Category Archives: pairing

Beer in the Kitchen: Doppelbock Whipped Yams

To those who regularly make an effort to pair beer with food, it is no secret that beer is the most versatile beverage on the planet in that respect. It has a wide range of texture and weight and it also has a broader flavor range than wine. Only in beer can you find true bitterness and sourness (although tannin and acidity in certain wines can come close). While I will concede that wine is certainly the victor when it comes to dishes with tomato-based sauces, beer will usually equal or best wine for most other pairings.

I love pairing my food with beer, but even more exciting than that is making my food with beer. With The Beer Wench and Sean Paxton as inspirations, I’ve been tooling around in the kitchen quite a bit lately and I’d like to share the ideas and recipes that work well for me. This week I’m bringing you Doppelbock Whipped Yams.

I am a Los Angeles native, and as long as I can remember, my family and I have been going to Greenblatt’s Deli on New Year’s Day. They have great deli food and it’s one of the only places open that day. Every time we go, I get the turkey dinner with whipped yams as a side. They spice the yams just right and the whipped texture works really well with this particular tuber.

I wanted to duplicate the dish at home but I wanted to add a little punch, so I decided to boil the yams in beer rather than plain ol’ water. But what beer to choose? Can’t go with anything too bitter since this is a sweeter dish and heat really brings out the bitterness. I wanted something that would marry naturally with the texture and flavor of the yams. Then the light bulb went on . . . Doppelbock!

I hustled over to BevMo and grabbed myself a sixer of Spaten Optimator. Malty, bready and a little chewy with some light toast character, I had a good feeling it would have what I was looking for. I’ve made and served the dish several times now (it was a hit at Christmas dinner) and it never disappoints, so without further ado:


  • 2-3 lbs garnet yams, peeled and cut into two inch chunks
  • 2 12oz bottles of Doppelbock (Optimator is my choice, but just make sure you pick one that hasn’t been “Americanized” with excessive hop character)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 stick of butter, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 tsp nutmeg (depending on your tastes, personally, I freaking love nutmeg)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (you can use less, I also really like cinnamon)
  • Salt to taste


Place your peeled and cut yams into a large pot and pour in both bottles of beer (you’ve probably got four left in the six-pack so treat yourself to one as well). If the beer doesn’t quite cover the yams, top off the pot with water until the yams are completely covered.

Place the pot, covered, over high heat and bring liquid to a boil. Boil for 15-20 minutes, or until yams are very soft. Drain liquid in a strainer and place drained yams back into pot.

Throw your butter in the pot and combine it with the yams by mashing with a potato ricer until yams are mostly smooth. Next, toss in your brown sugar and vanilla extract and combine well (a large spoon should suffice).

Add nutmeg and cinnamon and whip on high with an electric eggbeater. Once whipped, have yourself a little taste so you can figure out how much salt you want to add. I find the salt really serves to bring out the sweeter flavors nicely, and I’ll usually add about half a teaspoon of table salt. Whip in the salt and serve! This dish is a wonderful change from standard mashed potatoes and can accompany roast chicken, turkey or my personal favorite, bison brisket. Enjoy!

Yours Truly on New Brew Thursday at Library Alehouse! (Video)

Check out the video, where we drink Kern River Brewing Citra DIPA and pair it with some wonderful Alehouse food. I think it’s pretty rad. Be sure to click the links on the right to New Brew Thursday and Library Alehouse.

Of Silly Laws and Little Beers

If you pay attention to matters alcohol-related, then you’ve probably read about the law in Colorado that effectively makes it illegal to sell any beer under 4% alcohol at a bar. Bars in Colorado are only allowed to sell “malt beverages,” while grocery stores may only sell “beer,” which is a malt beverage under 4% under the law. The law wasn’t seriously enforced up to now but grocery stores seem intent on protecting their right to be the exclusive retailers of high-volume, light beers. They want to capitalize on a monopoly over the beers that sell the most. The law has received further coverage from the Denver Post and Jay Brooks. No more boring details from me for now.

What this law has done on a smaller level is bring the notion of session beer to the fore in the minds of the beer-drinking public, and especially in the mind of this writer. In countries like England, where brewers are taxed roughly on the strength of their beer, session beers (beers whose ABV hovers around 4% or less) are the norm. Up until recently, craft beer in America has taken the opposite approach. Determined to differentiate themselves from the large brewers of light lagers, American craft brewers started out brewing higher-ABV beers with huge hop flavor (with Arrogant Bastard as the exemplar).

Drinkers of craft beer tend to take a similar tack. When they start out, they seek out the biggest, most brash beers they can find. Exotic ingredients and huge hop bills are prized. Barrel-aging causes a rush of excitement and anything with a double-digit ABV must be tried. However, the palate gets weary after a time. The drinker grows tired of being beaten about the head with monstrous amounts of expressive flavor. A more nuanced, integrated beer is in order. Enter session beer.

Session beer is a many-splendored thing. Firstly, it is a medium in which the brewer can truly show off his/her talent. It is a lot easier to cram a lot of flavor into a high-ABV highly-hopped beer than it is to make a 4% beer equally interesting. There is something particularly pleasurable about finding a mountain of flavor in a molehill of a beer. The drinker can tell that the brewer took particular care in the production of the beer.

Further, session beer is a means to interest the “unconverted” in craft beer. While ardent craft beer drinkers gravitate to meaty, high-ABV brews, not everyone is ready for those titanic beers right away. However, a well-made session beer is the perfect opportunity for a brewer to dispel the “dark beer is heavy and thick” myth. A sub-5% Nut Brown or Dark Mild with wonderful bready, toasty flavors, a light mouthfeel and crisp, dry finish can instantly put any fear of “dark” beer to bed.

Session beer can also be more food friendly. If you’ve read Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher, then you know that matching intensity of flavor is generally the way to go when it comes to food and beer pairing. It takes a lot of robust flavor to stand up to the biting bitterness of a Double IPA or the huge chocolate and roast flavors of an Imperial Stout. Most food is not up to the task. Food, like beer, can lose a lot of nuance when it is made simply to have more flavor, rather than good flavor. Delicate food demands beer that is equally subtle. Further, if one is holding a multi-course pairing dinner, lower-ABV beer is often the way to go. Palate fatigue can be staved off and your guests won’t get as inebriated as quickly. No pairing will suffer because of its predecessor.

Also of particular interest to me, session beer is an excellent choice for those who need to drive, ride a bike, or just do something that requires use of your brain after drinking. Those who cannot get drunk should not be relegated to drinking the likes of carbonated alcohol water. Well-made session beer is a boon to those who wish to enjoy a beer with lunch, at dinner with children, before a bike ride and to those who must drive somewhere after imbibing. This particular point brings to light one of the more ridiculous unintended consequences of CO’s legislation: taking sub-4% beer out of the hands of those who must drive after leaving the bar.

If you’re not convinced yet, here’s a small list of some awesome beers to try that fall into the loosely-defined session beer category:

AleSmith Nautical Nut Brown (5.0% ABV): Probably the best brown ale I’ve ever had. Toasty bread with wonderful caramel notes and a creamy, rich mouthfeel.

Eagle Rock Solidarity Black Mild (3.8% ABV): A delightful litter number. Black in hue with garnet highlights. Light on the palate, with a crisp finish, this beer has notes of cocoa and pretzel bread.

The Bruery Hottenroth Berliner Weisse (3.1% ABV): Perfect summer beer. Brewed with wheat composing a large proportion of the grist, the beer is highly carbonated, lemony and delightfully tart. Loads of flavor for the ABV and incredibly quenching. Can also be served with raspberry or woodruff syrup

Brasserie Dupont Avril (3.5% ABV): Take the earth, light funk and crisp pale fruit flavor that you love in Saison Dupont and miniaturize it. You’ll have Avril. This is a great table beer and will pair will with nearly anything that isn’t huge.


Local Intrigue

Russian River Redemption w/ Father’s Office Forest Mushroom Salad

Okay, I’ll admit it. I drink a lot of craft beer. I drink craft beer pretty much every day. I love craft beer. Oh wait, this is starting to sound like the “I am a Craft Beer Drinker” video. My apologies (shameless plug: I’m the first person in the video). One of the few things I love more than craft beer is pairing craft beer with great food. I often find such pairings in my own kitchen, but there are plenty of times when those pairings occur in local restaurants and gastropubs. I’ve decided that I’m going to share these experiences with you in a series of “when I feel like it” posts under the title “Local Intrigue.” Hopefully you live close by and can try them for yourselves. Perhaps you don’t live close by. It is my hope that these pairings will inspire you to find your own just the same. That said, let’s get to the meat of this post.

I live very close to Father’s Office (“FO”) in Santa Monica. It’s a little over a mile away. I can either bike or walk there very comfortably. It is little wonder then that I often find myself sampling their wares. Most folks go there for the burger. I will concede that it is a tasty morsel. However, it has a lot of huge flavors and can overwhelm any beverage that hangs on the subtler end of the flavor spectrum. The burger demands a big beer, something for which I am not always in the mood.

Enter the rest of the menu. It is my opinion (and that of several of my cohorts) that the rest of the food at FO outshines the burger. I found myself there on a Saturday afternoon, before heading into Library Alehouse for my shift, grabbing a beer or two. I always look for the seasonal dishes at FO, having already worked my way through the regular menu. This time, I found the Forest Mushroom Salad. It has greens, sautéed/caramelized mushrooms and onions, Niman Ranch bacon, Spanish chevre and basil vinaigrette. Once I saw “bacon” and “chevre” I knew I had to have it.

But what to pair it with? I found my muse in Russian River Redemption, a Belgian Blonde par excellence. It is dry, crackery and spicy. I thought it a perfect counterpoint.


Boy was I right! When faced with the fairly rich likes of bacon, chevre and sautéed mushrooms and onions, I favor contrasting pairings. I like to cleanse the palate and ease the “weight” of the dish. I also thought the basil vinaigrette would be nice with the herbal/spicy character of the beer. The dry, crackery character of the beer cut through the fat of the dressing and bacon perfectly, pairing nicely with the tang from the cheese and easing the sweetness of the onion. The finish was pure harmony, the herbal character of the dressing and the greens augmenting the spicy hop character of the beer. It was twenty minutes of dining bliss. I highly recommend you get down there while both the dish and the beer are still available. If the beer isn’t, they also have locally-produced (they brew in Irvine, CA) Brouwerij West Belgian-Style Blond – 5, which is the only other Blond I’ve had that belongs in Redemption’s league. We’ve already carried Brouwerij West’s Blond at Library Alehouse. I can’t wait until we have it again. It pairs beautifully with the Ahi Burger, but more on that next time. What are some of the pairings you’ve found at your local beer haunts?