Oh, wondering where I’ve been, huh? Missing the Mike Man, eh? Developed a Vitamin M deficiency, have we?
Okay, okay, forget I said that last one and I’ll fill you in. Deal?
I’ve been a busy guy. You know, hanging out, drinking coffee, becoming a famous author….you know, the usual. Wait, what?! Did you say famous author?! I did. And I have the photo to prove it:
I mean, how famous do I look there, right? Pretty famous. Okay, okay, full disclosure: I’m not totally famous yet. YET! But I did finish my very first novel, Coming of Mage, set right here on the good ol’ North Shore of Minnesota.
Additionally, my cousin Wally and I started a podcast called 2 Dudes in the Woods. Mostly beer reviews and local stuff, with a few movie reviews thrown in for good measure. Mostly we just love to hear ourselves talk. Especially about beer. And food.
But, now I’m back at the whole blogging venture thing. So, forget all that other stuff for now, because today’s topic is a totally new experience.
Today, my cousin Wally and I are going to be talking about beer! And food! I mean…that’s….I just…
Okay, listen, folks, my wheelhouse ain’t that big, alright? Plus the number one rule of writing is write what you know. And, in our ‘extensive research’ on 2 Dudes in the Woods, Wally and I have become quite a pair of beer aficionados (i.e. beer snobs) and, well, he is the head chef at Moguls so….pretty much a no-brainer that we discuss a beer pairing. Although, our definition of beer pairing is a little…different.
Beer Pairing (n)
1) A suggested beverage choice to compliment a dish, based on similar and/or accentuating flavor profiles. 2) Stuffy 3) Boring
Wally Beer Pairing (n)
1) The process by which my cousin and I infuse normally awesome foods with beer making them double (sometimes triple) awesome. 2) Genius 3) Slightly arrogant 4) Delicious
Let’s start with a classic Moguls dinner: Bourbon-Planked Sockeye Salmon.
Simple, elegant. Can’t go wrong with salmon. Grilled expertly on a plank of cedar that has been soaked in bourbon. Now, right off the bat, can you imagine the flavors coming from that? Game over, man! Throw in a little brown sugar glaze to accentuate those flavors and you’ve got one of our most popular entrees….
….or, you hit up the taproom and pour a pint of the most versatile beer of all time: South Shore Nut Brown. This beer is our “Old Reliable” if you will. Though we’re always trying out new taps, Nut Brown is a staple. A favorite all along the Shore, this easy-drinking, brownish-amber ale is surprisingly smooth with a kiss of toasted nut.
Additionally, we use it for beer batter, in beer cheese soup, in desserts (like at our beer fest), I personally use it in “beer blends” (it goes great half-and-half with a coffee stout), or, my most recent favorite, drop a piece of extra dark chocolate right in the bottle for a gamechanger taste explosion.
Frankly, I know very little about cheffing–that’s what it’s called, right?–so I’m all, like, Oh, man, what’s Wally going to do with this? But Wally just immediately tosses it in a saucepan with a little honey and starts reducing it. Classic cheffing.
So, in the words of Matthew McConaughey, he gets the beer a-bubblin’ and while that’s, uh, turning into a sauce, I guess, Wally goes for a side of Minnesota wild rice–which, in my opinion, is the perfect side for a fish–and a light bulb clicks on above our heads. Why stop there? We’re already experimenting with crazy beer uses, why not really push the envelope, right?
So Wally sends me back to the taproom for another beer. For cooking purposes, of course. Obviously.
Something dark, he says ominously.
So I don’t just go dark. I go the darkest. Third Street’s “Bitter Neighbor” Black IPA. And trust me, with a strong coffee bite and an extreme blast of hops, this ain’t just a clever name.
And then Wally throws it right in with the wild rice. I mean, right in there, man! Reality Check: he’s cooking wild rice with BEER! We’re in the thick of it now. Then, like a father waiting for his first child to be delivered, I’m sent out of the kitchen. I pace back and forth nervously. This was all my idea. Is this going to be any good? What’s it going to turn out like? Is there any of that beer left?
Pretty soon, Wally plates up a real beauty.
Embers of red still burn at the edge of the cedar plank. The salmon sizzles. My mouth waters. Where do I even begin? I go with the Golden Rule: Fish First.
The salmon flakes apart and sings the moment it touches my tongue. The Nut Brown glaze is just a little bit sweet, but that signature nuttiness compliments the hint of bourbon perfectly. Dynamite.
Now for the rice. This one I’m honestly nervous about. But the Bitter Neighbor has sweetened up, releasing it’s caramel malts in full flavor, while retaining that smoky, oaky quality that makes the beer such a hit. It tenderizes the wild rice, imbuing it with a flavor I never thought possible. A triumph.
Now that’s a beer pairing. Cheers.