I love wine. I drink all kinds of wine, I make wine and I am making a film about wine. But sometimes a man just wants a cold beer. In the summer – gardening or working up a sweat at the computer – there is nothing more refreshing than an ice cold beer. The challenge is that, unlike wine which is perfect with food, beer not so much. I know that there are beer advocates that would disagree and point to books and blogs and restaurants devoted to the culinary delights that can be beer-centric. Personally, I think that is stretching it.
Consider one of the most famous beer cultures: Germany. I have been to Germany many times and can tell you how many great meals I have had there: three. That doesn’t mean that some of the best food to serve with beer doesn’t originate in said same land. Take soft pretzels, for instance. Hold on. I need to digress about soft pretzels for a second. I worked once at a place in Munich that brought in soft pretzels in the morning that were sliced in half and served with butter. Oh my goodness, that was heaven and there was no beer in sight. Just a strong, hot coffee and people who still smoked indoors.
Salty, chippy things are also good with beer, mainly because they keep you thirsty and wanting more beer. Same with nuts and the above pretzel. I have never been brave or drunk enough to dive into one of those hard boiled eggs or sausages served at the dive bars of my hometown which seem to float in liquid akin to formaldehyde. Those might be good with beer.
I think it’s not the beverage’s fault that we do not normally have food that accompanies it. I believe that it is the method and use that has been culturally developed over the centuries. In earlier, less sterile times beer was drunk instead of water – the mild alcoholic content making it safer to drink than the dung filled rivers and streams. Everyone drank it, including small children and the elderly (30-somethings). I imagine that the whole of Europe were mildly but constantly inebriated at one time. Now it’s just England that is constantly inebriated. Great Britain is another culture of beer (ney, lager or bitter) where food is not the strong-suit. We also tend to swig, guzzle and shoot beer to refresh ourselves and our buzz. A sipping beverage it is not.
Having said all of those disparaging things about my brethren in England and Germany as well as the beverage that I truly love, I must admit that there are a handful of foods that go perfectly well with a light lager or a hefty porter. Here is one that is a perfect bite after a swig of the nectar of barley and hops.
- 5-6 Bratwurst
- 4 Tablespoons Yellow Mustard Powder
- 4 Tablespoons cold Water
- 1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
- Pinch of Salt
- 3 Tablespoons Honey
- Mixing Bowl
- Container with lid
- Make the mustard the night or morning before. Add bracingly cold water to the mustard powder and stir. Let sit for about 10 minutes.
- Add the vinegar, salt and honey. If you are in a hurry you can serve it after about 2 hours.
- Grill the bratwurst until thoroughly cooked, about 15-20 minutes. I usually don’t recommend stores but Gelson’s in Los Angeles seems to make their own and they are wonderful. Esponito’s in New York is the best if you are in Manhattan. If you live in Milwaukee and don’t already have a source for brats, you need to move.
- Serve cut on an angle, to make long pieces with a dollop of mustard and a pint of your favorite.