Thursday, November 6, 2014

Creating a Snack-Centered Craft Beer Feast

Craft beer pairings don't have to be complicated. In fact, it's possible to put together an elegant and simple feast entirely from foods of the snack variety. I put together a selection of store bought items (and suggested styles of beer) for a throw-together craft beer feast that will have you giving thanks in no time.

Why snacks?

Salty and sweet barside snacks work for a reason--because beer is built on malt, and (though to varying degrees) malt is the sweet sidecar to bittering and flavoring hops that makes us drool. And as any beer that is balanced with both bitter and sweet will prove, these flavors offer the perfect counterpoint for creating deliciousness. And they don't have to be of the typical peanut and pretzel variety either (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Not only is a snack-centered feast easier than creating an entire meal, but it's a lot more fun for less formal gatherings where you'd rather open up those larger bottles to share with friends without worrying about meal prep (or involved cleanup afterward).

Without further ado, here are my top picks for the table, which include an array of store-bought cookies, chocolates, and salty standbys you can pick up the day of (or days before) your gathering.

My must-have salty and sweet items for creating a snack-centered craft beer feast:

  1. Popcorn! H&F caramel bacon popcorn, to be exact. I seriously recommend you buy an extra tub of this (for personal use only). By itself? A dream. With beer? A fantasy come true. As an alternative, look for tins or bags of candy-coated or kettle cooked popcorn.  
  2. Olives! A range of green and black marinated olives and thinly sliced salami or other cured meats. Harry's in Marietta has a great selection (just be careful of those pits, or make sure to choose from the pitted options).
  3. Cookies & Chips! Fruit-filled, chocolate-dipped, flakey and buttery cookies and crunchy sweets--including fig-filled rugelach, dark chocolate dipped pretzels, dehydrated apple or sweet potato chips. You get the idea.
  4. Cheese & Crackers! Soft, fresh cheeses rolled in herbs and flavorings, or aged and funky cut from the block--cheese is a fun and easy pairing with beer. I picked up these pretty little rounds (made by from Caly Road Creamery) from The Stout Brothers, but Sweet Grass Dairy is another local and very tasty choice if you ask me. And don't forget the crackers (seed-covered or salted ones are my favorite).
  5. Pie! In all its iterations: apple, pecan, chocolate, sweet potato, cranberry-pear... you name it! OK, pie isn't really a snack, but I found servings of each in two-person servings at my local grocer. Why not slice them up into littler bites and serve them all? (There can never be too much pie).

Need ideas for beers to go with your holiday table? Check out this style guide for a tour of beers that are perfect for meals with a savory and sweet menu, or swing by your local growler shop or bottle shop with your menu in mind and ask for suggestions (they're almost always eager to help).

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