Summer Food and Lager Pairings
Here at Civil Life, we’ve been riding out this intense St. Louis summer by brewing up some of the best heat-busting, thirst-quenching styles of beer we can think of, lagers! The yeast we use defines the difference between ales and lagers. Lagers are fermented cold so the yeast takes a longer time to work their beer making magic, producing a cleaner, less fruity, crisp final product. Lagers are often disregarded as a “lesser” style, mostly due to the proliferation of (and backlash against) macro lagers that have dominated the market for decades. However lagers are finally returning to the glory they deserve. Easy drinking and refreshing, these beers are versatile and actually quite hard to make. The basic malt profile, restrained hopping and cool fermentation make it much harder to mask any flaws in the brewing process. A well-made lager is a beautiful beer to enjoy on a hot summer day and I’ve got a few favorite food pairings for our current line-up of lager excellence.
I’m going to start with a personal favorite of mine, the Dortmunder. First brewed last year for our anniversary party this historical, rarely seen beer is a gem. It’s a little stronger than your traditional pilsner, with a strong malt backbone and crisp, dry finish, attributed to the mineral rich water from the area of Dortmund. Since we don’t have access to that water, we doctor our fine St. Louis water to give the beer the same effect. For this beer I’d pair it with one of my favorite summer foods, the Caprese salad. It is a simple mixture of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil (this year picked from my own garden, thanks Mrs. Hafner!), and simply spiced with salt and pepper. I like to drizzle balsamic vinegar on top of mine, but purists will tell you not to. This pairing plays with the slight tang the fresh mozzarella, allowing it to pull out the same minerality of the beer while the crisp finish helps cleanse the palate of the creaminess of the fresh cheese. The bright acid in the tomatoes and balsamic help balance some of the maltier, white toast notes from the beer. This is a bright, fresh pairing for any day of summer.
Before the Dortmunder came around my original favorite Civil Life beer was the Vienna Lager. Slightly toastier with a rounder finish than the Dortmunder, the style was resurrected and popularized by the Mexican beer Negro Modelo in the 20th century. With an abundance of delicious sweet corn here in Missouri, I am often found lighting up the grill to make a favorite of mine, Mexican Street Corn. Spicy, creamy, and a little sweet, the corn is slathered in mayonnaise and sour cream (I use Greek yogurt for a slightly healthy twist), dosed with chili powder, and sprinkled with Cotija cheese. Find resonance in the grilled toastiness of the corn and the lightly kilned Vienna malt in the beer. Use the beer’s clean finish to help wash away any spiciness and make you ready for a little bit more.
When I first moved to St. Louis, I had the pleasure of getting to know the magnificent Carl, famous for his Civil Life beer #carlbock. I’ve been lucky enough to brew this beer with Carl the past two years and as one of the biggest beers we brew here, it’s always a fun day. #carlbock sticks out in our lager series for being big, fruity, and just a touch boozy. It still has that beautiful crisp finish, but it’s huge malt backbone makes a much more complex beer. For something to eat with this, I’d turn to your kebab. Kebabs are as just as fun to make and eat as it is to hang out and grab a beer with Carl. Grilling your veggies will bring out some of their more juicy bright flavors; think peppered and charred tomatoes, onions, zucchini, and summer squash paired with the bright fruit esters and spicy, herbal noble hop characteristics of #carlbock. If you’re a meat eater, the slightly boozier mouthfeel of #carlbock will stand up perfectly to thick slices of beef or lamb.
Four our last pairing, I look to our Czech Pils, dignified by one of my favorite hops, Czech Saaz. Known for its spicy, floral characteristics, this hop defines the Czech Pils style. It’s a little more rounded and soft in the mouthfeel than it’s bitter, hoppier cousin, German Pils. This delicate beer requires a delicate food and so I present to you one of my more offbeat favorite summer foods, watermelon, basil, and feta salad. Like a weird cousin of the earlier mentioned Caprese, this is a light refreshing side packed with just the right amount of herbal tang. Look for the basil to help bring out those Saaz hops and the sweet watermelon to complement the gentle soft malt profile. The salty feta cheese just brings just the right amount of balance to an otherwise dessert like side.
As we sweat it out for the rest of the summer I hope these pairings help you find a bit of relief along with joyous barbeques with friends, lazy river floats, long evenings on the patio, and Taco Domingo right here at Civil Life.
The Civil Blog has returned. It is predominantly authored by Civil Life Barman, Dr. Patrick Hurley, who can be found tending to our bar patrons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He is also responsible for tending to our draft lines, which is recognized as one of our most important tasks. Special guest writers will appear from time to time. We hope reading this blog will give you much insight about the Civil Life and most importantly help you understand a bit more about all of us that work here and the beers we put our hearts into.