Beef Stew Simmered in Smoked Porter

When you think of stew, do you think of cold weather? More importantly, do you think of beer? Haha. Well you should if you don’t!

This stew is the bee’s knees (what does that even mean?). I will admit that prior to this recipe, I wasn’t the biggest fan of stew. Andrew changed that with this recipe. What kind of a stew wouldn’t be good that’s simmered with an entire 22oz bottle of beer? Better yet, a SMOKED PORTER?

 

Beef Stew and Smoked Porter | CaretoPair.com

Ohhhh yeah…this dish may not be much to look at, but it completely changed my mind about stew! It is simmered for about 3 hours, and in that time, the smoked flavors from the beer meld with the veggies and beef in perfect harmony. While writing this post, Andrew told me that the original version of this recipe actually only calls for a porter, not necessarily a smoked porter. Which means my fiance is a genius for using the Alaskan Smoked Porter. In contrast to a regular porter, the smoked porter adds a deeper flavor; an extra meatiness, a heartiness that actually gives the stew substance. Its not just meat and potatoes anymore, its a smoky, peppery meal that gets better with every bite (and even better the day after–if you have any leftovers).

Beef Stew Simmered in Smoked Porter |CaretoPair.com

The Beer

Alaskan Smoked Porter is a seasonal release from the Alaskan Brewing Company (you guessed it…in Alaska!). Every year they bottle the beer, they mark the vintage on it–when breweries display the year like this, it usually means the beer is meant for aging (or just ages well. Drink that beer as soon as you want). Being a beer with a lot of powerful smokiness, the porter ages well. Holding a bottle for a few years will mellow those flavors out and create a different drinking experience than just drinking it as soon as it becomes available. If you’ve never had smoked beer, it kind of tastes the way it sounds…smokey. But don’t worry, it doesn’t straight up taste like a campfire. Its a meaty beer with flavors of black pepper, chocolate, and bacon. There’s a hidden sweetness in the beer too, kind of reminiscent of maple syrup. Just think about what these flavors do to the stew!

If you want to try this beer with something other than this stew, it pairs excellently with other meals with strong flavors. Think grilled or smoked meats or anything with bacon–the smokiness in the beer will just add to the smokiness of those foods. If you’re afraid to try a smoked beer, then cooking with it is a great option since it will cook down and mellow out. There are other beer options to pair with this stew as well if you really don’t like the sound of a smoked porter. Andrew opened up a belgian dubbel with it on our “leftovers” night. It was sweeter and fruitier than the smoked ale, which contrasted with the flavors in the dish in a good way.

Beef Stew with Alaskan Smoked Porter | CaretoPair.com

 

Beef Stew Simmered in Smoked Porter
Recipe type: Stew
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 2½ pounds beef for stewing
  • 1 22oz bottle of Alaskan Smoked Porter (or 2 12oz bottles of any other porter beer)
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 oz water
  • 2 cans beef broth
  • 1 8oz can tomato paste
  • ¼ Cup flour
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 4 red potatoes, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat oil and butter in a large stew pot. When hot, sear the stew meat on all sides until brown.
  2. Remove meat from pot (leave butter, oil and drippings). Add the onion and cook until caramelized. Mix in the flour.
  3. Add the beef broth, beer, tomato paste, 8 oz of water, salt and pepper and return the beef to the pot. Stir well and bring to a boil.
  4. Simmer the stew for three hours.
  5. When the meat is tender after 3 hours, add the celery, carrots and potatoes. Simmer an additional 1½ hours. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.

 

Beers to Pair With Thanksgiving

Beers to Serve at Thanksgiving | CaretoPair.com

Thanksgiving is almost here! You may have thought about which wines you should put on the table, but have you ever thought of having beer instead? Or better yet, have both?! We often think of Thanksgiving as a fancy occasion and automatically rule beer out. However, beer can be just as beautiful as wine. Serve it in a wine glass! The many colors and bubbles from the carbonation will put on quite a show for your guests. Beer is also a fraction of the price of most wines, so I can’t think of why you wouldn’t serve beer with Thanksgiving dinner!

I’ve put my favorite styles to serve with Thanksgiving below. But in general, follow these guidelines and you’ll be all set for your Thanksgiving celebration:

  • Choose beers with low hops/low bitterness. In general, this rules out a lot of American styles, including Pale Ales, IPAs, Barleywines, and Amber Ales.
  • Malty beers are your best matches (think German or Belgian styles)
  • Lighter-colored beers will generally pair better than darker ones
  • Choose styles that are funky, earthy, or spicy. Stay away from smoked and roasted styles, as those will just mess with your food flavors

Turkey Beer Pairing

 

Saison

If there is one beer that must be on the dinner table, it is Saison. I have had Saison DuPont for the last few years and can’t imagine Thanksgiving without it. Saisons work better than any other beer because they are light and earthy, a perfect complement to just about everything on the table (besides the pie!). They are highly carbonated, (moreso than most beers) so they cleanse your palate after each sip, making each new bite taste like the first all over again. Plus many of them come in 750ml bottles, which makes for a  pretty presentation on the table.

My Picks:

  • Saison DuPont, Belgium
  • Brasserie de Silly Saison, Belgium
  • North Coast Brewery, Le Merle Saison, California
  • Goose Island Brewery, Sofie Saison/Farmhouse Ale, Illinois

Biere de Garde

As Saison’s cousin across the French border, Biere de Gardes go just as well with thanksgiving dinner as Saisons. They are even earthier than Saisons, adding a little more funkiness to the whole experience. However, finding one of these beers is difficult in this country. My advice to you—if you come across a Biere de Garde anytime throughout the year, buy a few bottles and save them for Thanksgiving. After all, Biere de Garde means “beer for holding”!

Beers to Serve at Thanksgiving |CaretoPair.com

 

German Helles

Helles is Germany’s most popular beer style. So why haven’t you ever heard of a Helles? Because beers that are technically in the “helles” category are often mistaken for German Pilsners here in America. Helles is German for “light”, and these beers indeed are light-bodied, refreshing, and very malty, making them great components for Thanksgiving dinner. You’d be surprised that these beers actually all fall under the Helles category, and they’re all delicious:

My Picks:

  • Paulaner Premium Lager, Germany
  • Spaten Premium Lager, Germany
  • Penn Brewery, Penn Gold, Pennsylvania

Thanksgiving Beer Pairing|CaretoPair.com

 

Belgian Blond Ale

The Belgians seem to be winning this game of Thanksgiving beer pairings, but that’s because the majority of their beers are low in hops and high in carbonation. Belgian Blond Ale is a relatively recent style developed to appeal to pilsner drinkers, and although it is as crisp and refreshing as pilsner, it has the typical earthy/spicy characteristic of Belgian yeast. The best thing about these beers is that they are widely distributed, so you can find them at almost any liquor store. But be careful: these beers are around 7.5% alcohol, so eat plenty of food with them!

My Picks:

  • Leffe Blond Ale, Belgium
  • Troubadour Blond Ale, Belgium
  • Grimbergen Blond Ale, Belgium

Sour Ales

Sour Ales are the next “It” drink in the craft beer world. And quite frankly, I don’t understand why they are just now coming around, as they are the oldest style on this earth and one of my favorites to drink. Sours resemble more of a wine than they do beer. They have ripping, mouth-quenching acidity that begs to be accompanied by food. They almost never have bitter hop flavors, and usually have great funky, fruity elements that other beers wish they had. All of these reasons support why they will go great with your Thanksgiving meal. Serve this to your usual wine drinkers who may scoff at the thought of beer and see if you can change their minds. After all, not all beers are alike!

My Picks:

  • The Bruery, Sour in the Rye, California
  • Brasserie de Silly Sour, Belgium
  • New Belgium, La Folie, Colorado
  • Lindemans Kriek or Framboise, Belgium (fruit lambics that are great for sweet-tooths)

Have fun trying these different styles with your meal this year!

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving Wine Pairing on CaretoPair.com

Its almost that time to wake up early, watch the parade, make the pumpkin pie, and decorate the table for Thanksgiving! But what is Thanksgiving without some great wines around the table to share with your family and friends? In a way, I would say the wine is the most important part! And the greatest part about the holiday is you can open up a bunch of different bottles and styles and everyone can choose what they like–this is a great excuse to have reds and whites at the table. And usually, none go to waste ;)

Below are my top picks for wines to serve with Thanksgiving Dinner based on how great they will pair with the meal. Have fun with choosing your wines and remember that Thanksgiving is one of the best times to try new favorites!

Sparkling Wine

When in doubt, go with bubbles. This is true for almost any dinner you’re planning, but even more so for thanksgiving, as there are so many different flavors going on in the meal. Dry sparkling wine, such as Champagne, Cava, domestic, will literally scrub away those different flavors on your palette, leaving your mouth after each sip ready for an entirely new flavor experience.

My Picks:

  • Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc (or Blanc de Noir if you can find it) from Napa, California $$
  • Nicolas Feuillatte Brut from Champagne, France $$
  • La Marca Prosecco $

 

Gewurztraminer

I feel like so many Americans stay away from this grape because its hard to pronounce (gah-verts-trah-meen-er), but it is an incredible varietal to break out to your guests who will drink nothing but Riesling. I usually prefer gewurztraminer at my Thanksgiving table over riesling because it tends to be a bit sweeter, fruitier, and better-priced. Some actually have a little spritziness to them, which adds a refreshing character. Plus, I can’t tell you that I’ve ever had a bad bottle of gewurztraminer–no matter how cheap the bottle, the juice is still good. The sweetness of this wine pairs well with the sweetness you get from the side dishes, and its a light enough grape not to overpower anything. Splurge (~$30) on at bottle from Alsace, France, like the Zind-Humbrecht, for a real treat.

My Picks:

  • Zind-Humbrecht Gewurtraminer, Alsace, France $$
  • Fetzer Gewurztraminer, California (available in most Grocery Stores) $
  • Chateau Ste Michelle Gewurztraminer, Washington State $

 

Riesling

Like Gewurztraminer, Riesling is a very good wine to have at the Thanksgiving table. However, don’t go buying late-harvest dessert Rieslings as they are way too sweet and heavy to pair with dinner. Instead, opt for a Kabinett style from Germany or a domestic off-dry example. These wines are great pairings for thanksgiving because the sweetness of the wine matches the sweetness in the food and won’t overpower even the lightest dishes.

My Picks:

  • Dr. Loosen, Estate Kabinett, Mosel, Germany $$
  • JJ Prum, Estate Kabinett, Mosel, Germany $$
  • Chateau Ste Michelle, Eroica, Columbia Valley, Washington $

 

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings on CaretoPair.com

 

Beaujolais

Thanksgiving is my favorite time to drink Beaujolais. Its the first red wine I think of when preparing my wine list for the big day. I partly enjoy it so much with this holiday because I never seem to drink it any other time of the year, even though its a great little wine with a very small price tag. A light red wine made from the gamay grape, it usually boasts vibrant flavors of bright red fruit and even a bit of candied “grapeiness”. Its a crowd-pleaser, as usual sweet-wine drinkers even warm up to it, and it pairs incredibly with Thankgsiving. You can usually find a cheap beaujolais under $10, but for a few dollars more, you can get the best of the best, cru beaujolais. I say if you get one wine to go with Thanksgiving dinner, make it this one.

My Picks:

  • Louis Jadot Morgon Beaujolais (Cru Beaujolais) $
  • Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages $

 

Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy

Like Beaujolais, Pinot Noir is a great wine for Thanksgiving because it is light, fruity, and low in tannins. Thanksgiving dishes are not heavy (who has ever served steak at thanksgiving?) so they need these light-bodied wines to complement rather than overpower them. Personally I suggest a pinot noir from Willamette Valley or Burgundy as these are usually the lightest and have a bit more earthiness to them than their California counterparts.

My Picks:

  • Adelsheim Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$
  • Erath, Willamette Valley, Oregon $
  • Any red burgundy–look for Savigny-Les-Beaune or Nuits-St. Georges for good values

 

Cabernet Sauvignon

Okay, this one barely makes the list, but it’s the wine of choice if you need to serve a wine for guests who want a big wine with dinner. I will admit, there was a time when I was getting into wine where it was “go big or go home” mentality, so I would not have been satisfied with the light-bodied wines I suggested above. If you want to provide Cabernet as an option, keep it domestic and try to find a fruitier, lighter-bodied style. And don’t buy one that’s over 14% alcohol, as a wine that high will be very full and could be too “hot” for the delicate flavors of the side dishes.

My Picks:

  • Justin Vineyards, Paso Robles, California $$
  • Sextant, Paso Robles, California $$
  • Canoe Ridge, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington $

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings on CaretoPair.com

Have questions on what you should serve with dinner? Send me a comment, below! Happy Pairings!

 

What I’m Sipping–Terra d’Oro Vineyard Lunch

As I sipped my glass of zinfandel, standing in the vineyard from which it came, I had a solid moment of realization. Wow, do I love my career. I was in the one of the oldest vineyards in America (planted in the 1880s) watching the vines do their work to produce the same wine in my glass. We were in the historic Deaver Vineyard in Amador County, and it was the end of our incredible tour of Terra d’Oro Winery.

CaretoPair.com Terra d'Oro Winery Visit

Lets start at the beginning, shall we? My friend Nikki and I found ourselves in Amador County this past August while on a trip to see a concert in Sacramento. About an hour south of the city, Amador County is most famous for its historic and quaint towns from the gold-rush era, but it also is home to many wineries specializing in Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the newest sensation in the area, Barbera.

Nikki and I were excited to go see Terra d’Oro winery after driving around the previous day and getting completely lost through windy-roads with no shoulder, no cell phone service, and thus no GPS. But that’s all part of the fun. Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by Jeff Meyers, Terra d’Oro’s VP, General Manager and previous, but still very involved, winemaker. He immediately piled us up into his pickup truck and we went for a little off-road adventure into their vineyards. A pretty awesome “welcome” if you ask me.

Terra d'Oro Winery Amador County | CaretoPair.com

Low and behold as we’re going through the vineyard he starts telling us all about the different varietals planted in the different plots, when they were planted, when they were pruned, why the leaves are turned a certain way…yeah, this guy knew his stuff. I immediately sensed this wasn’t going to be our typical “this is how wine is made” basic tour I sometimes get with wineries. Jeff was passionate and he wasn’t afraid to show it. We had questions, and he had ALL the answers.

We made our way through the first vineyard, passing an awesome dead tree that they purposely never cut down because it was so creepy, and reached a shady little grove with a picnic table, bottle of wine, sandwiches, salad, cookies, and even a vase of fresh flowers for lunch. What hospitality! They served us Terra d’Oro’s Chenin Blanc-Viognier white blend which went perfectly with our assortment of sandwiches. It inspired me to do the Chicken Salad Sandwich pairing featured at the end of this post.

Picnic Lunch at Terra d'Oro Winery | CaretoPair.com

At the time, I didn’t think it got much better than this. A little wine, a little lunch, and a great view of the vineyards makes for an awesome tour for me! But we were just beginning. We piled back into the truck and made our trek back to the winery for THIS ridiculous tasting. Yes, that’s 16 wines, a water glass, and a spit cup. Thank God for that spit cup!

Wine Tasting

If I wasn’t convinced that this winery’s wines wouldn’t equal the amazing hospitality we’d already been getting, this was my confirmation. We tasted almost all of Terra d’Oro’s current offerings as well as their sister winery, Montevina, which offers even more approachable, affordable wines that I would suggest to friends any day of the week. They were all great, but my favorites were Terra d’Oro’s  Barbera, “Home Vineyard” Zinfandel, and small-batch Aglianico which is unfortunately not distributed much. They also do a lovely Pinot Grigio and Moscato for the white-wine lovers out there.

Terra d'Oro Winery | CaretoPair.com

After that, we did an actual tour of their SPOTLESS winery–I’m telling you, I’ve never seen a winery floor so clean! Crazy! This was Jeff’s time to shine. He told me more about winemaking in an hour than I’ve learned in the last 4 years of studying it. It was great. He finished up with doing an extensive barrel sampling of perhaps 10 or 12 wines. Man, were we spoiled! My favorite of that batch of tastings, again, was the aglianico. It was a cool little grape that unfortunately has such small production, its hard to find.

Terra d'Oro Winery Visit | CaretoPair.com

And then, after all that, we piled up into the car and made our way to the historic Deaver Vineyard, home to 130 year-old vines, with yet another spread of cheese, fruit, and a glass of Deaver-Vineyard zinfandel waiting for us at the top. The vineyard was weedy and unkempt, but Jeff was proud to say they leave it that way on purpose. In a vineyard that old, you just have to let the vines do their own thing and make minimal impact. See how different it looks than a normal vineyard? Zinfandel vines are so cool.

Deaver Vyd

 It was a 5-hour winery visit and an incredible day. With his passion for what he does and all he knows, Jeff inspired me to also stay passionate, keep learning, and remember why I entered this industry in the first place. I hope I can inspire anyone reading this blog to enjoy wine as much as I do and encourage you to keep learning and appreciate it. If you ever make your way to Sacramento, I definitely suggest you make a day trip down to Amador County and visit this winery and a few others. If you can’t make it there, lucky for you these wines can be found at wine shops and some grocery stores. Pick up a bottle and have it at your next outdoor picnic!

Chicken Salad Sandwich Paired with Viognier Blend

As I just described, Terra d’Oro’s Chenin-Blanc and Viognier white blend went really well with our picnic lunch. I recreated this pairing with a chicken salad sandwich I made for myself one Saturday afternoon. This wine will go with almost any sandwich or lunch entree (except peanut butter and jelly–keep the milk for that one). The wine works so well with lunch because it is a heavy-bodied wine, weighing out almost any flavor combination that comes its way. With every bite of sandwich, chips, or salad, this wine will stand up to it. Despite its weight, however, the flavor is light enough not to overpower any delicate, complex flavors you’ll get in all the lunch goodies. With common flavors of tropical fruits, peaches, and floral notes, its a great choice as a day-drinking wine. The Cranberry-Chicken Salad Sandwich recipe I made for myself can be found on Ari’s Menu Blog. Enjoy!

Sandwich Paired with Viognier Blend | CaretoPair.com