Japanese Beer Here!

Kim walks into a bar and orders a beer, sucks back a frosty mug and says, "Ah, that's good. Gimme another."

Yeah, drinking beer for beer's sake is something I'm not likely to do. Occasionally, I'll get a hankering for a cold brewski on a hot day, but otherwise, I stick to wine for everyday quaffing. Beer inevitably makes me feel sleepy and bloated.


A Hitachino Nest hat trick. (Kim O'Donnel)

However, when food is added to the equation -- particularly spicy fare -- beer takes on new meaning.

Last June, while traipsing around New York, I had a palate-changing, food-beer pairing experience. We were at Momofuku noodle bar slurping up lunch and at the server's suggestion, washed it down with a bottle of Hitachino Nest red rice ale, from Japan.

The handiwork of Kiuchi Brewery, a company that's been making sake since 1823, the unique red grapefruit-colored brew is made from both ale and sake yeasts. I fell in love instantly and was wowed by the ale's ability to marry with my pork rice bowl.

By Kim ODonnel |  January 4, 2007; 10:24 AM ET Wine and Spirits
Previous: Rice Bowl Basics | Next: Showing Lentils Some Love

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You might want to take the advice of your Washington Post Food Section colleague Greg Kitsock, who wrote a piece on beer and food pairings about six weeks ago. It's at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/28/AR2006112800267.html

Or try some of the suggestion of the Brooklyn Brewery's brewmaster Garrett Oliver as captured at:
http://www.classiccitybrew.com/garrettoliver.html

And, by the way, as you research and experiment you'll discover that Mr. Oliver is right when he says that beer and cheese is a much better pairing than the more common practice of serving wine and cheese.

Posted by: Gregg Wiggins | January 4, 2007 11:40 AM

I would add to what Gregg says and suggest giving Garrett Oliver a call to see about attending one of his infamous (and excellent) beer dinners that he hosts all over the country. I was at one in Charlottesville, VA several years ago. He gives a great little speech about each beer selected for each course, which is always a beer of his own design at the Brooklyn Brewery paired with a menu that he participates in planning. Russian imperial Stout with chocolate and raspberries is one of his basic standbys, so you hit the nail on the head with that thought about dessert.

Beer is the best kept secret in the gourmet world right now. You can drink some of the world's best beers for less than $20 a bottle, wheras the same quality of wine reaches into the thousands. Even beers like Saison Dupont, which is still brewed at a farm in Belgian so small that they literally sell eggs through the window of the 'main offices,' can be had for about $10 per bottle in the US. Fine cheeses, chocolate or wine produced so far away on such a boutique scale with such high quality would cost far, far more than this.

Now here you are, right smack in the best country in the world for beer lovers where there is more variety and overall better quality beer than any place else on the planet. Right there in DC you've got the Brickskeller, which probably has the best and largest selection of beer in the entire world. You're sitting right there on top of the greatest thing in the gourmet world and you didn't even know it.

Posted by: Jackson Landers | January 4, 2007 2:20 PM

I went to Japan a few years ago and my cousin took me to Shirakawa-go, located in western Japan in the mountainous region of northern Gifu and Toyama prefectures. It was November and unusually warm, and I was very thirsty. For my meal, I was introduced to a luscious and thirst quenching sake drink called doburoku, a local unrefined sake that is thick, like porridge, and slightly sweet. Shirakawa-go's doburoku is incredibly delicious. It's made from the water that come from the mountains and the air there is sweet. Then, I had the most amazing meal of Ayu fish just caught from the restaurant's pond prepared three different ways: deep fried, grilled, and smoked. The pairing couldn't be any more perfect. It was one of those moments when you realized food and drink were made to go together. Doburoku can also be paired with other fresh water fish, new crop rice (because it's sweeter than old crops), and miso soup.

Posted by: Mai Shiozaki | January 4, 2007 3:23 PM

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