Pairing your Garrison


Way back in March, I talked to Daniel Girard, Brewmaster at Garrison Brewing about beer pairings, for an article I was working on for the Coast. I wanted the perspective of a local brewmaster while writing the article, and he sent me a lot of great insights, wonderfully thought out information and pairing suggestions for their products. Since the article was more about generalities than specific craft beers, a lot of his great information got left on the editing room (laptop) floor (.doc).

After enjoying a flight of Garrison beers this past weekend with my Passable pal, Kristina, I dug up the info and thought I’d share it here.

Girard is, obviously, a huge fan of craft beers and feels that they not only make some of the more mainstream ales pale in comparison with their microbrewed counterparts, but pair with food more easily than wine. “Craft beers are generally more flavourful and complex than mainstream products. Depending on the style, a good craft-brewed beer has specific qualities that will subtly marry your food. The reason for that may be its aromatics, caramel flavors, roasted flavors, bitterness, alcohol level, acidity, residual sweetness or the use of non-traditional ingredients.

One of those reasons for beer’s easy relationship with various foods is carbonation—this is why a sparkling wine is so easy to pair with so many foods and are an easy fallback when you’re unsure what to order or underwhelmed by a by-the-glass menu at a restaurant.

“The carbonation level that beer has as a natural by-product of the fermentation gives a refreshing impression and cleanses the palate,” says Girard. “It is efficient even with mouth coating food such as cheese and chocolate. After sipping on a beer, your tasting buds are restored and able to enjoy the flavours that come next.”

Cheese is a great example of a food that pairs beautifully with beer. “When you taste cheese, the main elements found are salt, cream, butter, nut and mushroom.  They are easy to match with beer,” Girard says. “Over the years I discovered that blonde ales or lagers, pale ales and even toffee-like red ales were matching perfectly with most cheeses. Darker beers with roasted flavors paired very well with Stillton and other blue cheeses, but bitter beers were more difficult to pair.”

Beer pairings, in general, have been growing in popularity. This is something that Garrison has experienced, and which restaurants like Brooklyn Warehouse and Brussels have experimented with, and which we saw at the Seaport Beerfest with Fid Resto, Saege, Mix Fresh Kitchen and—again—Brussels bringing in burgers, pork belly, tacos, sausages, mussels and even desserts.

“We receive e-mails all the time asking about food pairings with beer,” Girard says about Garrison Brewery. “People are really interested in trying new things, in changing their approach with food.”

Girard suggets these pairings for Garrison’s brews:

Grand Baltic Porter: it is great with barbecued meat, stew and chocolate based desserts.  I particularly quite enjoy it with Gereral Tao chicken (Chinese).

Ol’ Fog Burner barley wine:  with its 10.4 % Alcohol per volume and brandy-like flavors, it is great as a digestive.   However, a couple of times a year, I pair it with Foie Gras with lightly toasted French bread;  it is simply divine.

Martello Stout: pairings are similar to the Grand Baltic Porter.  It is very good with Rockefort, Stillton and Old Cheddar cheese. I must add that it is really exceptional with Chocolate cake.

Sugarmoon Maple Ale: it is great with maple syrup based dishes or desserts. It is excellent with crème brulee.

Black IPA:  It is again excellent with barbecued meat and stews.  It copes well with hot and spicy meat dishes.

Hopyard Pale Ale:  it is fantastic with hot and spicy dishes such as the ones encountered in Chinese, Thai or Cajun cuisines.

Oktoberfest: as Craig Pinhey told me about a month ago, it is a very good beer that pairs well with almost any food dishes.  I will add that it is also excellent with any cheeses as well (I would not like to start a list…)

Winter Warmer: It is so good with Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai cuisine.  It has enough sweetness and alcohol to pair with almost anything.