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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Have a raw mushroom with that earthy glass of beer

Munchies served at beer tastings at Beaver Brewing Co. (Scott Beveridge photo)
By Scott Beveridge

BEAVER FALLS, Pa. – The food on sample platters spread across the bar at this craft beer brewery include pepperoni, fine cheese, almonds, raw mushrooms, raspberries and one piece of a KitKat chocolate bar.

The munchies have been selected by Dan Woodske, owner of Beaver Brewing Co., who is about to teach four students in his Beaver Falls, Pa., taproom on a chilly October evening how to host his version of a perfect beer and food pairing party at home.

"If you are having a beer tasting at home you (will) know what styles go with each," said Woodske, who offers these classes for $26 per student through the Community College of Beaver County.

"It's a cheap and easy way to entertain a bunch of people at home," he said as he drops a slice of orange on everyone's platter.

And, then everyone fails the first question when he asks what food we would pick to sample with our short glasses of Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, a pumpkin-flavored beer people go wild for as every autumn turns its corner.

I suggest an almond, while others poke around their platters also making the wrong picks.

Most pumpkin beers contain lactose, Woodske said.

"What do you put on top of a pumpkin pie?" he said, before everyone correctly answers, "Whipped cream."

"I think what actually goes good with it is a donut. It actually works."

He's right. A bite of a super sweet, chocolate-covered cream-filled donut actually makes this beer taste better.

Meanwhile, Woodske brews a fine India Porter Ale, which is made from earthy hops, and he pours everyone a sample of it from the tap.

"That's a really earthy beer," he said, suggesting we try it with a mushroom.

It seems to be an odd combination of texture and liquid, yet the flavors surprisingly work together.

There you have a couple samples of his version of this party.

I especially like his Smoky the Beaver lager because it doesn't have an overly smoked flavor. He pairs it with delicious slices of Muenster cheese, while I eagerly anticipate learning which beer we will be eating with chocolate.

The secrets to making these tastings work are knowing the beer, what flavors go into it, and then matching those ingredients to food.

For the beginner, it will take some research on the different beers to select for such a party and some addition thought and experimentation to pair them with the appropriate menu items at home.

Woodske only sells his beer from his brewpub at 1820 Seventh Ave., which is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. He's the only craft brewer within a 45-minute drive in any direction from Beaver Falls. 

Dan Woodske, owner of Beaver Brewing Co. (Scott Beveridge photo)