Sunday, January 18, 2009

Beers for Braising Mangalitsa

This beer works well with Mangalitsa.

When people ask me how I cook my stuff, I say I braise it in beer. Despite the tremendous selection of beers, I'm using fairl specific stuff, so here's more info about my personal preference.

My favorites so far are from Unibroue, in Quebec. They make many beers. The ones I've tried so far have been exceptionally good. They have complex flavors due to special chemical reactions that take place during fermentation.

Here's info on how they produce their ales, why they do it that way, etc. As they say:
Unibroue's brewing methods were inspired by the great European brewing traditions and, in this respect, are one of a kind in North America. Our brewing methods are time consuming and costly.
I don't think it is just marketing hype. As they explain about one of their beers, "... La Fin du Monde is a deluxe beer made by triple fermentation and a unique way of straining the yeast. This method produces an unexpectedly subtle flavour."

By objective measures, that beer is in a different category. It is 9% alcohol, keeps for 8 years and is triply-fermented. Likewise, Mangalitsa pigs can have marbling of 11.8% - versus the 2.3% of typical pork. Mangalitsa products don't look anything like normal pork products. It is a fact that the refermented beers of Unibroue and the pork of Wooly Pigs are very physically and chemically different from their competitors.

The relationship of Unibroue to other producers is like that of Mangalitsa producers to other pork producers: the products are perceived as fundamentally different by consumers.

As with Mangalitsa, Unibroue's methods came from Europe. Like Wooly Pigs with its Mangalitsa, they have brought a new category of product to our hemisphere.

Unibroue looks to be the first mover and the market leader in their category. I don't know of any American producers (big or small) who make beer like (or as complex as) Unibroue's, but I would be interested in finding one. Just as with Spain's jamon producers, Unibroue is a large company. If there is a smaller "artisanal" company that actually produces better "ale on lees" than Unibroue, I'd be very interested to know about it.


shane said...

While Unibroue is a very good brewery that makes beers in the belgian style, there are plenty of breweries in the U.S. that are at least as good. I believe that right now the U.S., the west coast in particular, is home to the most talented and creative brewers in the world.
I like your choice for braising though, a good belgian golden ale is great for cooking.

Heath said...

Shane - Is anyone in the USA doing lambic-style beer? I didn't find any when I did searching. As a consumer, I'd be happier if there was some real competition.

If you know of any American producer of stuff like this, please let me know. I thought that stuff was really special too.

My favorite beer comes from here. Quality varies from keg to keg, but when they get it right, it is absolutely incredible. That place is widely considered to have some of the best beer in all of Germany.

shane said...

Heath, there are some lambic type beers being produced in the U.S. The very best and most traditional spontaneously fermented beer is probably brewed by Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, CA.

Funny thing that you mention Boon Kriek, the particular type of cherry used in traditional Kriek beers is the belgian Schaerbeek. I am only weeks away from being the sole Schaerbeek cherry grower in North America. This cherry is nearly extinct in Belgium. It's been a major PITA getting plants imported. After 3 years of working with the USDA on this, I can't imagine how hard it must have been to bring animals in to the U.S.

I plan on hitting Bottleworks in Seattle on Sunday before the class. If you think we would have an opportunity to have a few beers during the week I could pick up a few bottles.

Heath said...

Shane - Please check your email.

JayDee said...

Trader Joe's is selling a Unibroue bottling named "Trader Joe's 2008 Vintage Ale, Dark Ale on Lees" with 9% alcohol/volume. It is a tad cheaper than the typical $7.99 Unibroue offerings, and not significantly different from their other offerings.

Ken said...

I am curious to know if Shane has been successful.

Northmen said...

I too would am interested in Shane's progress