Recently, as our 10-month-old son Jackson has started eating more “real” food and less formula, I’ve started looking at the food on my plate a little differently.
Just like Jackson, we need a protein, some starch and some veggies to make a well-rounded dinner. In the baby’s case, the cooking method (bland) and seasoning (none) are irrelevant. But when it comes to what my wife and I eat, we put more thought into how we compose our meal, assuring that, unless it’s leftovers night, we’re not piling spaghetti on the same plate as a scoop of pot roast and a side of sushi.
Steak, potatoes, asparagus.
Baked chicken with herbs, creamed corn, steamed broccoli.
Slow-cooker pot roast with carrots and onions over rice.
These are staples in the Murphy household, but until recently even I, a certified beer and food nerd, tended to overlook the contributions a thoughtful beer pairing can provide to the meal. Instead, I found myself grabbing whatever was in the fridge, with little thought to how it would pair with the meal on my plate.
It may feel hoity-toity sometimes, but if you consider it just another side to enjoy with your dinner, the right beer can add the missing final touch to a home-cooked meal. Here are three beers I’ve found work well with the “Murphy staples.” If you’ve got any favorites to share, email them to email@example.com.
Charcoal-grilled steak with roasted red potatoes and grilled asparagus spears. Pair it with a Chimay Grand Reserve (Blue). Yes, it’s a pricey beer, but it’s a Belgian classic, brewed by Trappist monks since 1862, and it plays ever so nicely with the charred steak (medium-rare for me) and the heftiness of the red potatoes. The Belgian strong, dark ale is loaded with complex malt character, full of rich stone fruit flavors and caramelized malt. Chimay is a special-occasion beer, and I like to keep a four-pack in the fridge for dinners like this. It ages gracefully, so there’s no rush to drink all four.
Baked split chicken breasts with herbs de province, spicy creamed corn and steamed broccoli. Pair with: Avondale Spring Street Saison. While the Chimay’s focus is squarely on malt, this Birmingham-brewed saison is all about the herbal, spicy yeast characteristics that complement the herbs in the chicken. We like to cook the creamed corn recipe from Donald Link’s “Real Cajun” cookbook, and it’s got some heat thanks to jalapeno peppers. The slight spiciness in Spring Street, derived in large part from open fermentation, meets its match with the creamed corn, while the malt backbone blends with the sweetness of the corn.
Slow-cooker pot roast with carrots and onions over rice. Pair with Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale. I’ve been working nights recently, and I’ve found a slow-cooker meal is a great way to make Mama happy when she’s done taking care of the baby at night while I’m at work. The flavors that come out with slow cooking — rich, full-bodied gravies and fork-tender meat — scream out for a rich American brown ale, and Maduro is one of the best out there. Full-bodied, with toasted malt flavors and a pleasant dark chocolate character, Maduro is a team player, matching up not just with the meat, but with the gravy-coated onions and carrots as well.
Dan Murphy is a Certified Cicerone® and the founding brewer at Fairhope Brewing Co. Follow him on Instagram @Grand_Krewe and on Twitter @Beer_Man_Dan.