Tuesday morning panic set it. It was less than 24 hours until suggestions were due for May’s Beer Versus Wine Pairing Challenge. There were only three suggestions and one was mine. I started to question this little experiment. Should I have opened this column up to a challenge? Was this idea a failure?
The first challenge (Battered Fish) opened up with a bang – 7 unique suggestions. This was more than expected. Participation dwindled in month two with only 5 pairing suggestions. I chalked it up to the dish. While a favorite of mine, Shrimp and Grits is very regional to the Southeast; not everyone has had the opportunity to love it. But Blue Cheese Stuff Filets? Wrapped in bacon? That’s a no brainer! Who doesn’t love smoky bacon? Or savory and tender filet mignon? The suggestions were endless on both the beer and wine front.
But there was radio silence with less than a day until the pairing went to a vote. In a last ditch effort, I fired off an SOS email to my fellow beer and wine bloggers and extended the deadline by a day. It worked! The amazing blogging community came through! It started with Bryan from This Is Why I’m Drunk. Not only did he suggest a Belgian Quad which I am dying to try, but he also rallied the craft beer Twitter world with two additional suggestions from Brew Keep and Bier Battered. Moments later was a suggestion from Oliver at The Winegetter (Although, I’m not necessarily sure his was a suggestion or justification for drinking more Riesling…). I was quite humbled as the total count climbed to 12! I am truly amazed by the support, camaraderie, and friendship within the blogging community. A big thank you for the support!
Enough of the sappiness. It’s time to vote for May’s Beer Versus Wine Pairing Challenge – Blue Cheese Stuffed Steaks!. Thanks to Meg’s from If It Falls on the Floor for not only suggesting the versatile dish, but for also offering the winner a FREE copy of her cookbook!
- Foxress – I would pair a bleu cheese stuffed filet mignon wrapped in bacon with St. Cosmé (100% Syrah). The big structure and body of the wine would stand up to the big body of the dish, and the natural smokiness of the grape would be echoed in the flavor of the bacon. I would definitely want something big and bold with layers of flavor to go with this big, bold, flavor-layered dish.
- If It Falls on the Floor – Normally, I would pair a full bodied and dry red with beef, but in this case, I feel a wine with softer tannins would work best with this lean cut of meat. The Bleu Cheese and bacon add some strong flavors, along with the fact that I like my beef grilled rare, so I want a wine that is filled with earthier scents, a little fruitier, some smoke added, but with some a little more punch. I am going to go with a Pinot Noir.
- The Wandering Gourmand – Normally, I like something heavy and dark with steak like a Russian Imperial Stout. However, the blue cheese throws in a curve ball. As strong and sharp as blue cheese is, it does lighten up the dish a bit with its creamy nature. Thus, I want to lighten up the beer a bit, but with something that still packs strong flavor. I am going with a barley wine like Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. The yeasty and toasty malty notes go well with the sharp cheese, smokey, bacon and savory steak.
- This is Why I’m Drunk – Oof. I got this. Boulevard Brewing Sixth Glass – a Belgian quad. Here’s what I wrote a while back when I paired the beer with a steak: “the richness of the meat and fat melted into the carbonated sweetness of the beer. It was even better as the beer got warm.” What makes this quad ideal for steak is the caramel and brown sugar flavors imparted by the beer, blending perfectly with sweaty, medium-done meat. My mouth is watering a little. Here’s some notes I compiled on the beer:http://bit.ly/RBVmrT.
- Brew Keep – Brekle’s Brown from Anchor Brewing has always been one of my favorites to pair with steak.
- Bier Battered – Brooklyn’s brown always worked for me.
- The Winegetter – When it comes to grilled beef, I have a tendency to think outside the box. I had a revelation when a winemaker friend of mine handed me a bottle of 1997 Riesling Auslese and told me to try it with steak. I could not believe what he was thinking, but when I tried it, it worked: the aged Riesling has enough power to stand up to the grilled aromas, and the fruitiness of the wine adds so much complexity to the dish it is mind-boggling. Now the blue cheese adds a different layer to that. A classic pairing with blue cheese would be Riesling or Pinot gris (I want to stay white here!), some say Gruener Veltliner although I am not entirely sure that would work. So let me focus on Pinot gris or Riesling. The two regions that come to my mind are Alsace and Mosel. While Alsace tends to produce dry, higher in alcohol whites, the Mosel tends to produce fruitier versions of wines made from these grapes. I guess it is a matter of personal preference: The Alsatians should be cutting through the creaminess of the cheese easily, while the Mosels would add more flavors to the plate. In order to get these flavors out, I would opt for a younger Riesling Spaetlese from the Mosel (yes, a sweet wine!), preferably 2010 because the high acidity levels paired with great fruit intensity should make this pairing a rare treat. There you got: I will always find a way to pair anything to my beloved Rieslings…
- Armchair Sommelier – This is a tough one for me, as I’m not a blue cheese fan! I think I’d go with something a little softer like Merlot . . . it’ll still stand up to the meat, but won’t clobber the cheese over the head. Salud!!
- Malcolm (Husband to If It Falls on the Floor) – I have THE answer. Any cream stout. Second street brewery in Santa Fe makes an exceptional local stout which isn’t available anywhere else. But this post is to make your mouth water.The Stout is inspired by the sweeter English style and is hopped with Fuggles and is fermented with an authentic English yeast strain. O.G. 1.055, IBU 23. Very smooth and slightly chocolaty. Think a lighter but still roasted and creamy Guiness. Low carbonation. The slightly sweet smoothness would bring out the blue cheese, the creamy roast chocolate mouth feel would have the steak screaming! In addition the steak fat and grease will be gently sheltered with the stout. Gonna go have one right now. The wise, all knowing husband of Megan.
- SAHMmelier - I think I would do a dry creek Zin. Maybe old vine. Rich fruit with spice, some acid, plenty of structure.
- The Killer Cook – I’d go with a high abv stout like left hand brewery’s wake up the dead stout with its roasted barley and vanilla notes. Though you can never go wrong with dog fish heads 120 IPA, the hops notes will plate great with the blue cheese and the beefy tenderloin will highlight the mineral notes.
- Wandering Sheppard – Recently, I went to a boxed wine tasting. The person giving the tasting said Chilean Cabs wines augment grilled meats. Something in the terrior gives off a cowboy flavor. I like heavy wines with steak, so seems appropriate.
Don’t forget to vote by May 21!