Beer for breakfast (on a Tuesday night, of course)

Difficult to work out if smoke is coming from the pan or the beer

A Tuesday night in January just has that dreary feel to it. Tuesdays are not that great and January is one of those months we hope to get out of the way as fast as possible. I did however use a recent one to conduct another experiment of beer and food matching, this time beer to go with breakfast.

Objectivity and rigour are important in conducting any such experiment so I would like to point out that I conducted this in the evening time (health and safety of course necessitated this). The idea came to me by looking in the fridge and deciding that all I felt like for dinner was a fry. This got me wondering what beers would match and this of course would be applicable for those who avail of all-day breakfasts (or brunch if you want to be posh) as well.

A number of beer books feature beers to go with breakfasts as part of general guides to food matching but I haven’t had the opportunity to try them. Besides a few early houses, we really don’t have a culture of early morning drinking (probably for the best). When I was working in Brussels I went to grab a coffee and a pain au chocolate in a café under the Berlaymont (aka European Commission HQ). I didn’t stand just stand out because I wasn’t wearing a grey suit, I was the only person not partaking of a beer at breakfast (it was 7.45am or in Brussels 07h45). Observing this scene, it wasn’t some romanticised scene portrayed in many a beer book, it was simply something that was done and they were drinking cheap lager straight from the can.

So with the pan on the hob and the sausages frying away, I selected the beers to be used. With such a meal we overload on fatty foods. A crisp lager to cut through such food would be too easy a choice. A Mild Ale, breakfast in a glass in its own right, could be a runner but I had none at hand. I was thinking of beers that contain flavours that our brains would easily make the connection with breakfast time. Unfortunately I didn’t have Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Breakfast to hand, so I focussed on wheat because of our familiarity with cereal, bread etc. With a fried breakfast, we have an unbelievable ability to consume a wide array of pork products so why not try and match it with a smoked beer. The two beers selected were these: Weisser Hirsch, a Hefeweizen by Privatbrauerei Höss der Hirschbräu and Schlenkerla’s Aecht Rauchbier Märzen

The two contenders

First up, Hirschbräu’s Hefeweizen poured extremely pale with a good head and remarkable lacing around the glass. The aroma was an incredible blend of ripe banana and clove. It had a pleasant body with an off-dry finish. Frying the sausages resulted in some caramelisation occurring, which clearly allowed the food to really emphasise the sweetness in the beer, reminiscent of Weetabix. It also matched perfectly when the toast was taken into account. This beer was refreshing in the finish and gave me the impression, like I had a fresh juice alongside my meal.

The second beer being possibly the most iconic of smoked beers. I must admit that I do enjoy Schlenkerla’s Aecht Rauchbier Märzen once in a while (and I also mean no more that one at a time as well). This is a beer that needs food for it to be truly enjoyed. I’ve read how well this goes with German sausages and now its time to see how well it goes with an Irish fry. It pours a rich caramel colour that’s on the point of turning burnt. There’s no head and the beer itself has a transparency to it that you wouldn’t expect in such a dark beer. On the aroma front, it is pure smoke, so much so that you don’t know if it’s the beer or that you’re burning the pan. Besides intense smoke, bacon and leather aromas (what a combination) come through. This beer is clearly enjoyable with food. It works, don’t get me wrong but I feel that it was not the right match on this occasion as I did not have the ingredients on hand that would really allow it to shine.

Difficult to work out if smoke is coming from the pan or the beer

The Aecht Rauchbier Märzen deserves real quality ingredients, from the type of sausage to the type or rasher. Smoked meats would come into their own alongside this beer. How I wished I had one alongside a fantastic breakfast that I had in the Loveless Café during a recent trip to Nashville. The pit-cooked pork barbeque & eggs could be the ideal match for this beer (although it was smoked with hickory wood, unlike the beer which has malts kilned above beech).

The Loveless Café’s famous pit-cooked pork barbeque & eggs is just crying out to be served alongside Bamberg’s finest

This was certainly a fun experiment for a Tuesday night. I would be leaning on the hefeweizen as a good match, although if I had a breakfast roll and was consuming everything at once, the rauchbier might win out. I doubt, however, if I will be reaching out for a beer anytime soon alongside my breakfast and will most likely be sticking with coffee. That is not to say that you can’t match beer with breakfast.

Oktoberfest better late than never

It’s great how traditions have built up over the years and Oktoberfest is one of them. Bars and breweries the world over clamour to carry out their own commemorations of the annual 16-day celebration of beer (could go on for a 17th day due to a technicality) that takes place in München. However, most are caught out by one thing, the majority of the actual Oktoberfest celebrations take place in late September. Apart from the occasional bar or two (where one was greeted by the sight of Alan & co in the Brewdock decked out in lederhousen) and the IFSC pop-up Erdinger extravaganza, it seems most bars wait until October to break out the Bauhaus.

I had the opportunity to attend the launch of the Porterhouse’s Oktoberfest earlier this month and in keeping with the Irish approach to “die Wies’n” I waited until now to blog about it. Not all the beers offered during the festival would be considered beers allowed to be served in Munich (6% beers brewed within the city limits by Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Spaten, Hofbräu or Löwenbräu). While the only “official” beer was Paulaner’s Oktoberfest Bier, the two weeks in the Porterhouse was more a festival of German brewing generally.  The always excellent bitterly and austere Jever Pilsener (shows that not all austerity emanating from Germany is bad) was available on draught, as was Weissenoher Bonator, Wieninger Helles and Schlenkerla Weizen. In bottles, there was Augustiner Helles, Tegernseer Spezial, Wieninger Guidobald Gold in bottles. I had the opportunity to do tastings of most of these beers in Probus over the course of the year thankfully because precious few were in the country over the past few weeks.

For the festival, the Porterhouse brought back its seasonal brew Hersburcker Oktoberfest. While it is based on the standard Hersbrucker Pils, it doesn’t have the same level of bitterness and the same level of floral aroma. Instead, it has become a malt-forward beer dominated by its malt bill of Vienna, Caramalt and Munich. It’s malt on the nose and in the taste. The body is golden/amber thanks to the addition of Vienna malt and perhaps is closer to the true Oktoberfestbier/Märzen style. The beer was matured in the brewery for 6 weeks prior to release. The sweet caramel flavour belies its 6% abv. For me the taste is reminiscent of a waffle cone. It has a dry, sugary flavour with the vaguest hint of gingerbread.  It is strongly reminiscent of beers from Hall & Woodhouse’s Badger range such as Tangle Foot and Fursty Ferret.

Of course no respectable Oktoberfest would be complete without out an Oompah band. There’s something fantastic about brass bands attempting to belt out popular tunes – the kitscher the better.  And every so soften for them to belt out Ein Prosit followed by “Schenkt ein, trinkt aus, schenkt ein, trinkt aus”, which gets steadily more raucous as the night wears on. There’s a great one on youtube of a band playing Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5. An Oompah band is really the ultimate party band (if the Saw Doctors are unavailable) so forget the DJ and the karaoke.

Prost!