Sunday, May 1, 2011

I've been Goosed

I’ve been a wine “afficionado” for a long, long time.

Although I really DO love the taste of wine, the full enjoyment of wine also (by necessity) has to include the proper food pairings and the “poetic description” of the wine at hand.

For example, Barefoot Wines recently produced some handy reference cards to make it easier to match up wine with food.

One of Sharon’s favorite wines is Moscato, which is described as “a sweet white wine with delicious mouth-watering flavors of juicy peach and apricot. Hints of lemon and orange citrus complement a crisp, refreshing finish.”

The suggested food pairing?

“Perfect with spicy Asian cuisine, light desserts, fresh fruit, and mild cheeses.”

When I prepare my weekly gastronomical extravaganza from the various cook books we have at our location, I’m always careful to choose the appropriate wine for the occasion.

This week’s “extravaganza” was taken from a book titled “the spice kitchen”. To complement the Parmesan Chicken (with artichokes), Marjoram Mashed Potatoes, and Grilled Asparagus Spears with Lemon-Cumin Beurre Blanc Sauce, I selected Berringer’s Chenin Blanc, which was described as “a carefully crafted wine with vivid flavors of pear and cantaloupe.. It is sleek and silky, with a subtle hint of orange blossom.”

Compared to wine, beer has long had a “low brow” image, and there are still lots of people who would consider Coors Light and a beef jerky to be a good beer/food pairing.

Both wine and beer have been around for a long time. Wine was first introduced in about 8000 B.C., and beer was introduced about 2000 years later. Wine became the drink of choice for the nobility, and beer became the beverage for the proletariat, but I’m really not sure why.

The five most popular beers in America are:

Bud Light
Miller Light
Coors Light
Corona Extra

Worldwide, the most popular beers are:

Snow (a Chinese beer)
Bud Light
Skol (Brazil)

The most popular beers aren’t necessarily the best beers, but they tend to be relatively decent beers that have benefited from inspired advertising. I’ll be the first to admit that on the occasions when I’m looking for a traditional American beer, I’ll usually buy Budweiser because they’ve got great ads.

horses having a snowball fight

In recent years, domestic beer consumption has either stayed level or declined, but “craft beers” have grown dramatically. In the first half of 2010, domestic beer consumption actually DROPPED 2.7 percent, but the consumption of craft beers INCREASED by 9 percent, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the big beer producers.

Although Boston Brewing (maker of Samuel Adams) is the largest craft brewer in America, Chicago’s Goose Island is America’s 20th largest brewer. More significantly, Goose Island has won at least one medal at one of the nationwide “best beer” competitions for the last 17 years.

Inevitably, craft brewers start to experience shortages of brewing capacity as their beers become more popular, which is precisely what happened to Goose Island. Faced with a choice of either CONTRACTING his company, or expanding it, founder John Hall decided to EXPAND the company by selling a 58% share to Anheuser-Busch on March 29, 2011.

So far, the sky hasn’t fallen.

Anheuser-Busch itself became part of a larger company in 2008, when it merged with InBev, and became the world’s largest brewing company.

The folks at A/B are pretty astute business people, so it’s my opinion that they’ll leave Goose Island untouched and untethered. My one word answer to WHY they would do that is this:


In the 1940’s,Schlitz was the most popular beer in America. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, Schlitz battled Anheuser-Busch for the highest market share. By the late 1960’s, Schlitz decided that if they couldn’t have market share, they would at least have a higher profit margin, so the company started tinkering with its formula. Sales continued to slip in the 1970’s, and the aggressive advertising campaign of the late 1970’s eventually caused the company to fold in 1981.

I was recently invited to a beer tasting by my neighbor Dan, and on April 28, the two of us attended a tasting of Goose Island’s Belgian Beers at the local Whole Food stores. In a nod to the wine industry, the beer descriptions have now taken on a more poetic tone, and all of the beers were paired up with a variety of food offerings.

Our beer selections for the evening were the ones listed under the “vintage” section of Goose Island’s Craft Beer Menu listed below:

Goose Island Beers

The most intriguing beer was Fleur, which was blended with hibiscus and Kampuchea tea, a blend that wouldn’t be understood (or appreciated) by Joe Sixpack. My favorite (and the one that I brought home) was Sophie. This beer was “fermented with wild yeasts and aged in wine barrels with orange peel .. Sophie is a tart, dry, sparkling ale .. a subtle , spicy white pepper note, a hint of citrus from the orange peel and a creamy vanilla finish make Sofie an intriguing choice for Champagne drinkers and beer drinkers who are fond of Belgian Saisons.”

Sophie was paired with fresh goat cheese, served on a wafer cracker and drizzled with orange blossom honey.

A close second, though, was Pere Jacques, a nutty tasting brew that was paired with brown sugar Fromager d’Affinois brulee truffle dipped in dark chocolate.

As Goose Island starts to become more widely available across the nation, it’s possible that there will be more Whole Food tasting events in other states. If you can find one in your home state, I’d encourage you to go, since it made for a very fine evening.

It also adds a whole new dimension to the phrase, “let’s go have a beer.”

No comments:

Post a Comment