Wheat beers are sort of the beer equivalent of Sauvignon Blanc, fresh and clean with citrus notes and the ability to handle difficult foods such as salads (notoriously difficult for wines) and asparagus (ditto). Also look to wheat beers for delicate seafood such as shellfish, tempura (with or without vegetables), sushi and white fish (maybe even that Dover sole), especially if the seafood has a squirt of lemon or other citrus juice.
The German-made Ayinger had all those white beer qualities as well as a sweet and floral nose—after some initial funkiness that blew off—and a gentle underlying earthiness. The salad had a lot going on as well: toasty nuts, bitter greens, sweet fruit and the tangy cheese.
My first thought was that with a complex salad and an equally complex beer, chaos would reign on my palate. But instead the beer and salad both came through with their integrities intact in a more of a peaceful coexistence than a marriage of flavors. The Ayinger was undeterred by salad’s vinaigrette of walnut oil, lemon juice and sherry vinegar and, as one might expect with a Sauvignon-like beer, even welcomed the goat cheese and bitter greens.
(Here is some general information on beer and food matching.)
Salad of Bitter Greens, Walnuts, Pears and Goat Cheese
(Adapted from “Salads” by Leonard Schwartz, HarperPerennial)
- 2 to 3 heads Belgian endive, about 8 ounces, rinsed
- 1 head radicchio, 6 to 8 ounces, rinsed
- 1 large bunch of arugula, thoroughly washed
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 3 to 4 tablespoons walnut oil
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 Bartlett or Bosc pear
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup toasted walnuts pieces
- 4 to 6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1)Trim the endive, halve lengthwise, then cut crosswise into ¼-inch wide slices. Quarter the radicchio lengthwise, remove the core of each quarter, then cut crosswise into ¼-inch wide slices. Remove the thicker stems from the arugula. Stack the leaves and cut crosswise into ½ inch wide slices. Combine the greens in a large mixing bowl. You should have 6 to 8 cups.
2)In a small bowl, mix the vinegar and 3 tablespoons of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more oil if desired.
3)Peel, core, and halve the pear lengthwise. Then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Add the pears and walnuts to the salad greens. Add the dressing and toss well. Pour into a serving bowl or individual plates and top with goat cheese. Serves 4.