TIM PAWSEY Tim Pawsey is a well-travelled food and wine writer at various publications, including WHERE Vancouver, Quench, SIP, Vitis, The Alchemist and others. Find him at hiredbelly.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @hiredbelly and Facebook @TheHiredBelly.
... winter calls for porters, stouts, dark lagers and more, many of which have emerged as BC craft brewery standouts.
W hen it comes to food and drink pairings, the grape has traditionally ruled. In our everyday lexicon “food and wine” go together like the proverbial horse and carriage. But times are changing, especially as the blossoming of craft breweries mirrors the maturing of the local wine industry. The range of myriad styles means there’s a beer for every dish and season. What’s more, many BC premium craft brews now come in larger formats, making them ideal for sharing over a meal. As evenings close in earlier and the winter rains wash through, just as wine tastes shift from lighter whites to full-bodied reds, our beer preferences also undergo a seasonal shift. Summer may be for quaffing bright, thirst- quenching pilsners and lighter ales. But winter calls for porters, stouts, dark lagers and more, many of which have emerged as BC craft brewery standouts. Embrace the Season Just what constitutes a “winter warmer?” The beginnings of modern- day heavier styles can be traced way back to pre-Christian times. Heady beers and other wassail potions (such as cider, mead and barley wine) were made specially to help celebrate the winter solstice. Forget Halloween! The solstice shindig was the party of the year. In fact, it was the precursor
to our modern-day Christmas holiday. No doubt, those rough and ready medieval potions were far removed from what we now enjoy as beer. Today’s winter warmers tend to be full-bodied, sometimes sweet and more malty, darker in colour—and frequently with alcohols of six to eight percent or more. Whether your preference is a Scots-inspired “wee heavy” that might check in at around eight percent ABV (alcohol by volume), or even a less potent drop, it pays to sip with care. These hefty brews pack such a wallop, you’ll want to park the car at home if you plan to sample one or more. Above all, these bold and flavourful beers are more for sipping than quaffing. And they cry out for hearty, not fancy, fare. Stout or Porter? Beer geeks love to quibble about the difference between stout and porter. Porter, which came first, gets its name from London’s porters who, in the early 18 th century, well before the golden age of rail, were dockworkers. They were big fans of the strong beer that soon became a British fixture. (In time the original recipe evolved to styles that were considerably darker, giant barrel-aged and used roasted malt). As the workers were loading and unloading vessels from Baltic states across the North Sea and trade expanded, it wasn’t long before
“porter” made its way to Russia. Dark, rich, full-bodied, creamy and often chocolate toned, porter is not far removed from imperial Russian stout, though with less alcohol, around six to nine percent. While a shoo-in for braised dishes, oxtail soup or strong cheeses, it can also be an intriguing dessert match, even able to shine in a delicious float made with French vanilla ice cream! By contrast, stout is usually medium-bodied and lower in alcohol at around five to six percent ABV and often more coffee-toned, hence its sometimes slightly bitter edge. Traditionally, stout has always been more of a “session” beer, which explains its popularity in Irish pubs. The style first made popular by Guinness evolved from porter. Good food matches? Think barbecued meats, strong cheeses and hearty beef stews, not to mention fresh oysters on the half shell. That oyster pairing (which hails from a time when plentiful supplies of the bivalves were a working-class staple) succeeds because the salty, briny element of the oyster plays off and tones down the bitterness of the beer. Yet the creaminess of the flesh is amplified by the stout’s toasty notes and adds up to a generous and very satisfying mouthfeel. Umami rules!
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