Pairings: Biere de Garde and 40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken
Peter recently recommended The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver and as Martha would undoubtedly tell you I am getting into it. While I haven’t gotten my homebrew operation up and running yet (yet!) I have been inspired to try to think about beer and food pairings. Oliver makes a very good case for pairing beers and food although his constant assertions of beer’s superiority to wine belie some kind of deep inferiority complex. I think his best point on that front is that a decent Barolo will cost you upwards of $80 while an outstanding, even superfluous lambic beer can be had for $12.
Oliver describes in detail the various styles of beer and the history of their production. He then offers general food pairing notes before going into a discussion of the most notable producers of a given style, with specific pairing notes for each brand he discusses. In a book on wine such detail would be useless since it is usually difficult and expensive to obtain the very same wine an author discusses but I can actually act on most of Oliver’s notes, especially since I discovered The Four Firkins in St. Louis Park. This store, while a tad on the claustrophobic side, is a beer lover’s paradise. I was able to find all of the styles discussed in the book as well most of the actual brands and specific beers.
This is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts where I explore beer and food pairings, with the help of Garrett Oliver and my local beereries.
Of the beers I brought home from the Four Firkins I was most excited about a French Abbey Ale (bière de garde) going by the name of St. Druon from Brasserie Duyck:
This beer was not specifically mentioned in Brewmaster’s Table, but the brewery was. According to Oliver, bières de garde are notable for their earthy, herbal notes. Tasting this beer, I definitely could get the earthiness, but the herbs were probably too subtle for a coarse palate like mine. This beer was very floral and bright in the way you’d expect an ale to be. You can see that the color is a golden orange and the head is foamy but nor formidable. A very refreshing, interesting beer.
Oliver insisted that this French beer be served with the herbiest, garlickiest, Frenchiest dish I could manage, and that screamed to me Poulet aux Quarante Gousses d’Ail, Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic. I didn’t actually use forty cloves of garlic, just two heads worth.
Roasted garlic, roasted chicken, a vermouth sauce, and plenty of thyme and rosemary: the perfect match for a winter Sunday evening and a large bottle of beer. All you need is crusty bread for spreading that golden garlic. Excuse the blurry photo but this was so delicious that I literally could not stop shaking.
I thought this pairing worked very well; I almost felt transported to a rainy evening in a farmhouse in Provence. Bière de garde was an excellent first step in my exploration of “Real Beer with Real Food” but there are many more to try.