I’m always looking for examples and ideas that promote food with better beer, so when I saw the headline to a press release entitled “Say Goodbye to Wine and Cheese Parties” I was understandably intrigued. Then there was the first paragraph, which included the sentence: “it’s time to say goodbye to the ubiquitous, tired, wine and cheese party.” Amen. I couldn’t agree more. Wine doesn’t work well with cheese, as most honest sommeliers will admit, but the pairing has certainly helped wine’s image along nicely. Too bad it simply isn’t true that they go together. Beer, on the other hand, has been shown to pair up extremely well with cheese. The Trappist monks of Scourmont Abbey, who brew Chimay, also make cheeses that are perfect with their beers.
But this press release isn’t about anything quite so high-minded. It’s about beef jerky, of all things. Now I’m not opposed to jerky per se, but it’s not exactly the gourmet food to lift beer out of the tailgating food doldrums. Plus, the ad campaign surrounding this press release involves Sasquatch (a.k.a. Bigfoot) and his love of all things jerky. Not surprisingly, it has all the subtlety of a beer commercial on television. The company is Jack Links and they’ve even set up a MySpace page for their Sasquatch.
From the press release:
Move over wine and cheese, now there’s beer and jerky. A fun feast can be on the table in just five minutes using delicious, high-protein snacks from Jack Link’s® Beef Jerky. Made from the finest cuts of meat, in a variety of flavors and textures to satisfy even the most discerning palate, today’s jerky is packaged in shelf-stable, stay-fresh, re-sealable packages so they are always at the ready should unexpected guests arrive. Keep several types of chilled beers, lagers, micro-brews and ales on hand and you’re prepared for any spur-of-the-moment party.
“Along with America’s growing appreciation for the flavor and body of today’s micro-brews, ales and lagers, is the quest for the best foods to go with them,” says Damian McConn, certified brewing chemist. “We’ve paired varieties of beer with the savory flavors of Jack Link’s Beef Jerky. The orchestration of balance between the hop bitterness and malt sweetness is carefully matched with the unique flavor profiles of jerky for the perfect party taste combinations.”
Hmm. Maybe, but surely there are better meat and beer combinations. I must confess I did have some salmon jerky the last night of GABF that Geoff Larsen, who owns Alaskan Brewing, brought down with him. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of his terrific Smoked Porter to wash it down. So while I can’t really disagree that jerky probably does work with beer, it’s hard to swallow the way the press release is talking about jerky as if it were filet mignon. But okay, I’ll play along. Here are their recommendations. What do you think?
Beer and Jack Link’s Jerky: Six Quick Party Pairings
Barbecue Bliss: Barbeque beef jerky and full-flavored, dry stout. For a big, full-bodied blast of flavor, nothing beats the combination of beer n’ barbecue — forget the grill — just tear open a few bags of ready-to-eat, authentic jerky. Whether it’s the naturally smoked, slow-cooked goodness of Jack Link’s KC Masterpiece® Beef Jerky, KC Masterpiece Pork Tender Cuts or Hickory Smoked Beef Jerky, the grill has met its match. “This is a strongly flavored jerky with multiple dimensions, so I recommend a fairly complex, rich beer with some of the characteristics of the barbecue,” says McConn. “A full- flavored dry stout with a good body works best. The burnt, roasted notes of the stout provide the flavor to accompany the barbecue taste.”
Taste of the South: Spicy beef jerky and U.S. India Pale Ale. When you’ve got a hankerin’ for hot, sultry flavors, bring out the taste of the South with spicy meat snacks and thirst-quenching lagers and ales. Set your friends’ taste buds aflame with bowls of Jack Link’s Louisiana Hot Sauce Beef Jerky or Jalapeno Carne Seca Beef Jerky, both seasoned with flavor-filled spices, gently mesquite smoked and slow-cooked for the savory goodness you expect from authentic jerky. Spice up the party with a sample of flavorful Chicken Fajita Tender Cuts or Jack Link’s Sweet & Hot Beef Jerky. “Spicy jerky pairs well with a very hoppy U.S. India Pale Ale,” says McConn. “The hops, along with the higher alcohol, tame the heat, while the big malt profile of the beer matches the flavor of the beef. Hot, spicy flavors require big, hoppy beers.”
Taste of the Orient: Teriyaki jerky and German Kolsch or U.S. Golden Ale. If the tempting taste of teriyaki beckons you to the table, enhance the experience with a traditional German Kolsch-style beer or American Golden Ale. “The low hopping of these style beers allows the aroma of the teriyaki to remain present, while the fuller body complements the flavor of the beer,” says McConn. “Avoid overly hoppy or malty beers with this flavor of jerky.”
Steak House Supreme: Steak jerky and ESB (Extra Special Bitter) beer. Steak and beer: it’s the supreme combination. Now, you can create an authentic steakhouse experience on a moment’s notice with Jack Link’s A.1.® Steak Sauce Beef Jerky, A.1. Steak Sauce Beef Steak Nuggets or Jack Link’s® Prime Rib Tender Cuts paired with bold-flavored beers and ales. “I recommend an ESB style of beer. With the bitterness of the beer, you will encounter fruity, hoppy notes that complement the savory nature of the jerky,” says McConn. “A German-style ale works well with this flavor pairing also.”
Taste of Home: Ham or turkey jerky & doppel bock or medium-bodied lager. Who can resist the down-home flavor of tender roasted turkey or perhaps baked ham glazed with maple and brown sugar? You can evoke memories of these popular home-cooked meals in five minutes using Jack Link’s Turkey Jerky, Jack Link’s Maple & Brown Sugar Ham Jerky or Maple & Brown Sugar Pork Tender Cuts. “These pair wonderfully with the rich, full-bodied traits of a doppel bock,” says McConn. “The slight caramel notes of the bock pair well with the sweetness of the jerky, while the maltier, sweeter notes of the beer contrast the savory nature of the ham. I recommend a medium-bodied lager such as an Oktoberfest or marzen-style beer; these beers are brewed with spicier German hops that work well with pork and ham dishes.”
Pick a Pepper Party: Peppered jerky & English ale or English India pale ale. Pick a package of peppered jerky to perk up your next party. Let your guests pick their favorite from meat snack varieties such as Jack Link’s Peppered Beef Jerky or Peppered Steak Nuggets, both naturally smoked with mesquite and seasoned with a unique blend of peppercorns and robust spices. Or, think outside the pepper shaker and try Jack Link’s Pepperoni Jerky, a zesty treat loaded with all the flavor of authentic Italian sausage and the genuine goodness of beef jerky. “This jerky pairs well with English-style ale or English India pale ale,” says McConn. “The assertive presence of the hops helps balance the spiciness of the pepper, especially at the finish. These are both full-bodied beers that hold up well to the flavor of the beef while the fruity, spicy hops complement the peppery overtones.”