Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and Veggie Soup

It being the winter, Helper Monkey Amy and I decided to make a delicious hearty vegetable soup. No meat, only veggies. Don’t worry, it has lots of body, and what the Japanese would call umami (i.e. a savory taste). As part of my post holiday focus on the fitness, I am trying to eat healthier. This may include less meat, but it does not include less beer (very convenient), because beer is healthy. It was a big pot of soup that lasted several days, and one of those days I had a Guinness Foreign Extra Stout with it.

Foreign extra stout is a beer brewed by Guinness for export to places like the Caribbean. Regular Guinness Stout is a very light, low alcohol session beer (contrary to what my unbeer-schooled college mind thought the first time I had one). To make the long trip to the hot Caribbean, they had to brew it to a higher alcohol content. This is essentially the same reason the British invented the Russian Imperial Stout, except for export in the opposite direction. For a long time, to get Foreign Extra Stout, you had to travel either to the Caribbean or to Africa. Now Guinness has decided to import it to the states, and we are all the better for it.

To be perfectly honest, an ideal food pairing for a foreign extra dry stout would probably be some sort of roast beast, but there is no point in trying to make the perfect pairing every time. Some time you just have to sit back and enjoy.

The beer is like chocolate milk made with semi-sweet chocolate. It has a bigger body and more sweetness than its sessionable little brother, but still retains some bitterness on the back-end.  I’d say the bitterness probably comes from the roast malt or barley, and not from any hops as you would expect from a stout from across the pond. It is very smooth with a medium to medium low amount of carbonation. The dark flavors went well with the kale and the root vegetables in the soup. It also added a bit of roastiness that a vegetable soup sans meat might be missing. It also has a nice warming alcohol feel that is good for any cold day. All in all, this was a great winter meal, and only a fire could have made it better.

Beer and Food Pairing: Charkoota Rye and Molasses Coffee Marinated Pork Chops

I’ve wanted to try something new with pork chops. Mostly it has been brine, brine, and more brine, then grill. During my Good Eats watching, I saw him make a marinade application for pork chops that uses molasses.  That is good since I have molasses for the ginger snap cookies I made several years ago, and… nothing else. I mean, what do you ever use molasses for anyway?

I’ve had the New Holland Charkoota Rye Smoked Dopplebock since I recapped it after drinking half of the bottle during lent. The New Holland website is all about pairing this with pork, so I figured why not. I wasn’t sure the beer would will still be good, since the head space was now filled with oxygenating air instead of a barrier of CO2, but it seems to have done alright.

The Pork was a no brainer. It was almost like somebody designed the beer to go with this pork. The pork takes on a bit of smokiness, although not as much as with a proper barbecue. The beer takes your backyard grilled pork chop and adds the flavor of a nicely smoked pulled pork sandwich, with a tad bit more charring. The malt sweetness  of the beer mingled very nicely with the molasses and coffee flavors of the pork. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a second date between all the flavors.

The rice took on a lot of the flavors and sweetness of the reduction sauce made from the pork marinade. Brown rice generally has a pretty nutty flavor, and with the sauce it became almost like a nutty winter treat. Pairing it with the beer brought you right back to the middle of summer with campfires and Independence Day grill fests. It was kind of like Christmas in July.

I also had lemon glazed kale. I have never had kale, but it is a more hearty green than something like romaine, red leaf, or the other leafy greens generally used for salads. My theory was that it could therefore stand up to a more substantial beer than the Weiss and witbiers a salad would best with. I’m not sure it would have worked out so well if it  didn’t have that lemon honey glaze. It also had a pretty good kick from the red peppers and garlic, and I most definitely over salted it. In light of the over salting, the beer was a life (food) savor, as the sweet malt flavor blunted the saltiness of the kale.  If you remember from my last post on the beer, it has a very smoke forward taste and aroma, which I think at times is overpowering. The lemon glaze cut through the smokiness of the beer.  The kale turned out decently sweet as well from the lemon glaze. There was, quite frankly, a lot of competing flavors in the kale, and the beer did its job of bringing them all together.  I can’t really see the beer going with very many leafy greens, but if you cooked them with strong flavors like I did, then you might be good to go.

All in all, it was a pretty good meal. After I sent the dog away I was finally able to enjoy its full gastronomic potential, where the food and the beer became greater than the sum-total of their parts.

Sam Adams Mighty Oak Ale

Once upon a time, the majority of beer was stored in wood barrels. Now it is mostly stored in stainless steel kegs or in bottles. Wood tends to house many and various critters since it is so porous. It is very hard to keep clean and prevent contamination of the beer. Now beers are generally only placed in wood barrels or vats to impart specific flavors. They are usually placed in the barrel for a several months or even years, and a lot of times they are barrels that were previously used for aging a number of liquors. Most of the barrel aged beers I’ve had have been aged in bourbon barrels. This tends to impart a very whiskeyish taste to the beer.

It’s hard to tell what kind of barrels were used for this Mighty Oak Ale, as I don’t think the Oakiness comes through too much. It poured an amber color, as would be expected from the Amber base beer. The aroma was an interesting interplay between the vanilla that is reportedly from the oak aging and the hoppiness. When you taste it you are instantly hit with a vanilla and malt sweetness. It almost seems overbalanced towards the sweet. There is some bitterness on the back-end, but not enough to balance out the sweetness in my opinion for a simple drinking beer.

I think that your best bet is to pair this with something spicy to contrast with the sweetness of the beer. I drank it with a Chipotle BBQ pork concoction I got from one of those frozen meals at the grocery store. I usually try to avoid the pre-packaged meals like the plague, but I’m sure I had some lazy excuse at the time of purchase.  At least it was one you made in oven and not in the microwave. It was actually a parchment paper pouch meal, where everything was baked together in the pouch. In addition to the pork, it had a so-called “tamale” which tasted exactly like corn bread, and not at all like a tamale, and a smattering of root veggies. Nevertheless, both the beer and the food where much improved when brought together. The amber base beer is always in good company with the BBQ flavors that where in this meal. In addition, what the meal lacked in complexity (being a frozen meal), was brought out by the beer. In addition, the little bit of spiciness cut through the sweetness of the beer, providing a nice balance.