Beer is the New Wine – Barrel Aged & Sour Beer Food Pairing
For a long time wine was the standard when it comes to pairing options with food. Wine has a long history of being enjoyed at the dinner table, a lot of which is the product of tradition but also availability. Local wines would be paired with local food, because that’s what was available. Another component of wine that makes it work well with food is its acidity. Different wines have different levels of acidity but it is a key component in breaking down food quickly, hence why your stomach produces Gastric acid to help break down proteins into smaller components for digestion.
While wine has a few advantages when it comes to food pairing, beer is an extremely versatile option for mixing and matching with your food. (Check out our intro to pairing post for the basics). And while wine is generally more acidic than beer (pH 2.9-3.9) there is an exception, sour beer! Sour beer falls in this same acidity range, typically ranging between 2.8 and 4.0. They also have very low levels of residual sugar due to extended aging. Microbes either living in the barrel or purposefully added to the aging beer consume long carbohydrates, produce acid (and other flavor compounds) which leave a very dry, tart final product with a ton of flavor complexity.
We’re SUPER excited to be launching our first ever barrel aged bottle release! We’ve been barrel aging for years at Spice Trade but these are typically “one and done” batches sold on draft at the brewery. We had such a delicious and complex beer come out of one of our red wine barrels that we just had to share it. Unfortunately the quantity is very limited and will be available both at the brewery and select retailers on December 1st 2017. When it’s gone, it’s gone!
The beer is our Red Wine Belgian Dubbel. This Belgian Dubbel was aged in French oak red wine barrels for 12 months with a mixed culture of microbes then bottle conditioned. Drinks with strong red wine, fruit, and oak character with a medium acidity and dry finish. This beer comes in at a pH of 3.4 which gives it a nice tartness and great level of acidity for food pairing.
The food we’re pairing with this beer is a Seared Ribeye with goat cheese and balsamic reduction. The recipe below is super straight forward to make and will show you how to cook a steak to perfection every time.
The pairing works on a couple different levels. First, pairing a high acidity beer with steak (or any meat really) will help break down the proteins quickly and aid digestion. AKA food coma prevention, key for any and all dinner parties. The second connection is between the balsamic and barrel aged beer. Vinegar is a product of fermentation and shares many similar flavor compounds to those created during the “souring” process of barrel aging. These flavors complement each other while the sweetness of the balsamic helps balance out the tartness a bit. Finally the goat cheese…well goat cheese is just creamy and amazing and should be used on any and all foods.
1lb Ribeye Steak
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper
Assorted Greens (pick your favorite)
½ cup Olive Oil
½ cup Red Wine Vinegar
½ small shallot
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp Mustard
Salt & Pepper to taste
Start by sprinkling and pressing in a generous amount of salt and pepper on all surfaces and edges of the steak. Let rest in the fridge, uncovered for a minimum of 40 min and up to overnight if you’ve got the time. Salting meat helps break down protein chains and pre-brines the meat a bit which will make the steak super tender, juicy and flavorful. Don’t skip this step!
While your meat is resting you can prep the veggies and salad. You’re about to find out how easy it is to make your own salad dressing, brace yourself. Mince the shallot and garlic and whisk together all of the other ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. The mustard acts as an emulsifier to bind everything together. You can store in your fridge and re-use for a few weeks. Shake well before using!
Pre-heat your oven to 275. When its at temp add the steak on a foil lined cooling rack inside a baking sheet (you want the air to get below the steak while cooking). Make sure you have your temperature probe longways down the center of the steak to get a good internal temperature. Cook until the internal temp reads 125 (130-135 is medium rare and you will finish cooking in the cast iron which will get the steak up to this temp range). The steak will be in the oven for about 45 min. The key is to cook it low and slow up to 125 which will give you a foolproof medium rare inside.
Now is a good time to start reducing your balsamic vinegar. Add the vinegar to a shallow pan and set to medium heat. You’re going to heat and stir until it is about reduced by half. It should form a thick consistency (see picture below). Like a watered-down honey.
While the steak is in the oven get some vegetable oil in your cast iron going. For the veggies, use whatever is seasonal and what you’re in the mood for. I used green & yellow squash and some onions. When the oil is shimmering add your veggies and cook them up.
When the steak is getting ready to come out of the oven get your cast iron with the leftover oil nice and hot. Pull the steak out at 125 and sear for 45 seconds on each side in the cast iron. This kicks your Maillard reactions into full gear which is the chemical process that browns meat. Make sure to cook the edges for about 20 seconds each as well. Let rest for 15 minutes. If you cut into the meat now all of the magical juice you just created will be lost because the protein fibers in the meat are still tight and will squeeze it all out. They need time to relax. Let it rest and grab a beer!
You’ll end up with a crispy brown outside and juicy medium rare inside. Top with some goat cheese and a drizzle of you balsamic and you’re all set!