On Saturday afternoon I had the occasion to participate in a beer and food pairing that was organized by Elisabeth Pierre, bièrologue. I wrote about Elisabeth for the December issue of my Paris Insights newsletter. At that time, I was doing research on the state of artisanal beer in France. I was happy to report then and am happy to report now that French artisanal beers are doing quite well, thank you!
The tasting took place at a restaurant called Qui Plume la Lune, where Chef Jacky Ribault cooks up great French cuisine with a Japanese touch.
Elisabeth told me that the beers that she would present harmonized well with Chef Ribault’s style of cooking. After the tasting, I was convinced of that!
Three men and three women (plus Elisabeth) participated in the tasting. Over conversation between beers, I learned that one of the men is a banker, one of the women works for a Web site for French recipes, and another women organizes wine tastings for wine aficionados.
Elisabeth opened the presentation by announcing which kinds of beers we would taste. Three of the beers were French (one of which is brewed in Bavaria), and a fourth was Belgian. She distributed a fiche de dégustation so that we could take notes of the experience. The worksheet provided helpful categories that encouraged us to focus our comments on four important areas: sight (color, transparency…), nose (agreeable and disagreeable aromas), mouth (sparkle, taste, and texture), and aftertaste.
Elisabeth started with a mild beer. As the tasting progressed, the beers got darker and stronger.
The first was a Demory – Roquette Blanche, produced by a young Bavarian, Kai Lorch, who has relaunched this beer that was once brewed in Paris. It was served with a dish of Saint Jacques poêlées, maki de shitaké, émulsion de fumet de poisson, betteraves jaunes. This consisted of a single, lightly-sauteed scallop perched on the end of a sushi roll standing in a fish emulsion, and garnished with julienned yellow beet. The beer had no bitterness and was even slightly sweet with a slight taste of honey. I thought that it complemented the mild flavor of the tender scallop well. Later, I realized that the Demory was the only beer of the four that I would enjoy drinking without food.
The second beer was Saint Stefanus from the Van Steenberge brewery in Belgium. Saint Stefanus undergoes a complicated brewing process that includes three different yeasts, a second fermentation in the bottle, and storage at cellar temperature for a minimum of three months. For all its complexity, I did not find the taste compelling, but it did go well with a serving of Crevettes Qweli infusées au foin et à l’origan, poires confites au four. This consisted of a large cup containing a bed of straw and wild oregano upon which rested two slices of baked pear and two sauteed prawns. The beer complemented this dish in the sense that it did not clash with the subtle flavors of either the prawns or the sweet, slightly caramelized pear.
The third beer served was Ventre Jaune Ambrée made from grilled corn at the Rouget de Lisle brewery in Franch-Comté in eastern France. I found it to be sweet with a mild molasses flavor. It was served with Boeuf sauté sauce foie gras, coulis de persil plat, vitelottes et chataignes, a beef dish dressed in a sweet foie gras sauce with Vitelotte potatoes and chestnuts. Delicious! Again, I thought that the beer harmonized well with the food.
The fourth beer was served with dessert. A Bracine bière de Noël (Christmas beer) brewed in French Flanders, it was very dark and very bitter, with a surprising touch of sweetness. To the uninitiated, one should yell Attention! (Watch out!) before they are allowed to sip, so bitter is this beer. And to top it off, the aftertaste is even more bitter! But, surprisingly, the brew went well with the Tarte au chocolat that was served with it because the chocolate was also quite bitter. However, I did not think that it harmonized with two other desserts that were served alongside: a mocha-flavored cake and a dollop of mango sauce. These were sweet, and the bitter beer overpowered their taste.
When the tasting ended, Chef Ribault emerged from the kitchen to talk about the dishes that he had prepared and to accept the well-deserved accolades of the participants. Bravo!
Beer and food tastings are a convivial way to meet new people from different backgrounds, to learn about beer and beer-brewing techniques, to learn about different regions in Europe—particularly France—where beer is brewed, and most of all, simply to enjoy!
We participate in Wanderfood Wednesdays. Head over there to explore food from around the world!
Like our blog? Join us on Facebook!