A truly wonderful aspect of American craft beer is the balance of innovation and tradition. From Benson Brewery, which has incorporated amphoras (ancient fermentation vessels) into its brewing process, to Dogfish Head’s line of Ancient Ales, there are many great examples of brewers who are combining the old with the new. Old beer styles are also re-emerging with new twists, like the Berliner Weisses and Roggenbiers that have been reprised by breweries across the country. These old-school innovations have flavor profiles with distinct characteristics, which naturally leads to the question: What am I going to eat with this beer?
Like the craft beer community, the culinary world is also characterized by a balance between innovation and tradition. Perhaps that’s one reason why we’re seeing a shift in the culture of pairing food and beverages, with the default wine giving way to beer pairings that create truly unique and memorable experiences.
As I thought of new breweries crafting old styles of beers, I was reminded of a similar old-world food tradition: Sausage. Like beer, it dates back thousands of years and is a culinary craft that appears in some form in almost every region of the world. Also like beer, sausages take on unique flavor profiles from traditional recipes and local ingredients. Here are some local sausage styles and beer pairings that are worth passing down through the generations — or around the world through the magic of the Internet.
The aptly named weisswurst is a light sausage made of pork and veal seasoned with cardamom, onion and lemon. Ginger is sometimes added, which would complement the highly acidic, tart quality of a Berliner-style weisse. Weisswurst would also not be offended by the addition of woodruff or raspberry syrup that is common with this beer style.
Berliner-Style Weiss Suggestions:
- Berlinerweiss | Crabtree Brewing Co. | Greeley, CO
- Key Lime Sublime | 7venth Sun Brewery |Dunedin, FL
- Thumbprint | New Glarus Brewing | New Glarus, WI
One of my favorite sausages, Portuguese linguica has a robust flavor profile and therefore needs a full-flavored beer to go along with it. This sausage is traditionally smoke-cured and seasoned heavily with garlic, cumin, and paprika. Bock-style beers, which are high in malt character and sweetness, hold up well to the spicy flavors.
German-style Bock Suggestions:
- Double Bock | Full Sail Brewing | Hood River, OR
- Bock Beer | Anchor Brewing Co. | San Francisco, CA
- Saranac Black Diamond Bock | Matt Brewing Co. | New York, NY
One of the more common sausages in the U.S. is Italian sausage. With a traditional flavor profile including garlic and onion, but most predominantly oregano and fennel, this sausage can be used a number of different ways and can be paired with a number of different beers. According to CraftBeer.com’s “Tips for Pairing”, the flavors pair well with Belgian-style saisons. Try it!
Belgian-style Saison Suggestions:
- Saison Blanc | The Lost Abbey | San Marcos, CA
- Sorachi Ace | Brooklyn Brewery | Brooklyn, NY
- Saison | Funkwerks | Ft.Collins, CO
The traditional sausage of Spain and Latin America is chorizo. Almost always made with pork and highly seasoned with paprika, cayenne, and other red chili peppers, this sausage can be very spicy. Whether chorizo is dried, cured, and smoked or added fresh to a dish, the heat can be calmed by beers with a malty or residual sweetness.
- Mexican Logger | Ska Brewing | Durango, CO
- Helles Festbier | Hoppers Grill & Brewing Co. | Midvale, UT
- RhinO’fest | Lost Rhino Brewing Co. | Ashburn, VA
One of the most unique and vibrant cultures in the U.S. is that of the Cajuns, predominantly located in New Orleans and other parts of southern Louisiana. The cuisine that comes from this region is complex and has strong French and Spanish influences. One of the staples of Cajun and Creole food is Andouille sausage. Usually found in gumbo and jambalaya, it is often smoked before being added to these highly spiced dishes. When pairing, choose beers with complementary smoke flavors and malt sweetness to balance the spice.
- Moose Drool | Big Sky Brewing Co. | Missoula, MT
- Smoke Ale | Rogue Ales | Ashland, OR
- Turbodog | Abita Brewing | Abita Springs, LA
With many other varieties available of both beer and sausage, the pairing possibilities are virtually endless. The combinations mentioned here are just a few of my favorites. As you explore your own pairing ideas, remember to match the intensity of the beer with that of the dish. You don’t want the craft beer to outweigh the food, nor vice versa.
As a homebrewer and sausage maker, I appreciate both crafts because of their history and handmade qualities — and because each offers such a wide range of flavors. I love the combination of innovation and tradition and enjoy the feeling of being connected with the past. Like craft beer, sausage can represent a delicious new take on old traditions from all over the world. Get out to your local butcher, grab some beers, and give it a try!
Ben Zeller is a homebrewer, beer and food enthusiast, certified beer server and is the current Craft Beer Program Intern for the Brewers Association. He is also a new father, skier and currently a student at MSUD, anticipating graduation this December. He hopes to learn as much as he can during his time with the BA and continue his career in the craft beer world.
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