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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014

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In Bars & Clubs

Stella Artois sommelier and chef Marc Stroobandt visits Kohler this week for the Food and Wine Experience.

Belgian beer ambassador shares tips for pairing beer and food


For the sixth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2012."

Yesterday OnMilwaukee.com ran an interview with Tony Mantuano in advance of some events the world-famous Wisconsin chef is doing at the Kohler Food and Wine Experience this week.

One of those events is a beer pairings luncheon at noon Friday with Stella Artois master chef and beer sommelier Marc Stroobandt.

A Belgian native, Stroobandt is a true beer ambassador and his work spreading the hops gospel has earned him many awards from the beer barns of Europe, including an honorary knighthood by the Chevalerie du Fourquet des Brasseurs of the Confederation of Belgian Brewers and the title of Commander in the Order of De Roze Olifant (The Pink Elephant).

Being a fan of Belgium's beloved blonde, I felt I'd be remiss if I didn't ask Stroobandt about his work pairing food and beer around the globe.

OnMilwaukee.com: Does beer get the short end of the stick in terms of recognition of its ability to pair with food? Or does it depend on where you are?

Marc Stroobandt: Beer can offer the same, if not more, flavor experiences when matched with food. Personally, I believe it is down to information, education and first-hand experience, which we are doing through various events and festivals where we showcase food and beer matching with the Belgian beer brands.

It is great to get people to actually taste the beers in a different way to discover the flavor and matching it with different types of food. When they are served correctly in their own unique glasses they become a thing of Belgian beauty.

OMC: Is beer making inroads in fine dining places, where it's played second fiddle to wine?

MS: It is exciting to see that beer has its rightful place in fine dining, as well as the local eateries, on the drink menus and even in the kitchen. More and more I speak and work with chefs or sommeliers with a real passion for beer and they are creating great combinations with the food they are serving.

It opens a whole new world of possibilities to create something new and deliver a unique experience for their guests who are becoming equally more knowledgeable and passionate about having beer with gourmet food. Some restaurants now even have equal beer listings next to the extensive wine menus which is fantastic that people are offered and encouraged to have beer with their meal.

OMC: What's your 30-second elevator speech about pairing Belgian beer and food?

MS: Beer and food is unique with endless possibilities for you to try out and when you find that right combination of beer and food, a new world of flavor experiences will open and it will take you on an exciting journey of culinary delights.

Exploring food and beer pairings is fun as it gives you an opportunity, especially with the Belgian beers like Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe, to discover the great taste and flavors of beer. Beer and food pairings work, you just have to try it!

OMC: Are there "rules" to follow for beer, such as the ones for one, like for example, white wine with fish, red wine with heavier dishes kinds of rules?

MS: With beer and food pairing there isn't really a right or wrong as it all depends on what you like, however, there a few hints and tips you can use to get you started on your road of discovery. Where you would serve white wine you could serve a blonde beer ... where you would serve red wine you can serve dark beers.

You can look at the ingredients in both the food and the beer like the coriander in the Hoegaarden, which you can match with similar ingredients you will find in Thai, Indian or other spicy cuisines.

It also depends on the occasion, like using beer as an aperitif or with an appetizer, with your entrée or even with your dessert. But above all, to achieve the balance of flavor it is important to know and understand the flavor of the beer. This entails the hard job – but someone's got to do it – of trying the beers.

OMC: You're coming to the home state of America's brewing traditions; do you have a favorite Wisconsin beer?

MS: I like to see what local beers are offered, but I'm mostly looking forward to sharing Stella Artois, my home favorite, with people in Wisconsin, especially when I'm pairing it with cheese, as I know that Wisconsin is famous for their cheeses.


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