Mmm, Ham: Pairing Beer and Easter
Easter is a Christian tradition that stands as the culmination of Lent in Catholicism and also marks the rise of Jesus Christ for all manner of Christian religions. It’s also a time when families get together to eat a lot of food.
Along with said food, they usually have a few drinks to help pass the time and get them through the day. So, we figured we’d point out some possible Easter food and beer pairings.
When my editor offered me this assignment, the first thing that came to mind was ham. My grandmother always made ham on Easter. Big, pink hams with mildly glazed skin, and lots of side dishes. But what beer goes well with ham?
Actually, there really are a number of options. For a roasted ham, a crisp pilsner or lager will help balance the salt and enhance the flavor. Think of it: A big slice of ham on your plate, washing down every salty bite with a dash of Victory Prima Pils, a Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold or even a crisp Samuel Adams Boston Lager (hey, it’s a classic and still winning awards, placing in the 2014 NY International Beer Competition). Mmmm.
But what if it’s one of those glazed hams, with all the brown-sugar sweetness? Well, it’s still going to be salty, but how about a darker ale or even a porter? Something that will play well with the sweetness and also interact with the salt. I’m thinking a Full Sail Nut Brown Ale (if you can still find any), a Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale (worth it for the bottle art alone, and Smuttynose won New Hampshire Brewery of the year in the 2014 NY International Beer Competition) or Founders Porter are all excellent choices.
Of course, many families cook roasted lamb or even rack of lamb on Easter, which actually goes back to Jewish Passover. Many Christians refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God, which prompts the serving of lamb on Easter. It doesn’t hurt that lamb is pretty delicious.
Many even roast their lamb with beer, and for this dish you’ll want a nice, malty stout or porter with notes of coffee and nut. Hey, and if you roast the lamb in a certain kind of beer, you might as well drink the same kind with it, right? I found one recipe that called for Guinness, which is a solid choice. But I think we could get a bit more creative since, you know, it’s Easter and all.
Hmmm. Maybe a Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout or Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, which is one of the more creamy, flavorful beers you’re likely to find anywhere. Like, ever. Imagine chasing a big, hot bite of tender lamb with a mouthful of that.
(Is anyone else hungry? Or Thirsty? Geez.)
Sorry. Of course, Easter is about more than meat. You know when you walk into any Easter feast there will be hard boiled eggs in wild abundance, and they’ll likely be painted in vibrant spring colors. Heck, there’s even a good chance you’ll get a crack at some deviled eggs as an appetizer.
Let’s face it, people have been eating hard-boiled and pickled eggs in bars for centuries, so the two are a natural match. The actual flavor of eggs is so mild, with the yolk providing a bit of pungent richness , that it’s difficult to profile. But when you start adding salt, pepper and/or hot sauce to your egg, you’ve got the perfect, protein-rich companion for almost any type of beer. But a good pilsner or lager (see above), and perhaps a hoppy APA or IPA would also do the trick.
I sat down with a hard-boiled egg just for fun and paired it with a Half Cycle IPA from Flat 12 Bierworks in Indianapolis (there just happened to be a sixer in my fridge). I topped the egg with sea salt, pepper and a dash of El Yucateco red habanero sauce, and chased it with a drink of the IPA – it worked. The spice and pungency of the egg clashed a bit at first with the citrusy quality of the beer, but the bitterness and piney spice worked really nicely at the back end.
Any good hoppy pale ale would probably match, although I’m not sure Citra hops are the best bet. Maybe an American, like Deschutes Brewery Mirror Pond Pale Ale or the classic Three Floyds Alpha King, which is so good you could probably eat a rat with it and still enjoy your Easter.
So, what’s for dessert? What sort of beer or wine works with hot cross buns? Hey, I will always say that you don’t have to pair anything if you have Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. For my money, that is dessert.
But if you want something a tad lighter, maybe a nice late harvest wine, such as Fattoria La Vialla 2009, silver medal winner in the 2013 NY International Wine Competition or a Sauternes (you can get a good bargain, such as Chateau Doisy-Vedrines Barsac 2010 for around $20) will go well with some fruity pie. Actually, I’m not much of a dessert guy. But I did stumble across an idea for a recipe.
Here it is: Pour a sparkling wine, say a Gruet Brut, into a champagne glass. Insert a classic yellow Peep, which you know will be available in abundance just like the eggs. Let it soak for a few moments, like a Peep bubble bath.
Then sit back and sip the magic.