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Tailgating with beer and cheese

Raise a glass to the Washington Post – or at least sports guy Dan Steinberg.

Each Friday during football season he’s going to recommend an American artisanal cheese for tailgating and have a former co-worker, Jeff Wells, pick American craft beer.

This week Steinberg chooses Red Hawk, an organic washed rind triple creme from California’s Cowgirl Creamery. Cowgirl co-founder Sue Conley suggests a dark or spicy beer with the cheese, noting it is harder to pair with wine (no surprise). The fallback position is Riesling.

Wells picks Allagash White for the first weekend, thinking not so much about the cheese as the fact that “Tailgating on a hot summer day calls for the world’s most thirst-quenching fermented beverage.”

Steinberg promises they’ll compare tailgates on Monday.

Belgium’s eating and drinking tradition

While doing some filing I came across a few notes takien from the Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook by Ruth Van Waerebeek and Maria Robbins.

Quite honestly, the best way for me to keep track of these lovely quotes is to store them here.

“Given this bounty of wonderful food, it may surprise you to learn that there are few cookbooks devoted to Belgian cooking published in Belgium. The reason is simple. In Belgium, the secrets of cooking are still transmitted orally. Recipes, techniques, tradition, tastes and passions are passed along from generation to generation . . .”

The book emphasizes a strong link between brewing and cooking traditions (see below), so a few points seem worth emphasizing:

– In a conversation with Brother Joris, the monk in charge of brewing at Abbey Saint Sixtus (Westvleteren), he explained why he did something a particular way. He simply learned the practice from Brother Filip, the previous brewer. “That’s our training,” Brother Joris said. “The knowledge is passed on from brother to brother.”

– To celebrate 60 years of operation, Bert Van Hecke is producing a special version of St. Bernaruds Abt 12 at Brouwerij Sint-Bernardus, located not far from Westvleteren. For 46 years, Sint-Bernardus produced beer under contract for Westvleteren – beer that was sold under the Saint Sixtus label in the United States.

Because the head brewer from Westvleteren helped set up the Saint Bernardus brewery, it seems likely he brought along the original Westvleteren recipes, and Van Hecke says that to his knowledge the recipes haven’t changed since.

As you might understand, neither Brother Joris nor Van Hecke is handing out detailed information about their recipes but based on what they will say the recipes for Abt 12 and Westvleteren 12 are no longer the same. That’s what happens when things are passed on via verbal communication – they change, maybe for the better, maybe not.

– Not not only are recipes passed on but also tastes and passions. Just as important. Make that more important.

Another great quote:

“What makes them (brewers) unique is that over the centuries these beer brewers have remained faithful to their origins and traditions and thereby have developed a degree of perfection, originality, and variety unknown in any other country in the world. The same can be said for Belgium’s extensive and varied beer cuisine.”

Understand why it matters that the passion be kept alive?

When beer is good business

With the help of Boston Beer founder Jim Koch, BusinessWeek serves up a four-course (five if you count the Samuel Adams Utopias served at the end as a cordial).

The story concludes: “Indeed, it was a meal that could convert even the most ardent of oenophiles.”

The article appears at the same time as this announcement:

Robert M. Parker, Jr., world-renowned wine critic and publisher of The Wine Advocate, has signed on as a weekly columnist for BusinessWeek, Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler announced today. Written for BusinessWeek’s discerning [italics added by your editor ;>) ] readers, “Wines of the Week” will run in the Executive Life section of the magazine and will deliver Mr. Parker’s recommendations and descriptive tasting notes along with ratings and pricing information.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to share my passion for the world’s finest wines and wine bargains with the readers of BusinessWeek,” said Mr. Parker. “I have always believed no great business can be conducted without eventually serving the proper wine.”

Looks like BusinessWeek needed to invite Mr. Parker to their little beer dinner.

When a ‘hot’ chef grabs a beer

Food & Wine magazine gives a nice nod to beer in its current issue (the story even gets promoted on the cover): Great Beer From Around the World Meets its Food Match.

The article is pegged to the fact that one of the country’s “genius” chefs – Paul Kahan – plans to open a beer-friendly “gastropub” in Chicago, and tells you something you probably already know:

The new restaurant exemplifies one of the less discussed (but no less excellent) developments in American gastronomy: Beer, at least good beer, is finally getting its due. Craft beer is now the fastest-growing part of the alcohol industry in the United States, outpacing sales of wine and hard liquor. . . .

Restaurants that offer good food, great beer and modest environs have become another conspicuous trend -vno secret to anyone who’s tried to get a table on a Saturday night at New York City’s top gastropub, the Spotted Pig. In fact, sophisticated diners across the country are choosing to eat in more casual settings.

OK, you might not have known about the Spotted Pig, but the point is that beer often makes a better match for food than wine, and that often diners prefer a casual setting.

Of course, it is encouraging when the chef doesn’t just have his eyes on the latest trend, but truly likes beer. So what beer is Kahan drinking in the story? Pere Jacques from Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co.

Everything is readable online, including recipes, such as one for Beer-Braised Chicken Stew with Fava Beans and Peas.

For the love of yeast

Steelhead Brewing Company brewmaster Teri Fahrendorf has wandered into the blogging world as she begins work on the “GOOD BREAD GUIDE – Beer Lover’s Bread Book.”

A few of the basics:

What makes me want to write this book? I love yeast, and I love to experiment with the breads I bake. I love “pushing the envelope” with my breads, and with my professionally-made beers. (As long as the beer isn’t too far-out for our customers at Steelhead.)

There appears to be plenty of consumer guides for people searching for a good beer, but few consumer guides to good bread. I am interested in the smallest artisanal producers of both. And because I don’t think anybody’s put this slant on it before, I want to approach bread from a brewer’s perspective.

Anyway, the blog is subtitled “A brewmaster searches for the best local artisan breads and bakeries, and the best local pint of beer, with help from brewers and bakers all over the country.”

How’s that for a call to action?

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