Drop that Corskcrew

You are NOT going to eat that burrito with a glass of merlot.

There are just some foods that were meant to be diluted by beer, not wine. You’re sitting in a sweltering taqueria in Playa del Carmen. You order a Pacifico, not a cabernet sauvignon. Nuff said.

My sister-in-law Dallas phoned one night and the discussion veered, as it usually does, toward nosh and what we were dining on at the moment

Feeling Mexican, we were having chicken in mole sauce and pairing it with Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde—a spicy Belgian-style tripel. Delicious.

Dallas was pairing her Catelli with a Bud Light Lime and a cigarette. Equally reasonable.

Sure. You get all bloaty when you drink beer. Just don’t drink so much of it.

Drink it like an aperitif. Put it in a wine glass and take small sips, savouring each swallow. Beer is (usually) lighter-bodied than wine, effervescent, less alcoholic and far more versatile.

It is the perfect lubricant for your piehole.

It shouldn’t happen, but sometimes… somebody… somewhere will pair a Thai curry with a pinot noir. Ack! Spicy food begs for beer — Mexican, Thai, Szechwan, Jamaican, Indian.

You’re not really going to chase your Kung Po down with a glass of chardonnay, are you?

What would the Chinese do? They are a nation of beer drinkers. They would slam a few Yan Jing (which smells suspiciously perfumy) to get those spicy sweats out.

(OK, apparently, the best thing to cut that heat would be a fatty drink like a yogurt lassi or a delicious cup of room temperature gravy, but that almost never happens.)

Beer is such a good pairing for many foods because of the three C’s: cut, contrast and complement.

Beer cuts the fattiness of late-night street meat with its carbonation. The diverse styles of beer allow it to slut around and be on everyone’s lips whether they’re eating Welsh rarebit or Moroccan lamb tagine.

The best pairing for lemon meringue pie? How about a caramely Scottish ale like McEwan’s? This would be a contrasting pairing.

Lemon and caramel aren’t your most obvious bed mates, but they do surprisingly well together—a little malty sweetness, a little tang. Or try the same Scottish ale with a butterscotch bread pudding. Delicious.

I have to admit that it`s hard to compete with a good Italian red wine when eating pasta with a tomato-based sauce. I generally choose red wine, but if I had to, I would be inclined to pair it with a Flanders red ale like Duchesse de Bourgogne.

This beer is slightly sour from the presence of lactic acid. It has a bold fruitiness and an underpinning sensation of tannins due to it being aged in oak barrels, making it distantly reminiscent of red wine.

You can`t find “The Duchess” in Whitehorse, but it is available in specialty British Columbia liquor stores. It’s worth the search if only to experience a very different flavour sensation in a beer.

And what are you going to pair that bratwurst, sauerkraut and schnitzel dinner with?

Not so fast with that corkscrew. A German wheat beer would be just the ticket.

German weiss beers and hefeweizens have low hopping levels, high effervescence and a slight twang that will complement the kraut. The spicy notes created by the yeast in the beer will deliciously champion the sausage.

The German side of my family (my mother) orchestrated most of the meals while we were growing up.

My dad was, and is, a marginal cook. His idea of supper when he was left alone to fend for himself and his young kids was sandwiches. If he felt particularly creative, it was a weird mix of canned food slathered on crackers.

But he could cook one dish fairly well—chili. He would go through his sacred cooking ritual, dusting the goods with a low-heat chili powder (on account of my mom, the “super taster”) and simmering a boatload of ingredients in his trusty cast iron pan.

After a couple of hours of melding, he would insist that his masterpiece be accompanied by a full-bodied Italian red wine.

It’s hard to argue against the memories of our youth. I still prefer red wine with a mild chili con carne.

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