Beer and Wine: Summertime and the Pairings are Easy

Story by Matt Young. Photo above by Jennifer YinRead more in our Wine & Beer Series.

Cary, NC – With Memorial Day behind us and the long summer stretching ahead, it’s time to talk about some 2012 Summertime Wine and Beer Pairings

Wine, Beer & Food Pairings: Give it a Shot

I love the summer. There’s no place I’d rather be than next to my grill or my smoker with the smell of oak or cherry wood (broken off of the trees in my yard) with a cold IPA in my hand. IPA being my grillin’ drink of choice of course.

When I’m finished cooking, there’s a decision to be made regarding “pairings”. Amid the snobbery of this practice, I am sure there are some golden rules of thumb, I just don’t know what they are.

My thinking on putting food and wine/beer together is along the same lines as putting together a recipe, or combinations of food to serve together. I just stop and think, “Hmmm. This would go with that.” And I give it a shot.

Who makes these rules anyway?

“A snob is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger.”  – Dan Rather

Saison Ale: Summer Beer

I Tasted: Saison Ale –  Le Merle, North Coast Brewing Co., 7.9% ABV 

I’ve written about saisons before. While not for everyone, it’s a good one to have in your repetoire of  beer knowledge. They are fermented at warm temperatures with a very specific kind of yeast.

Saison means “season” in French, and this style was traditionally brewed and fermented in the farmhouses of Belgium in the warmer months at over 80 degrees F. Citrus peel and coriander are traditional adjuncts.

Tasting Notes: Citrusy, floral, fruity,raspberry, tangy, spicy, bitter.

Pair with: So, here you have a bold and spicy beer. I know that I would never pair this with bland foods like broiled flounder or baked chicken.

I’d pair this with something equally spicy:  jerked chicken or western NC barbecue.

Photo by Cliff Hutson.

Zinfandel: Get Your Game On

I tasted: Zinfandel –  The Immortal 2010, Peirano Estate Vineyards

A great Zin for under 15 bucks. The vintage I tasted was from 2010. The Vineyard reports that 2010 (in Lodi,California) was a year that started off dry which stressed the vines and then was followed by a mild summer. This caused a long “hang time” for the grapes (staying on the vine a long time) and in turn the grapes developed “layers of flavors” on these 113-year-old (!) Zinfandel vines.

Tasting Notes: My wife and I enjoyed this wine – a lot. Fruity, strawberry, tannin, black cherry, chocolate and spice.

Pair with: We were eating Chinese food when I opened the bottle and, heck, it worked!

I would pair this with any grilled red meat, the gamier the better. Lamb, pork, burgers with blue cheese, ribs with tomato-based sauce, eastern NC pork ‘cue. And yeah, spicy Chinese food, like the spicy sesame chicken we were eating.

Lager: Beyond Bud

I tasted: Lager – Primator Premium, Pivovar Nachod A.S., 5% ABV

Here’s a little zythology (“What’s the study of beer called, Alex?”) for ya.

The part of the world now called the Czech Republic has had a profound effect on the history of beer.

The town of Náchod in that region was brewing beer for centuries, according to the brewer. In 1871 the town built this brewery.

Primátor beer uses local lager yeast, it gets its malt from South Moravia, the hops are from the Žatec region and water from the natural preserve of Adršpach.

Tasting notes: Deep golden in color, lots of body for a pilsner. Pilsners normally are defined by some degree of hoppiness, but this one is more mildly hopped than say, Pilsner Urquell. Malty, bready, grassy.

Pair with: This beer, in my opinion, is almost like a cross between a pale ale and lager.  When I think of pairings with the average hoppy, dry Czech pilsner, which this most certainly is not, I think of  lighter fare: vinaigrette salad, maybe some grilled scallops. Primator would be the perfect beer to drink with at a traditional oyster roast, or a steak.

Pinot Grigio: Raleigh Importer Gets It Right

I tasted: Pinot Grigio: Ca’ Brigiano Pinot Grigio Veneto 2010, Ca’ Brigiano

This wine comes from Verona, an hour and a half’s drive west from Venice, Italy. Ca’ Brigiano Pinot Grigio can be found for under $10 and is nice, very nice for the price. And it’s imported by Sunrise Wines in Raleigh.

The founding vintner,  Antonio Bennati, was born in Soave near Verona in the mid 1800’s. After WWII, the winery expanded to  several types of wine.

Tasting notes: Very light straw color. Apples, pears, fruit cocktail, honey.

Pair with: We served ours with chicken cutlets. It would also go nicely with a clam/lobster bake or a light lettuce salad.

Photo by Katrina Bowman.

Victory Brewery: Fasten Your Safety Belts

I tasted: Pale Ale (rauch beer and Belgian dubbel combo): Otto, Victory Brewery, 8.1% ABV

At 8.1% I am sure you should not be drinking this one while operating any machinery. You also should not be standing near a grill’s open flame. This is a mindblower. So save this for the eating, after the cooking is done.

A rauch beer. It tastes like the smoke coming from your grill.

Beer lovers know this Pennsylvania brewery well.

Certainly the brewers’ story is a charming one. Truth be told, it makes me jealous.

In 1973 Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski go on a school bus on their way to a new school. They’ve been friends ever since. After college, Bill got access to his father’s home brewing equipment. Then Bill gave Ron a home brewing kit as a Christmas gift. They both grew disillusioned (their words) with their corporate jobs.

Ron became an apprentice at Baltimore Brewing Company, then went on to study brewing in Munich. Bill then went to become an apprentice at the same brewing company, then headed to Munich as well.

“In 1987, when we arrived in Bamberg, Germany for the first time, St. Otto was not there to greet two thirsty travelers in a rented Fiat. He’d been dead for 848 years but we were alive, and our recent visit to the Belgian brewery of Orval only fanned the flames of our desire for fermented pleasures. The smoked malt (rauch) beers of this lovely town where St. Otto was once Bishop were our siren song, luring us into deep, exotic flavors that we never before imagined in beer. Three decades later we wondered what smoked malt might add to a Belgian-style dubbel ale. Here is it, an Otto revival of sorts. We hope it helps rejuvenate some of our brain cells that were martyred in Bamberg so long ago.” – The Brewmasters of Victory

The rest is history. Victory Brewing Company opened its doors to the public on Feb. 15, 1996 in what was once a Pepperidge Farm factory.

Beer lovers like me glom on to certain breweries. For me this is one of them. I also love their hoppy beers (HopDevil and Yakima Glory).

Tasting notes: Deep amber, reddish. Smoky, malty, burnt wood, brown malt, bready, some fruitiness.

Pair with: I would avoid having this with anything that has a lot of smoke flavor, but it definitely needs to be served with food that can “stand up” to it. Some people like to pair rauch beers with smoky foods, but I am not on that bandwagon. Maybe have this with grilled (not smoked) oily fishes – like salmon, or grilled Portobello, or sausage and sauerkraut. It might also be nice sipped with rich cheese before dinner.


“Summertime and the livin’ is easy, fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.” – George Gerschwin

Victory Prima Pils by Edwin Bautista.


The Wine & Beer Series on CaryCitizen is sponsored by Triangle Wine Company on Davis Drive in Morrisville.

2 replies
  1. Robert Campbell
    Robert Campbell says:

    Love, love, love the Triangle Wine Company — these guys know their stuff, be it wine or beer. I recommend this place to all my friends and I’ve not be disappointed once by a recommendation!

    • Matt Young
      Matt Young says:

      When you stop in – mention to Chris, Glenn or Kevin that you read our column in CaryCitizen.

      They are great guys, they love what they do and I stop in to talk beer (and a little wine) with them a couple times a month.


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