Editor's Note: We're trying to find the best beers to drink with our favorite Serious Eats recipes. Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew is here to help.
Sauteed chicken with rosemary and garlic: to me, this recipe says "farmhouse." It's an elegant but unpretentious dish that's packed with great flavors. It calls for beer with equally complex flavors in a similarly simple package; beer that shares its earthy, herbal character without coming off too heavy. The butter, oil, and chicken fat that contribute to the richness of this dish create a mouth-coating sauce, so the beer needs to have some palate cleansing power. Fresh and funky French and Belgian farmhouse ales deliver on all counts.
Belgian Saisons are the perfect match to this dish. Saisons have a lush malty/yeasty mouthfeel coupled with frisky effervescence. They stand up to the food's rich textures while whisking away the buttery sauce. Sweet malt and herbal hops complement the main flavors in the food. The light, malty sweetness of the beer helped counter the saltiness of the dish. Yeast-derived vinous and fruity overtones in the Saison work well with the white wine and add a little something extra on top.
You may think of France as wine country, but they make great beer in the north of France along the Belgian border. Biére de garde, the French version of farmhouse ale, is a slightly sweeter but no less sumptuous pairing to this provincial dish. Go with a lighter blond version. Its honey-like maltiness counters the food's savory and salty flavors. Subtle earthy notes from both yeast and hops keep the pairing grounded. There is adequate fizz to cut through the fat.
Traditional Belgian gueuze offers a sour counterpoint to the savory chicken. Gueuze is a blend of aged and young spontaneously-fermented lambic beers. They bring enormous complexity in a light and refreshing quaff. High carbonation and intense acidity work together to cleanse the palate. Funky flavors from the wild yeast fermentation place this farmhouse dish squarely in the barnyard. A bit of wheaty malt that the yeast leaves behind give just enough fullness so this beer can stand up to the richness of the food.
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Michael's Beer Picks
Half Acre Bairn Farmhouse Belgian Style Ale: A nice interpretation of the Saison style; this is a crisp, dry, highly effervescence beer with underlying pillowy malt sweetness and fruity yeast character. The pairing is given some extra herbal oomph by chamomile added to the brew.
Blaugies Saison d'Epeautre: This one sparkles like dry champagne. It has a heady, wheaty texture that underlies complex earthy and citrusy fruit flavors from the yeast. A gentle touch of acidity helps clear the palate.
Blond Biére de Garde
Castelain Blond Biere de Garde: The delicious honey-tinged malt lingers well into the finish. It's balanced by a wet-slate, mineral character and sharp but not overpowering bitterness. Mushroom-earthy notes in the background fit well with the earthy, herbal flavors of the dish.
La Bavaisienne Blonde: This is a slightly more bitter version of the style. Spicy and herbal hops are a bit more prominent. They are balanced by gently-sweet bread and biscuit malt. Grassy overtones and yeasty fruit round it out. There is a rough-hewn quality to this beer that complements the recipe's simplicity.
St Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition: It's a bit less funky and sour than some other examples, which makes it a good match for this dish. While the dish is full-flavored and rich, too much acidity might overwhelm its subtleties. The acidity and carbonation of this beer cut nicely through the sauce. Each bite was a fresh new experience. Apple-cider flavors offered an interesting contrast to the savory, herbal chicken.
Lindemans Cuvée René Gueuze: Brasserie Lindemans is best known for sweetened fruit lambic, but they make an excellent traditional gueuze as well. Intense cider-like acidity and barnyard flavors come together in a complex mélange. The tartness offers the dish a full-on contrast while the funk brings it back home to the farm.
About the Author: Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew is the lead educator and owner of A Perfect Pint. He conducts beer tastings for private parties and corporate events. His beer musings can be read in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, his own Perfect Pint Blog, The Hop Press at Ratebeer.com, the City Pages Hot Dish Blog, and in respected national beer magazines.