Thanks to the proliferation of microbreweries across the country, beer is making its way out of the ballpark and onto the table.
The cause of beer's inferiority complex can be traced to the Norman Conquest in 1066, according to Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and an expert on food and beer pairing. Wine, the beverage of the French, became the aristocratic drink, while the Anglo-Saxons' beer was relegated to peasant status.
But that is changing. With the rebirth of microbreweries and larger craft breweries, a new breed of beer connoisseurs has been created. These are people who sip and critically consider their drink, as opposed to chugging a mugful.
At the same time, progressive brewpubs are taking their menus beyond bar and grill grub. Beer is being paired with such items as confit of duck strudel with lingonberry sauce, phyllo-wrapped lamb with blue cheese and toasted hazelnuts and duck breast pastrami with roasted pears, bitter greens and beer vinaigrette.
With choices ranging from golden pilsners to heavy imperial stouts, beer encompasses a wide variety of spice, herb and fruit flavors. Pairing guidelines start out basic and can get as complex as you like. Delicate dishes go best with light lagers, golden ales and wheat beers; heavier foods have a better chance with full-bodied pale ales, porters and stouts. Several strongly flavored beers, like smoky ales and high-alcohol barley wines, can stand alone as dessert drinks. Pale ales, strong in hop flavor and aroma, can stand up to spicy Asian and Mexican dishes, as well as oily fish entrees like mackerel and salmon.
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