Pairing Beer with a Tri-Tip Steak

Dave Kassling, owner of Tri-Tip Grill (which has locations in Grand Central Terminal and Rockefeller Center) generously gave us a couple of tri-tip steaks to experiment with beer pairings. This weekend we made up the steaks. They’re already rubbed, smoked and charred when you get them, and come with instructions on how to cook them to medium rare. We picked a few beers based on experience and recommendations from readers. Belgian styles and IPAs were among the most popular so we chose a few different local or regional beers and a Trappist beer to try out with the steak.

We tried a Westmalle Dubbel, Southampton Burton IPA, Ommegang Rare Vos and Harpoon Leviathan Quad with the meat, and here are our assessments:

Westmalle Dubbel: At first we thought this would be the winner because the effervescence of the beer would cut through the richness of the steak while there would be enough flavor to stand up to the steak.  The dark fruit and clove flavors of the beer went surprisingly well with the char on the meat at first, but it left a strange aftertaste with the smokiness.

Southampton Burton IPA: We picked this beer for the earthy hop bitterness and the solid malt backbone. It turned out to be too bitter for the steak and blew the flavors off the palate. We still like the beer but it just didn’t work well as a pairing.

Ommegang Rare Vos: Perfectly complementary. The effervescence from the Belgian yeast cut through the fat of the steak while the slight spice and understated hop bitterness complimented the char and smoke from the meat.

Harpoon Leviathan Quad: Too strong and overpowering for the meat. Again, the dark fruit flavors mixed with the smoke flavors in a strange way we didn’t like. Clocking in at 11.75 percent ABV, the beer was just too big.

The winner? Ommegang Rare Vos!

Photos by Michael Gallagher

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Beer and Fig Pairing

For Labor Day we visited the Annese parents home on Long Island and went foraging in their garden. We came back to Brooklyn with a bountiful harvest of figs, tomatoes and cucumbers. The figs, when plucked from the tree and eaten right away essentially tasted like juicy candy, and we immediately wanted to try out a beer and fig pairing. We were inspired by last week’s beer and cheese event at the Brooklyn Brewery to go outside the box when thinking about matching beer with food. Instead of choosing something sweet like a Belgian Quad (we thought about a Rochefort or one of the Harpoon Leviathan Quads that we have in the fridge) we went with a Boon Geuze Mariage Parfait from Belgium and an 8 Wired Saison Sauvin from New Zealand to accompany the fruit.

Both beers are delicious in their own right. The gueze was a surprisingly mellow version of a normally intense sour style. The saison was a subtle combination of citrus and tropical fruit from the hops with the slightly funky and earthy yeast flavors. We thought that they would each would give a nice contrast to the super-sweetness of the figs. The saison worked well with the fruit; it had just enough bitterness and effervescence to accompany the sweet figs and not overpower them. We missed on the geuze pairing, however. Despite being mellow for its style, the beer is still bracingly tart and ended up blowing the fig taste off our palates. We saved the geuze for after the experiment; it worked quite nicely as a finisher for the evening.

Have you had any impromptu pairings that either worked well or disappointed you? What were they?

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New Year’s Eve Barleywine and Cheese Sampling

Over the past few years we’ve collected an assortment of barley wines of various ages. We thought New Year’s might be a good time to crack them open and share with some family as we ring in 2012. To take it a step further we made a trip to BKLYN Larder to pick out some cheeses to try out as pairings. The staff at the store was extremely helpful and excited to aid in picking out cheeses for a pairing.

We settled on several cheeses, most of which we think will stand up well to the strength of the barleywines. We also picked up a more delicate washed rind goat cheese that should be a nice complement to the older barleywines that have had some time to mellow out the intense hop character and hot alcohol flavors. Here are the beers and cheeses we will be trying out:

Brooklyn Monster Ale 2006, 2009, 2010
Dogfish Head Olde School 2006
Southern Tier Back Burner 2008
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale aged in Sherry Casks 2007
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale aged in Port Casks 2008

Morbier-aged at least 60 days (France)
Adelegger (Bavaria, Germany)
Gouda L’Anyse – aged 2 years (Holland)
Contralto Goat Cheese (Andante Dairy, Sonoma)

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Tiger Beer and Thai

We recently received two sample bottles of Tiger Beer (pause for a moment to recognize a BeerUnion milestone: our first sample!) and used it as a good excuse to order in some Thai food – the only Southeast Asian food option in our neighborhood. The pairing was definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. While the beer didn’t have the traditionally strong grassy and peppery pilsner flavors, those were provided by the massaman curry we had. The understated sweetness and slight creaminess of the Tiger soothed the spiciness of the curry, while still complementing the flavors of the coconut milk.

This beer was provided to BeerUnion for the purpose of a review.

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Amber Ale vs. Lager Food Pairing

On an uncomfortably hot night here in NYC we decided to keep the stove off and have a dinner of Brie, crackers, strawberries and grapes to keep cool. When we looked in the fridge for some beers to pair we chose two amber beers that we had picked up the day before at Good Beer NYC in the East Village. We had the Avalanche Amber Ale from Breckenridge Brewery and the LTD Series Recipe 5 Amber Lager from Full Sail. Both were delicious beers and complimented the food nicely. The tartness from the berries and grapes were a nice contrast to the malty sweetness in both beers. The differences were most highlighted when we tried them with the Brie. The lager had a distinct advantage in its carbonation and crispness that was able to lift the creaminess of the Brie off the tongue.

Check out The Beer Wench’s recent post about why beers work well with fatty or creamy foods.

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Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Imperial Helles Bock

For dinner Friday night Giancarlo and I enjoyed an assortment of brie with crackers, olives, raspberries, and radishes with butter and salt. With this we paired Sierra Nevada’s 30th Anniversary Imperial Helles Bock. It  went quite nicely with the food – especially the raspberries and brie – the flavors were fruity and tart. We’ll definitely pick this beer up again.

– Sarah


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Sorachi Ace and Fried Shrimp

On Saturday I tried my hand at pairing food and beer. I was visiting my parents on Long Island, and for dinner we made some fried shrimp with parsley and pecorino cheese.

I initially thought Saison du Pont would be nice because of its slight spiciness and effervescent mouthfeel. Unfortunately Glen Cove Beer Distributor did not have Saison du Pont so I gave Sorachi Ace a try. Sorachi Ace is a Brooklyn Brewery farmhouse ale made with Sorachi hops. Since it was my first experience with Sorachi hops it may not have been the best idea to try it. The hop character did overpower the shrimp a little bit but it wasn’t a complete failure. There was a spiciness that went well with the pecorino flavors.

– Giancarlo


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