Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Taking Beer Chances...

The standard beer pairings for shrimp vary depending on what kind of shrimp dish is on the plate, but generally speaking, one can be safe with hefeweizens, pilsners, saisons, belgian whites and--if sufficiently adventurous--an imperial white ale. Most sommeliers will recoil in horror if a patron does not order white wine with a fish dish, but who cares? Wine tasters spit out what they taste. No self-respecting beer taster would even think about doing that.

So having received an invite to my buddy JJ's house to sample his "Secret Shrimp Scampi Special," I asked the missus to meet me there with three beers. To her credit she brought three of her own--Blue Moons, they were--which, after nearly three decades of close and intimate affiliation with The PubScout, she has "discovered" to be a replacement for (I can't even say it), that OTHER beer. Her Blue Moon (from Coors) would complement JJ's shrimp scampi nicely, I was sure. But for me, I asked her to bring Flying Dog Tire Bite, Troeg's Dream Weaver Wheat and one other for after dinner.

Having put in a long day announcing, I needed to slake my thirst upon arrival, and the Tire Bite and the Dream Weaver were gone even before dinner was served. The missus, who was not relinquishing her last Blue Moon regardless of what my title is, advised that my remaining beer was SA Holiday Porter, which, though one of my favorites, did not augur well for a shrimp scampi pairing. But I would somehow muddle through.

But it wasn't SA Holiday Porter. It was Anderson Valley's Winter Solstice. (Don't ask me how one confuses those two when yanking them from the fridge.) And in the spirit of conviviality--and a free dinner, I would venture to see where this pairing would take me.

The PubScout does not declare himself a food reviewer. I simply know what tastes and looks good to me and which beers complement it. But JJ's SSSS was without a doubt the finest Shrimp Scampi dish I have had in many (blue) moons. Full of flavor, with a hint if spiciness and succulent, they were served over a bed of perfectly done pasta. I was pleasantly astounded. I mean, the guy hunts with a bow, coaches wrestling and lacrosse and drinks Coors Light. I did not expect his Shrimp Scampi to be anything beyond mediocre. But it was so good, so delectable, so flavorful and so perfectly done, I refrained from my usual good-natured upbraiding of him for his own beverage selection, which is a step DOWN from that OTHER beer.

Nor did I expect my AVBC Winter Solstice to be a perfect accompaniment to that shrimp, but it was. The spice and orange flavors of the beer seemed to ignite more flavor in the dish, and the shrimp seemed to coax more flavors out of the beer--cinnamon specifically, and they worked wonderfully together.

The moral of the story is simple. Use the general food/beer guidelines as suggestions, but don't be afraid to experiment with new combinations. Beer is not a snobby beverage, and nobody, including yours truly, can tell you what you SHOULD like. If those OTHER beers are your bag, by all means enjoy them responsibly and I'll raise a glass of my own to you.

But be aware that there is a whole new beer world awaiting you.
And you might find it rewarding to explore that world more than once in a Blue Moon.

Cheers! The PubScout

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