“The Belgian family of strong golden styles is an absolute favorite of mine to share with friends, especially at dinner. Most are light and crisp with a champagne-like effervescence that plays beautifully alongside just about any dish with lighter flavors. This time of year, with our proximity to the Gulf, I especially enjoy this style with fish” – Joey Williams
Pairing beer and food is still something very novel to many people, but if you take the approach of pairing flavors, drinkable or edible, with other flavors it’s nothing new. When I go to pair things, I start with one of the two elements, either the food or the beer. This time around I had a handful of really fun and delicious beers from farmhouse-style breweries in the Austin area.
The beers landed somewhere in the Belgian Strong Golden family, some were sour and others were wine barrel-aged. All of them had a bright, white wine like character that I wanted to play with. My mind immediately went to the “tried and true” pairing of white wine and fish. It’s so classic!
I took this as an opportunity to try something new and found a recipe for “Veracruz-style Red Snapper”. It would be the first time I roasted a whole fish and I was excited. The savory tomatoes, along with the briny olives and capers would provide some interest without overwhelming the flavors of the fish.
The beers stood up to the flavors of the “sauce” without overwhelming the fish. Belgian beers are prized for their fermentation characteristics, usually perceived as fruit and spice flavors and aromas. The subtle fruit in the beers, as well as the carbonation, helped to break up some of the deeper, richer flavors of the meal. The dry, crisp finish readied everyone for their next bite.
Examples to try:
Duvel (8.5% ABV)
This beer is the definition of finesse. It’s the subtlest of my three recommendations and if you’re pairing this, I would keep it light. Duvel can stand up to the fat of butter and cream sauces, and will absorb citrus flavors into its own, so try a simple baked white fish with olive oil and lemon.
Westmalle Tripel (9.5% ABV)
Tripels are usually categorized as their own style, but they are Belgian, strong and golden. The difference here is that the fermentation character, a fruit and spice component, is much more pronounced. This gives Westmalle Tripel more you can use to play with. I’m a sucker for Cajun and Creole flavors, and the touch of fruit in the beer will do wonders alongside blackened seasonings. Try some blackened redfish and go ahead and toss some étouffée on top for good measure!
Brooklyn Local 1 (9.0% ABV)
This is the “dark horse” of the bunch. Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn, describes Local 1 as a “big saison”, but again, it’s Belgian in style, as well as strong and golden. Saisons are prized for their ability to pair at the table and Local 1 displays that and more. This is another that would be perfect with that Veracruz-style Red Snapper. Local 1 would be the beer to go alongside fattier, richer fish like salmon and tuna, as well as more complex preparations.