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:

Nice bottle, nice pour

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.

You should have seen me cut this chicken apart, it was awesome

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 do it for the garlic

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.


«   »

6 comments on “Pairings: Biere de Garde and 40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken”

  1. Peter 8 March, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Oh man, great article…I am definitely going to have to get that recipe from you. Just reading this is making my mouth water.

  2. Uncle Don 10 March, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Keep up the reviews of beers you discover.

  3. Jack 16 December, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I’ve made chicken and fourth cloves a couple of times. It creates this eye-watering cloud in the house. I found your article because I was searching for a beer to pair. I hope I can find the beer you mention. Any other suggestions?

  4. roger 23 March, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Dear Tom,

    Sounds amazing!
    Would you please send me the recipe too? Edit: email address removed.

Leave a Reply