I have been putting off making this dinner for some time, but now I can finally share with you my interpretation of a Belgian dinner paired with the Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection. A lot of planning went into this because these 4 beers were very different but very strong in flavor. Some people might disagree with my pairing but I particularly enjoyed putting these together. The beers here are the Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red; New World Tripel; Thirteenth Hour Stout and American Kriek. I tried to find dishes that would be authentic but also bring out the subtle notes of the beers. Away we go…
Cheese Course: Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red
I decided to pick some cheeses from Belgium and the Netherlands. Belgium is a country uniquely divided with part of the country speaking Flemish which is a version of Dutch and the Wallonians speaking French. Being in America, I did the best I could to procure cheeses that fit the region. Most of the cheeses were soft and funky so I decided to pair the funky and slightly fruity Stony Brook Red to accentuate the flavors in the beer and to bring out the earthy creaminess of the cheese.
Cheese #1: Vieux Chimay
A wonderful cheese made by the Trappist monks that bring us the infamous Chimay beers. The beer worked wonderfully with this cheese. It was very nutty and almost reminded me of nice roasted peanuts with a dark cherry or raisiny finish. It was like eating granola after enjoying a creamy textured cheese. A pairing like this is always fun to find because both items bring out new flavors that you don’t experience when the beer and cheese are separate.
Cheese #2: Fromage D’Affinois de Brebis
A sheep milk cheese from the Rhone-Alps region in France. It has a nice creamy slightly acidic flavor and texture. The beer really helps your notice the grassy, gamey nature of the cheese. The milk is very sweet and brings out a nice cherry flavor. The beer finishes feeling like a nice creamy butter.
Cheese #3: Uniekaas Hollandse Classic
A classic firm salty dutch cheese. The beer really makes the cheese creamy and you can sense the grainy saltiness. This saltiness cuts the sour of the beer and enhances the fruit nature of the beer.
Main Course: Vlaamse Stoofkarbonaden with Stoemp
What on earth does that mean to you? It means a Belgian version of a French stew cooked in Nostradamus brown ale. I chose to use a traditional brown ale from Belgium for authenticity. The stew is served on a piece of good sourdough bread with Dijon mustard. The mustard and the sweetness of the sauce cut the spiciness and bring out a nice earthy sweetness that isn’t clawing and is perfect to pair with a nice heavy beer. The side dish is a mash of carrots and potatoes with some nutmeg. I had a few things to think about when choosing the dish. First, I could not do mussels and fries because January isn’t a month that ends in -ber (when mussels are in season in Belgium). Second, I don’t have a deep fryer and I refuse to bastardize the national dish of this great country by serving mediocre fries. Third, it is cold outside and I wanted something more savory. And finally, a stew seemed to fit with the two rich beers I wanted to serve. The Thirteenth Hour Stout and New World Tripel were my picks to pair with this dish.
The Thirteenth Hour Stout is a Belgian Stout which isn’t a style you see a lot but more breweries are giving it a try. The beer brought a nice roastiness to the stew and the dark fruit undertones really work well with the sweetness of the sauce and the onions. The stoemp paired well becoming creamy and the nutmeg really brought a fun new spice to the fruity notes of the beer.
My second pairing was a bottle of the New World Tripel that I had been saving since 2011. I was a little concerned about opening this bottle for the meal because it was one of my favorite beers…in 2011. Who knows how aging works out; did I ruin the beers subtle flavors? The newer versions of the beer had always been lacking something for me so I was very anxious to see how this would turn out. The beer had always had a nice tropical fruit (mango, passion fruit, etc) note but aging the beer took the complexity to another level. The bright fruit flavor I had loved was now a nice finish almost as if the fruit had been dried and the flavor enhanced at the end. The beer starts with a nice full malt beginning and melds into almost a farmy flavor like a Bier de Garde. I was amazed at how complex the beer was. It really mixed well with the stew because the sweet sauce enhanced the tropical fruit finish of the beer. The tripel also had a nice mix with the sides because the nutmeg worked well with the spiciness of the beer. Overall, two different beer styles played up different parts of a great dish in fun ways.
Dessert: Dark Chocolate Mousse
Lets see, of the four beers in the lineup, which would work well with a dark chocolate mousse? Hmmmmm, how about the American Kriek? Dark cherry beer to enhance the fruity notes of a dark chocolate mousse? Sounds good to me. Once again, this was a bottle that I had been saving from 2011 and it too did not disappoint. The sweetness was cut and the dark cherries were really nice I can’t think of a beer that has put me more in the mind of dried cherries. That tangy mouth watering quality is very hard to duplicate. The beer also transformed into a true lambic with more of the sour/tart character the style represents and less of the upfront sweetness that the beer had when it wasn’t aged. The mousse went perfectly with the beer because it let the fruit flavors dance while not overwhelming the palate with too much sweetness. Good dark chocolate has a latent fruitiness that plays very well with lambic style beers and this beer just took it to another level.
Conclusion: This was a fantastic experiment to see if the Samuel Adams Barrel Room collection would match well with Belgian dishes. If anyone wants to try to do something like this, it is important to pay attention to details. I went as far as to use an infrared thermometer so I could serve them within the 50-52 degree window that is best to serve them at. But at the end, everything comes down to taste. If someone tells you to eat something you know you don’t like, it doesn’t matter how good the pairing is. This adventure is all about loving food and loving the beer you are drinking. I hope this post helps you think about planning your own themed beer dinners. Stay tuned for more posts and more of my beer dinners!