Anderson Valley Brewing Co.’s “Summer Solstice”

July 9, 2013

We get a lot of requests at Hopjacks Filling Station to suggest the proper beer to go with their food. The thing is there really is no wrong answer. Whatever your palate tells you to like is never incorrect.

Sure, there are tried and true guidelines to pairing up food with a beverage and some suggestions provide a more pleasing effect than others. What has to be taken into consideration is the guest’s usual personal preferences. If you tell me you don’t like India Pale Ale I won’t insist upon the Ballast Point Sculpin to go with the earthy, spicy Spanish Valdeon blue cheese you’ve selected no matter how well they pair.

You were aware that the Filling Station has a modest, yet very thoughtfully selected, cheese display? Most people’s minds think of wine and cheese together; a classic pairing for sure. I actually like beer with cheese as the carbonation helps scrub away the fats from the buttercream.

Pairing the absolutely perfect wine with any food is a talent. Most are content with the traditional approaches, however; white wine with light and delicate food, red with hearty and robust. You know… chardonnay with chicken and cabernet sauvignon with steak. See, I’d go with a dry white Bordeaux mix of sauvignon blanc/Semillon like Chateau Sainte-Marie for my roast chicken and Domaine le Sang des Cailloux from Vacqueyras for an inky, fruity, smoky, leathery red foil for a fatty porterhouse.

Pairing beer with food poses a larger problem. There are so many sub-categories of both ale and lager with modern brewers’ flexibility and permutation of each style allowable that there is no exact science to matching any longer. Wine production is typically a single grape varietal fermented or the usual blends of a few, whereas brewers have literally thousands of combinations of ingredients now to produce their own versions of, say, stout or pilsner.

When it comes right down to it, it’s all about what you like, how the food was prepared and whether or not you prefer to compare or contrast the flavor and textural notes between the food and beer. How about a beer that does both? For example, we just got in the Anderson Valley Summer Solstice Ale so I decided to try it out with our Tarragon Chicken Salad Sandwich. This cream ale has impressive scents and flavors of sugary malt and vanilla that bring out the sweetness of the raisins and tanginess of the mayo before balancing out with the savory chicken. A kiss of grassy hops amplifies the liquorice bite of the tarragon as well as the sassy red onion. Solstice’s ultra-creamy texture sooths out the crackle from the baked French bread while perpetuating the salad’s soft notes.