Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Celt Experience - beer and food

Celt Experience

We want to take a look at these beers in a more natural setting; namely, the table. For individual tasting notes for each beer, refer here please.

It's almost a shame that beer is most often think of as being best enjoyed on its own. After all, few alcoholic beverages have the versatility to go with a wide range of foods as beer does. Wine certainly doesn't. Try to drink the wrong wine with the wrong dish . . . utterly disastrous. And unfortunately, wine and food can be tricky. Why do you think there are so many writers whose entire careers revolve around piece after boring piece about what to drink with what?

Just as the true winos have disproved the whole red meat with red wine, white meat with white wine absurdity, we have to get beyond the notion that beers are best ice cold and on its own. That's no good. So let's start now and make a conscious effort to drink good craft beers with food, and understand how different styles match different flavour profiles. Beer is versatile, so incredibly versatile with food. Savoury food, spicy food, all kinds of proteins, raw seafoods . . . start of meal, end of meal, and pretty much everything in between, beer can handle it all. The key is to know the style. And by style, we're really looking at the hop profile, the type of malt used, and what kind of roast was applied. So as long as we can identify the flavour profile of the beer, we can determine which ones to serve with any specific food.

Celt Experience Bleddyn 1075

Celt Experience Bleddyn 1075

Starting with the Bleddyn 1075, in the pale ale style. Really hop forward, with the bitterness rising on the finish. Bit of a higher alcohol too, at 5.6%, staying fresh and lean. With these types of beers, you want contrasting flavours. These bitter ales are really singular in both flavour and texture - those hoppy notes refresh the palate, and you want to eat food that wraps around that bitterness, not enhance it. So of course, common sense would dictate something either very rich, or very spicy. Rich dishes, meats or whatever you like, work because the beer cleans it all up in the mouth. You want your drinks to prep the palate for the next mouthful of food, letting you eat more than you should. Spicy foods - and whatever kind of spicy, chili peppers or peppercorns or whatever you're into - works extremely well. We do this poached beef tenderloin that's been tenderized in the pressure cooker, and eaten with a chili/garlic sauce. Spicy and almost numbing on the tongue, but a good pull of the Bleddyn 1075 cooled off the heat, with the hops taming that overt spiciness.

Not common, but I liked drinking this with seafood. We had these really fresh west coast shrimps, and simply poached them in salt water. Dipped in a savoury soy/sesame seed oil sauce, the hoppiness of the beer again seems to lift that marine flavour of the shrimp. With so many different flavours and textures of food around the table, a beer that cleanses and refreshes is very welcome indeed.

Celt Experience Golden               Celt Experience Bronze

Celt Experience Golden (left) and Bronze (right)

With these softer, rounder ales, I found them more easy of a companion, just because the hops weren't so overt. We didn't exactly find the perfect food match (if such a thing even exists), but nothing didn't work either. The beers went lovely with the roast duck we were having, showing just as well with the homegrown bok choy and celery as well, cooked in the Shanghainese style. I love the warm roasted malt character, the roundness on the palate, and that slight hoppy lift on the finish. I'd imagine this to be excellent with a pan seared rib steak, whatever protein you like eating. The beers have an effect of both building up the savoury elements of the food you're eating, as well as finishing dry, key in refreshing the palate. It's that complementary thing you want to aim for - the beer and food aligning up in flavour profile.

Celt Experience Native Storm               Celt Experience Dark-Age

Celt Experience Native Storm (left) and Dark-Age (right)

These ales with the heavier roasts are bit trickier, just because they can almost be a blanket on the palate, covering up more delicate flavours. But then you don't want your food to be too rich; if the flavours are both assertive, you're creating a brawl in the mouth. And that's no fun for anyone. Some say these stouts go well with raw oysters on the half-shell. I disagree, but then again I'm with the winos who swear by Sancerre and dry white Bordeaux (oaked sauvignon blanc) with shellfish. These richer beers, to me, are perfect for autumn flavours. Game, if you can find it, seared quickly with some thyme or rosemary or whatever you like. Mushrooms, oh yes. And my goodness, if you can find truffles . . . divine. What I like about these two beers is that the textures remain leaner and more refreshing. Serving the same function as acidity in wine, it's the texture of the beer that really determines how well it will pair with food.

Outlining specifically the dish that pair with each beer is a pointless exercise, and something that only food/wine writer hacks and wannabes concentrate. Context of how (and when and why) the beer or wine is being drunk is all important, not to mention the drinker's personal tastes. What we can do here is discuss some of the broader flavour profiles that seem to complement each style of beer, with encouragement that everyone experiments to see what works. And that's really the fun part right? The point I really want to make here isn't necessarily that certain styles of beer should only be drunk with certain styles of food. Rather, it's to make clear that fine craft beers deserve to be drunk with a meal, with loved ones, and with a sense of adventure. That's my point.

For friends in Ontario, this was shared with me by Rubaiyat Wine and Spirit - the availability of the following beers through the LCBO are as follows:

Celt Native Storm Crafted Ale, LCBO Item #260299, will be released as part of the LCBO's Spring Beers on February 26, 2012.

Celt Golden Crafted Ale, LCBO Item #224600, will be released as part of the LCBO's Summer Beers on May 20, 2011

Celt Bronze Crafted Ale, LCBO Item #236091, will probably be included in their Autumn Ales released in September, although this is not yet confirmed.


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