Beer & Food Matching: Belhaven Scottish Ale with Braised Lamb Shanks

Though plenty rich and malty, the Belhaven had refreshing acidity, unusual for Scottish ales, which are typically less hoppy than English ales. Nonetheless, the acidity gave the beer good balance. There was plenty of body and attractive spice notes, which stood up to the meaty lamb and to the sauce, which contained garlic, onion, fresh herbs and tomatoes, as well as the beer itself. Belhaven’s crisp finish helped cut through the fattiness of the meat.

Remarkably, Bellhaven’s alcohol was only 3.9 percent, lower than one would have imagined necessary for a hearty dish like the lamb shanks. That low alcohol would also bode well for dishes with more chile pepper heat, such as curried lamb, barbecued pork ribs and a variety of spicy Mexican fare.

(Here is some general information on beer and food matching.)

Braised Lamb Shanks with Beer and Herbs

  • 4 lamb shanks (about 12 ounces each)
  • kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 large rib celery, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick crescents
  • 1 leek, trimmed of all but the palest green parts, halved lengthwise, cleaned and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick crescents
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) medium weight ale
  • One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, 2 sprigs fresh thyme and 1 bay leaf wrapped in cheesecloth

1)Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2)Put a Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat while you season the lamb with salt and pepper. Add the oil, then add lamb to pot being careful not to crowd the pot. (Work in two batches if necessary.) Brown well, about 10 minutes. Transfer lamb to a platter.

3)Add the onion, carrot, celery, leek and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring periodically, until soft and light brown, about 10 minutes. Add the beer, tomatoes and herbs. Stir well and bring to a boil. Return shanks to pot, stir and bring to a boil.

4)Cover and put in the oven for 11/4 to 11/2 hours or until the meat is easily pierced by a fork.  Reduce heat of the oven to 325 degrees if the lamb goes above a simmer

5)When the lamb is tender, remove it to a platter or individual plates and cover with foil to keep warm. skim off any visible fat from the liquid and remove the herbs. Adjust for salt and pepper if necessary.

6)Bring to a brisk simmer, stirring. Pour the sauce over the lamb. Serve with rice, noodles or polenta. Serves 4.

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