While there are undoubtedly thousands of beer pairing options for every sort of meat imaginable (Roasted rattlesnake? Try a grapefruit IPA!), I’ve yet to hear of any beer pairing suggestions for fake meat. And though I’m not a vegetarian myself, I do try to eat like one most of the time -- and (as I’m sure you could guess by my job) I do love beer. Which has gotten me wondering lately: Why should carnivores have all the fun?
Well, thank the broccoli-loving beer gods for Max Bakker, an educator for Anheuser-Busch’s The High End. Bakker is not only a Master Cicerone (one of 13 in the world!) -- he’s a vegetarian! The beer expert claims that ever since he went veg seven years ago, he’s gotten more creative with herbs, spices, marinades, and rubs in the kitchen to create unique umami flavors that excite the ol’ tastebuds -- and he’s certainly no stranger to synthetic meat, either. So we asked Bakker to find the perfect beers for delicious dish recipes from around the internet that utilize all different types of fake meat.
Here’s what he came up with:
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Recipe: Lemon Seitan with Creamy Polenta
Key ingredients: seitan, polenta, butternut squash, apple, sake
Recommended beer: Kona Brewing Company Big Wave
Why this is a great pairing: This recipe from One Green Planet is actually a classic dish that can be found at Blossom in New York City. I’ve eaten there before, and let me tell you: the chefs at that restaurant are magicians with seitan -- otherwise known as wheat gluten. This dish in particular is filling, and Max likes cutting its vegan butter and olive oil with a blonde ale or American pale ale. “I think the bitterness [of the beer] is going to do a good job cutting through the vegan butter, but also add a little bit of earthiness,” he says. “You need something to cut through the fat.” The citrus flavors from the Kona Big Wave (or blonde ale of your choice) should pair nicely with the lemon from the dish.
Recipe: Crispy Peanut Tofu and Cauliflower Rice Stir Fry
Key ingredients: tofu, peanut butter, soy sauce, cauliflower, garlic
Recommended beer: Cigar City Brewing Maduro
Why this is a great pairing: Because we’re all about shortcuts when cooking at home, know that you can find pre-made cauliflower rice in the refrigerated section at Trader Joe’s. That means there’s no excuse for not making this dead simple dish from the fantastic Minimalist Baker. When you’re looking for a beer to pair it with, keep an eye out for an English Brown Ale. “The malt flavors are going to bridge well with the peanut [in the dish],” says Bakker. “And cauliflower is earthy, so the roasted chocolate, toast, and caramel [flavors] will pair well with the earthy cauliflower notes without washing them out. That’ll be a pretty tasty pairing.” Yes. Yes, it will.
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Recipe: Spicy Chipotle Garlic Jackfruit Tacos
Key ingredients: jackfruit, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, soft tacos, avocado
Recommended beer: Elysian Brewing Mens Room Original Red
Why this is a great pairing: Jackfruit is fast becoming a popular meat substitute -- my local health food store, for one, went from having none to five different brands seemingly overnight. It probably doesn’t hurt that the meat substitute (including how it’s utilized in this recipe from Vegan Richa) boasts seriously tropical vibes. “Jackfruit has some pineapple flavors -- almost like a plantain,” Bakker notes. “I’d go with an amber ale. You’ve got a decent amount of bitterness in the beer, a little bit of caramel, and a hint of a citrus aroma, but you’re going to let a lot of those flavors from the dish be the bride here.” And if you like your dishes spicy, an amber ale can help out in other ways. “You also get a nice bit of cooling from the malts [in the amber ale], too,” Bakker mentions. “Depending on how spicy your chiles are, that could be a good thing.” And if Mens Room Red isn’t available in your area, he says Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale will also work great.
Recipe: Vegan-N-Out Burgers
Key ingredients: Beyond Meat vegan patties, vegan American cheese, vegan butter, hamburger buns, sliced tomato
Recommended beer: Four Peaks Brewing Company Kilt Lifter
Why this is a great pairing: Beyond Meat is a newer-school fake meat product developed with more realistic meat-like qualities meant to woo a meat-eater into giving it a shot. And perhaps there’s no better way of convincing a carnivore of its merits than by utilizing the patties for Carrots & Flowers’ homage to In-N-Out. While Bakker says he normally sticks to the fast food chain’s grilled cheese, he knows exactly how to pair this fake burger with beer. “I’d go for a Scottish ale,” he says. “Because Beyond Meat isn’t real meat, you’re missing a little bit of the caramelized sear and a little roasty character from the beef.” That Scottish ale should offer plenty of roast to keep you from craving a real Double Double.
Recipe: Tempeh Reuben
Key ingredients: tempeh, vegan mayo, garlic, rye bread, vegan Monterey Jack cheese
Recommended beer: Augustiner Helles
Why this is a great pairing: On its own, tempeh can smell a little weird. It doesn’t necessarily look very appetizing, either. But when you put it between two slices of rye and heap some vegan cheese on that bad boy like in this recipe from Vegetarian Times -- wow. (You can also make a delicious reuben with seitan, as pictured below!) As for the beer to pair with it, Bakker cautions against an American Pale Ale or IPA because the bittering hops used in the beer can already have a bit of an earthy, garlic-y aroma or flavor. And that might not be a great combo with the garlic already present in the sandwich. That’s why he likes Munich Helles to go with this ‘wich. “Helles has a very refreshing finish, and you get a hint of rye bread [flavors],” he says. “And you don’t want to take away from that rye bread, you want to taste it. A Helles gives you some nice French bread flavors that’ll allow the rye, caraway, and everything else in that bread to pop out.”
Note: Elysian Brewing and Four Peaks Brewing Company are members of The High End, owned by Anheuser-Busch. Kona Brewing Company is owned by Craft Brew Alliance, a public company partially owned by Anheuser-Busch.