors match the smoky sweetness of the barbecue while the hops and carbonation clean your palate and get you ready for another bite. Raison D’Etre and Chicory Stout both pair well with red meat as well.
Chicken, the original white meat. The preparation of the chicken should guide your pairing decision here: Indian-spiced chicken (e.g., tandoori, curry, vindaloo, etc.) really cries out for a great Double IPA like our 90 Minute IPA. The hops accentuate the spice in a good way while the sweetness cools you down. Fried chicken goes great with our Shelter Pale Ale or our 60 Minute IPA. Shelter Pale Ale would also go well with roasted chicken, as the nutty maltiness pairs nicely with the roasty, crispy skin.
The original white meat… of the sea. Again, the preparation of the fish will determine what works best here, but in general I look for lighter (in terms of color and flavor) beers to pair with seafood. Midas Touch goes really well with lobster or pretty much anything from the sea. Chicory Stout is a classic pairing with raw oysters and one that proves the guidelines I’ve listed are not absolute, since oysters are somewhat delicate, yet our Stout packs in the flavor. Theobroma, meanwhile, works with many Latin-influenced preparations, as it has some spice. It also ties in historically (it is based on an ancient Latin American recipe), which is always a great conversation starter. Chateau Jiahu works the same way with Asian-inspired fish dishes because it has rice, hawthorne fruit and chrysanthemum in the brew. The ginger in Pangaea also lends itself to seafood, especially a ginger-soy–glazed salmon fillet.
The Big Kahuna. My Antonia is an Imperial Pilsner that we release three times a year in 750 ml bottles, and I think pairs really well with turkey. It has a nice bready malt backbone to complement the roasted flavors while offering an herbal, hoppy aroma and nice bitterness to clean the palate. Otherwise, our Punkin Ale is always a good bet with turkey. It is light enough not to overwhelm your dinner but has a great flavor that gets you in the holiday spirit.
Other fowl deeds. For special-occasion fowl, such as duck, goose, pheasant or squab, Punkin Ale is the winner here. It has plenty of flavor to stand up to the dark, roasty meat. I’m picturing a roasted duck with spiced cherry glaze and a nice cool pint of Punkin as the ultimate holiday dinner. The sweetness of Raison D’Etre would also work well with the full 
flavors on the plate here.
Sweet finishes. We make some hugely flavorful beers here at Dogfish, some of which, honestly, might overwhelm any course before dessert. I would put Fort, World Wide Stout, 120 Minute IPA and Olde School Barleywine in this category of dessert beers. Fort and chocolate mousse (or flourless chocolate cake for that matter) seals the deal with me. World Wide Stout goes great with anything chocolate or anything with berries, but one of the best pairings I’ve ever had is World Wide Stout with tiramisu infused with our Brown Honey Rum. 120 Minute IPA is fantastic with Bananas Foster (especially when made with our Brown Honey Rum) and also pairs really well with a sharp-aged farmhouse cheddar or funky blue cheese. Olde School Barleywine goes great with some bread pudding or, again, with some nice blue cheese. 

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