A Beer-Themed Lunch

MusselsThe name of the place is Esquin Wine Merchants, but we do love (and sell) some good beer as well. I recently attended a beer-themed lunch (can’t tell you how much I enjoyed typing “beer-themed lunch”) at Quinn’s that recharged my passion for beer and, delightfully, introduced to some unexpectedly excellent beer and food pairings.

As a wine guy, my brain has been programmed to think Muscadet whenever mussels are involved. It’s not a bad thought–especially when Pepiere is involved–but I was really surprised by how well one of the beers paired with mussels. I figured it would be the lightest-style beer (the lager or the Hefeweisen) but the mussels turned out to be sensational with the Orval Trappist Ale.

Duck TerrineAnother great pairing was the Samuel Smith Organic Cider with the Duck Terrine. The sweetness and acidity of the cider was a nice counterpoint to the richness of the terrine; duck is a meat that really lends itself to having a fruit component added. In this case, in liquid form.

Veal BreastThis veal was served with a trio of beers (Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, their Oatmeal Stout, and the Ayinger Celebrator Bock) that were all complimentary with the dish. Definitely a heartier beer was in store for this very rich meat; I’d have to say the Stout and Bock were better by a hair.

Apricot TartFinally desert: an apricot and apple tart. It was served with the Lindemans Framboise, which I have to admit I find too sweet. But the tartness of the fruit seemed to tame the sweetness a bit and bring out the acidity of the Lindemans.

I left Quinn’s very full, and full of respect for how well beer can pair with great food. Am I giving up my Muscadet anytime soon? Um, no. Never! (In fact, I’ve got a bottle in my fridge right now.) But I was reminded that the world of beer has many of the qualities that make wine so compelling. There’s a rich history, full of great stories. And it’s delicious.

Full disclosure: Lunch was provided by the distributor and importer.

Food and Wine Pairing Challenge

Food and Wine PairingThe majority of questions I get asked at work involve pairing food and wine. So I thought I would share some of my insights from many years of eating and drinking at the same time. (Well, not simultaneously, but you get my drift, no?) Let’s start in the upper left corner with the salad. Just a fantastically fresh garden salad enjoyed at the restaurant at Cullen Winery in the Margaret River region of Australia. The generous portion of avocado gave it an extra richness, so I was thinking a white with a little bit of body, but enough zip to handle the greens and dressing. Coincidentally, Cullen makes a fantastic duo of Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (or SBS as they call them there) blends with a perfect zip-to-body ratio. It’s interesting to note that the SB portion of the SBS is oaked and not the S. It’s more typical to oak the Semillon rather than the Sauv Blanc. (And I wish I could recall which one I had with lunch: the Mangan or the Cullen Vineyard. The former only has a small percentage of the SB oaked while the latter oaks 100% of it. Both were delicious; that I can recall!)

So now that you’ve been healthy with your salad choice, are you feeling like a burger? Just a classic beef burger from Built Burger. (I highly recommend you visit, especially for the potato beignets, which are deliciously crisp on the outside and like potato clouds on the inside.) This juicy burger needs a juicy red, so how about a Spanish Grenache? I’d go for either the Tres Picos or the Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica. (The latter has a dollop of Syrah as well.) They’re both under $15. I don’t think it’s necessary to have a fancy-pants wine with a burger; just a solid weeknight-drinker.

But I can’t resist getting a little upscale here, so let’s move on to the pizza from Serious Pie. A simple (and simply delicious) combination of Yukon Gold potatoes, pecorino, and rosemary that has me craving a Champagne accompaniment. Potatoes, especially when topped with a salty cheese, have a great affinity for sparklers. Open up some Champagne with a bit of richness and plenty of refreshing, pinpoint bubbles: Vilmart, please.

I’m a bit stuffed, but a few laps around the block have given me some room for dessert. Bacon brittle gelato from Cafe Juanita? I encountered this at Seattle’s turn hosting pig extravaganza Cochon 555. Hmm. Rich gelato, smoky bacon, toffee-ish brittle? There’s a lot of brawn in this dessert! This calls for an Australian Muscat. A dense, sticky, amber-hued wine that will be like a sweet glaze for the bacon; look for Campbells Rutherglen .

So what would you drink with each of these dishes? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.

Label Lust: Hugo Sparkling Rosé

The Hugo

I’m not above admitting that a flashy wine label gets my attention; I appreciate some thought, graphic design, and artistry wrapped around a bottle. It’s nice to have a little sizzle on the outside and deliciousness on the inside, no?

The Weingut Markus Huber “Hugo” Rosé Sparkling (or Sparkling Rosé?) is a true delight. These pink bubbles from Austria are a blend of Zweigelt (a traditional Austrian red grape that I have previously noted a fondness for) and Pinot Noir. I first had a glass of the Hugo at my new favorite restaurant, La Bête, and was charmed by its freshness, elegance, and style. With two of my wine industry brethren in tow, we naturally had to order a bottle. The only thing more clever, playful, and fun than the label of this great bottle of pink bubbles was this trio of dudes at La Bête. We held court at the bar, ate delicious food, gabbed with fellow patrons, and create more than one inside joke. Drinking bubbles just makes everything that much better.

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