Beer + food pairing #12: Berliner Weisse and Chinese Smashed Cucumbers

I’m a firm believer in the “Hair of the Dog” cure for a hangover. You need to replenish your body with salt, sugar, water and more beer. There’s a meme that claims the human body is 90% water, so we are basically just cucumbers with anxiety. This is untrue, the human body is around 60% water so maybe we drink beer to try to reach the higher consciousness of an anxious cucumber but we never quite get there.

I found this cucumber beer quite extraordinary the first time I tried it. I kept imagining I was having a Hendricks gin and tonic rather than beer (which is probably a good way to approach drinking sour beers if you haven’t tried them before). The Berliner Weisse is a cloudy, white, sour beer style from (you guessed it) Northern Germany. It is typically 3-4% alcohol. It was the most popular style at one point in the 19th Century Berlin, and was commonly flavoured with fruit syrups. I think this cucumber version is probably better, in fact right now I think it is the best beer in the world.

To cure your hangover, and improve your life in general, try this pairing:

#12 8 Wired Cucumber Hippy Berliner Weisse + Chinese Smashed Cucumbers

Ingredients:

  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 tsp sugar, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • red chilli flakes
  • coriander leaves, to garnish (optional)
  • you’ll probably want 2 cans of this amazing beer

Method:

  1. Wash the cucumbers and cut them in half lengthways
  2. Place a tea towel under your chopping board, then place the cucumbers flesh side down and use a knife to gently press or smash the cucumbers to release the seeds and some juice
  3. Cut them into rough pieces around 2cm long/wide
  4. Place the cucumber pieces in a strainer over a large bowl. Sprinkle in some sugar and salt, then mix this through and leave them to drain. Place a saucer on top to press them down, and put them in the fridge for around 30 mins.
  5. Mix the sugar and salt into the rice vinegar. Then add the sesame oil and soy sauce.
  6. Take the drained cucumbers from the fridge and put them in a mixing bowl, then mix through the olive oil. Add half the garlic, half the vinegar mix, and a pinch of chilli flakes. Taste, then keep seasoning until you find a balance you like. I used the full amount of seasoning but I think it’s wise to add half at a time. You may like to add more salt. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Eat and rejuvenate!

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Beer + food pairing #12: Berliner Weisse and Chinese Smashed Cucumbers

Beer + food pairing #10: Champagne and strawberries, the beer drinkers’ version

Tonight, due to necessity (A.K.A. my resistance to the idea of either leaving the house or making an actual meal) and also creativity (A.K.A. my resistance to tidying my room, yes the truthful words of a 30-something procrastidrinker)…. I came up with this delightful pairing.

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Something like that.

Champagne and strawberries is a bit of a cliché, but I am not here to deliver your stock standard.

#10 BEER BREAD, STRAWBERRY JAM + GARAGE PROJECT’S CHAMPAGNE PILSNER

I have tried making beer bread before, using a standard beer, but this time I decided to splash out on some quality ingredients. I’m telling you, it’s worth it!!! The smell of this beer bread cooking was fairly saliva inducing.

Maybe this in inadvertently inspired by Garage Project’s Beervana offering of Fairy Bread to match their 5th Birthday themed beers. This is kind of the adult version. I’m hoping they would approve.

I chose a pretty fancy sounding beer (Hops on Pointe was brewed for the Royal NZ Ballet) and initially I had an idea to pair it with something equally high brow. However, when searching the shelves for an appropriate beer to make a beer bread, this one seemed to fit. German malts, Nelson Sauvin hops, and Champagne yeast. A pale gold lager with a crisp, clean palate, rich tropical fruit aromas and tight champagne bubbles.

Hops on Pointe teases the traditional boundaries between high and low culture. I imagine drinking this with good friends and the resulting scene being like something from Absolutely Fabulous.

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Ingredients:

  • 330ml can of Hops on Pointe Champagne Pilsner
  • 2 and 3/4 cups of self raising flour
  • 3 tsp white sugar
  • friends (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil (or butter)
  • more Hops on Pointe Champagne Pilsner
  • strawberry jam and coconut butter (or whipped cream) to serve

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Method:

  1. Make sure your beer is at room temperature for the beer bread, or heat it up it slightly.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  3. Mix the first 3 ingredients in a bowl. Lightly grease a loaf tin with some coconut oil or butter, pour the bread batter in (it will be quite a wet dough) drizzle with a little more coconut oil or butter and bake for 50 mins.
  4. Slice and serve while warm, with either coconut butter (I’m going for some vegan and dairy free options here, don’t judge me) or cream, and strawberry jam.
  5. Match with Champagne Pilsner, and follow with red wine or anything else you desire.

Beer + food pairing #10: Champagne and strawberries, the beer drinkers’ version

Beer + food pairing #8

Good George is a Hamilton based brewery that began in a former church. Their belief is that beer “shouldn’t be bland, full of chemicals, mass produced and boring. Nor should it be hard, pretentious or scary.” Amen to that!

Coffee is a daily necessity for me, and Good George’s collaboration with Rocket coffee could easily be a daily indulgence. The flavours in their Coffee IPA are not rich or overpowering; rather they compliment the bitterness of the IPA. It’s a sessionable beer with aromas of grapefruit, pine, coffee, lemon and lime.

I’ve tried this beer on 3 occasions and the best it tasted was alongside this simple satay sauce. The peanut and chilli in the sauce bring out the coffee tones in the beer nicely. Prawns and a garnish of coriander will compliment the lemon and lime flavours of the IPA.

#8 Good George Rocket Coffee IPA + Satay Sauce with Prawn and Vege Kebabs

Ingredients:

  • olive or peanut oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp sweet soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp good quality crunchy peanut butter
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • raw prawn tails (marinated in a little sweet soy sauce)
  • veges such as kumara and eggplant (whatever you fancy – this recipe can be vegan/vegetarian)
  • coriander leaves (optional)
  • 1 can (at least) per beer enthusiast of Good George Rocket Coffee IPA

Method for Satay Sauce:

  1. Finely chop the onion and garlic.
  2. Heat 1/2 Tbsp oil in a wok and fry the garlic, onion and chilli over a medium heat until the onion is soft. (Use less chilli if you prefer a more mild sauce.)
  3. Stir in the brown sugar until lightly caramelised.
  4. Add the soy sauce and peanut butter and stir through.
  5. Turn down the heat and add coconut milk a little at a time until you achieve your desired consistency.

Best served immediately, but can be reheated with a little extra coconut milk.

Method for Prawn and Vege Kebabs:

  1. Preheat your oven and roasting tray on grill to 200C. Cut peeled kumara into one inch cubes and rub with salt and olive oil. Grill for 30 mins.
  2. Cut eggplant into cubes and rub with salt and olive oil. Add to the oven tray with kumara and grill another 10 mins.
  3. Once veges are nicely browned, remove from the tray and grill the prawn tails (these should be thawed and marinated in a little sweet soy sauce for ideal results) for around 4-5 mins.
  4. Thread prawn tails and vege cubes onto skewers and top with satay sauce. Garnish with some fresh coriander leaves and serve with Coffee IPA.

Yum!

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Beer + food pairing #8

Beervana: Consider everything an experiment

While I was down in Wellington, I met some people, drank some beer and saw some art. I also got soaking wet socks, took my suitcase into a supermarket, and totally overcame my fear of drinking alone.

But the best part is looking back on the festival and seeing how much creativity was there and potential for diverse experiences.

The stalls ranged from a simple set-up with a tablecloth and a few bottles, these type of stalls were typically manned or womanned by the brewer themselves, to a slick party-vibe set-up (such as Garage Project, celebrating their 5th birthday who provided party hats and where you could buy fairy bread and Traffic Light themed beverages!)

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Me and Pip on the far right, at Garage Project’s 5th Birthday stall

I also especially liked Eagle Brewery’s “Brewing Bad”, a Breaking Bad themed bar, which is also where I tried the most unusual beer of the night. The Arty Farty Sahti tasted like dried bananas, with a lovely smooth rich mouthfeel. My review on the beervana app is “If u like deep fried bananas this beer is for you!!” Okay maybe I had fried food on my brain by this point in the night, or my brain was totally fried, but it’s accurate!

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Photo credit @EagleBrewingNZ on Twitter

“A complex mix of Juniper, clove, banana and sweet rye malt.” Sahti is a Finnish farm-style beer, developed using ingredients available near the farm such as Juniper branches, berries, herbs and spices. It is a cloudy beer, made using a long step infusion mash and traditionally filtered through Juniper twigs or made using Juniper berries instead of hops. It has yeasty and phenolic flavours and a distinct banana taste due to the production of isoamyl acetate by the yeast used. Some examples have a sour quality, but this one was on the dessert spectrum.

I kind of over-did the sour beers, the Traffic Light from Garage Project literally tipped me over the edge at 3.0% ABV. I was thankful to taste a decent APA (or an IPL from Basecamp Brewery, Oregon). I came across an excellent hoppy Pilsner called “Pop’n Pils” from B.effect Brewing Co. based in Wanaka. They said it was a hit at Ryhthm and Alps, and I can see why. It sings out Summer Festivals for me.

Another interesting discovery were Mash Tun Crackers, reincarnated from mash used to make Tuatara’s Heather Ale “Heather lives on.” I found the Heather Ale a little tart for me at that point, preferring Tuatara’s Wild Pumpkin Ale that had a bit more sweetness and finished with a nice touch of vegetable character. And I just can’t get enough of Good George’s Blueberry Gose, “Fruity, dry, balanced, all round yum-ness” my notes say approvingly.

So those were my highlights. I tasted around 30 beers in total, over three sessions. I made some new friends, partied at the Choice Bros Silent Disco, then made a trip to the Wellington City Gallery the next day. There I discovered a wonderful 1960s pop-hippie artist, a Catholic Nun, activist and teacher called Sister Corita.

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Image credit Sean St. Lewis from his blog http://www.berlinsixsenses.com
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Sister Corita’s art rules, popularized by John Cage

Sister Corita’s art rules are me in a nutshell. Do the things and worry about why afterwards. Don’t try to create and analyse at the same time. Drink the beer, talk to the people, go to the places. “Rule 4: Consider Everything An Experiment.”

Beervana: Consider everything an experiment

Beer + food pairing #6

There are some beers that are best suited to celebrating an occasion; and what better occasion than eating creme brulee!

A good pairing will reflect the weight of the food/beer on the palate, as well as either complimenting or contrasting the flavours. The richness of the creme brulee is cut through by the pine and resin qualities of Epic’s Armageddon IPA, while the green tea flavours are a hat tip to its high hop content.

This beer is described as “an apocalyptic assault on your preconceptions and taste buds”.

#6 Epic Armageddon IPA + Green tea infused crème brûlée

Ingredients:

  • 300ml Lewis Road Creamery double cream
  • 150ml milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 2 green tea bags
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4-6 tsp caster sugar for topping
  • 1 bottle of Epic Armageddon IPA

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 150C. You will need 4-6 small ramekins of roughly equal size and shape. Find a large roasting pan, and ensure the ramekins fit side by side in the pan. Fill your kettle and bring it to the boil, ready to pour around the ramekins once they are filled with custard (bain marie) to cook them evenly.
  2. In a small pot, gently heat the cream and milk with the tea bags, vanilla pod and cinnamon. Don’t let it boil, but slowly infuse the flavours (4-5 mins).
  3. In a separate large bowl, place the egg yolks, sugar, salt and cornflour. Whisk these until well combined.
  4. Bring the pot of cream to just below boiling, as soon as it starts to bubble drain it through a sieve into a measuring jug.
  5. Gently pour the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking as you go. Sieve this again back into the measuring jug, which enables you to pour it into the ramekins.
  6. Carefully pour the hot custard evenly into the ramekins. Once this is done, pour the water from the kettle (it should be hot but not scalding) around the ramekins into the roasting pan. Place the pan into the oven.
  7. Bake for 25-30 mins at 150C. You might find some trial and error with the cooking time. I need to add 10 mins for my oven, which is an old conventional type. I also could not perfect this recipe without the cornflour, although the original recipe did not use any. The texture of the baked custards is far superior to finishing it on the stove top, so I do recommend persevering til you achieve it!
  8. Once the custard is cooked, let it cool slightly then refrigerate for a few hours. Once cold, you can sprinkle with sugar and caramelise it. This is best done with a culinary blowtorch, but you can place it under the grill on a high heat for just a couple of minutes (the custard will melt a little if you do it this way).

Enjoy!

Beer + food pairing #6

Beer + food pairing #1, #2

The elusive art form of creating the perfect match!

I’m going to share a few little gems here, but don’t forget that tasting and trialing your own pairings is all part of the fun and experience of drinking! My tastes may differ from yours, and hence the post starts with anchovies. Enjoy!

#1 Strong lager + sherry strawberries

Harrington’s Ngahere Gold paired with poached strawberries and anchovy. Just screams out Summer!

Ingredients:

  • 125g ripe strawberries
  • 30ml medium sherry
  • 8 white anchovies
  • one bottle of strong lager to share

Method:

  1. Slice the strawberries and place in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the sherry and reduce a little (3-4 mins).
  2. Turn the heat down and add the anchovy. Stir to coat evenly.
  3. Take off the heat and cool to room temperature before eating. The anchovies turn pink so they look way less intimidating!

Serves 2

P.S. I generally find lagers dull and boring, so I chose a strong lager with sweet, pungent grassy qualities. The sweetness of the strawberry complements this beer while the white anchovy gives a delicate saltiness, so it is crisp and cleansing on the palate.

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#2 White IPA + salted toffee cashews

Moa’s Southern Alps is an unusual fusion of Belgian Wit and IPA. I found it paired nicely with the delicate creamy flavour of these scrummy cashews and it brought out the sweet coriander notes in the beer. In fact these nuts will go with basically any beer, so this is an excellent crowd-pleasing match (be warned, it’s hard to stop eating them!)

Ingredients:

  • one cup of raw cashew nuts
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • some good quality flaky salt
  • one bottle of Moa White IPA

Method:

  1. Throw all the ingredients except for the salt and beer into a heavy based frying pan over a medium heat.
  2. Stir gently until the sugar begins to caramelize (about 5 mins).
  3. Grab a sheet of baking paper. Once the cashews are coated in gooey brown toffee, lay them out in clusters on the baking paper to cool.
  4. Once cooled, sprinkle with finely ground salt to taste. Wash them down with beer.

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Beer + food pairing #1, #2

BitterBitch

Today I really earned a beer.

So, I stopped at the supermarket on my way home and bought one. This beer was all the right things. It was $4.99 (which is a pretty good price when you’re buying a single bottle) and it said “Bitter” so I knew I’d like it. Plus the word “Bitch” appealed to me.

Smells: Like beer, and that is a really good thing right now.

Tastes: bitter, caramelly. First impressions are hoppy. But it’s not bitter or hoppy in an astringent way. I could definitely down a few more of these babies before transitioning into my nighty with a cup of chai. It has a caramelly brulee’d sweetness underlying it’s punchy exterior. The label describes it as “A hop-filled IPA with a solid malt backbone.”

BitterBitch is made using English malt in the grist, and a bold English bittering hop in the boil. Which doesn’t mean much to me yet, but I’m trying to understand the complexities of beer a little better.

For now, analyzing this perfect little bottle while I put my feet up is complexity enough for me.

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BitterBitch