Sam Adams Promotes Food and Beer Pairing and “Extreme Beer”

I know the subtitle to this website is “ Wine, Food, Travel” but even wine journalists don’t live by wine alone. I, for one, love beer, too. And I even like to write about it whenever I can. Hence, this month’s posting is all about beer.

Food and Beer Pairing
It’s become arguably the biggest trend in beer (at least craft beer) to promote serious beer and food matching – and I don’t mean wings and burgers. Food and beer matching ideas are cropping up all over the craft beer industry, with the most notable example being the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver this past October. There were pairing demos in the Beer & Food Pavilion and they even had available a beer and food matching chart that list 28 styles of beer along with suggested foods. For more info, check out www.beertown.org.

But the Boston Beer Company, maker of Sam Adams, and specifically Jim Koch, the company’s founder, has been in the forefront of this movement. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as Koch and Sam Adams have been beer innovators since the company’s founding in 1984.now Koch and his company are pushing for beer lovers and would be beer lovers to think about beer (at least some of the time) the way wine drinkers think about wine – as a natural accompaniment to food.

Koch even has promoted this idea in the heart of wine drinker territory – the Food & Wine Magazine Classic at Aspen. In recent years, Koch has hosted lunches at the Classic with food prepared by culinary luminaries, such as chefs Todd English and David Burke.

Sam Adams also has promoted beer and food pairing at the GABF this year. At a dinner at Rioja restaurant in Denver’s Larimer Square drove the point home. How about appetizers including apple beignet, foie gras Napoleon, cinnamon range gastrique and seared duck breast washed down with Sam Adams Winter Lager? Or an entrée of beef filet, seared scallops and caramelized onion with Sam Adams Boston Lager? Dessert, a hazelnut brown butter tart, was accompanied by Sam Adams Cram Stout.

Even for a wine journalist like me, the beer and food pairings seemed every bit as natural as they were revealing.

Extreme Beer?
That’s what Jim Koch calls it. I mentioned above that he and his company are beer innovators. Beginning with Triple Bock in 1994, Koch has really pushed the envelope of complexity and alcohol. The Triple Bock came in at 17.5% alcohol. In 2000, Sam Adams released Millennium Ale at 21%. Then came Utopias MMII in 2002 at 25%. In 2003, and again in 2005 Utopias was released at 25% alcohol. Now the just released 2007 edition of Utopias weighs in at 27% alcohol!

What is amazing about this brew, though, even more that the alcohol itself, is that the alcoholic heat virtually disappears behind the seamlessness of its rich texture and complex flavors of caramel, maple syrup and butter pecan. At $120 a bottle, Utopias certainly is the most expensive beer ever but this brew also can take its place among the finest after dinner drinks, whether Cognac, Sherry or Port.

About Rich

I first became interested in wine while I worked in numerous liquor stores during college in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In the years following college, I researched, tasted, traveled to vineyards in California and Europe, participated in countless tastings. I began writing about wine in 1995 with a column in Out Front Colorado. For me, wine is more than a drink. It is food. It is a connection to the earth. It is culture. There is just something amazing, even magical, about the transformation of grapes into wine. It is also remarkable how drinking wine with food enhances the taste and enjoyment of both. Appreciation of wine has become an integral part of my approach to life, which emphasizes balance, respect for nature, physical and emotional health, and an appreciation of our nature as social beings. In 2006, I was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.