On Thursday, June 11, I made my way south to Bismarck to attend the Girl Scout Cookies and Beer Pairings for women only at McQuade Distributing Company. I’ve gone to a few of these beer pairings before and they are always a good time and always delicious. The event fits about 60 women and fills up FAST. The cost is $15 and all proceeds go to a charity event. This particular event, fittingly, went to rebuild Girl Scout Camp Neche in Bismarck which had major damage from the 2011 flood. So nearly $1,000 from just this beer event will help the girls out.
Shannon with McQuade’s led the tasting, testing, Q&A, etc. We seated ourselves lunchroom style at tables that had two style of stemware, a plate of one of each cookies we’d be tasting and a bottle each of the beer pairing. We got our own bottle opener to open the beers. Water was also on hand to keep us hydrated or to rinse your glass and empty into the bucket.
Here is what was on tap for our tasting:
Starter (the beer above)
As we sign in, pay the fee and get a ticket for a door prize, we sipped on a Widmer Hefe Shandy. I am a fan of most all Shandy beers. They are light, fruity and some say girly. This has a 4.2% alcohol by volume (abv) and is low in international bitter units (ibu’s). I think a beer like this is perfect on a sunny, warm patio and refreshing if you just mowed the lawn or worked up a sweat. You might hear some fruit beers going by the name Radler. This is simply what a fruit beer is called in Germany while they are called Shandy’s here. They are the same thing. A radler/shandy has a large concentration of juice (usually lemonade or grapefruit juice) and the rest is beer. A great combo in my opinion. When pouring a beer, you do what there to be some head on the pour. This releases the aroma of the beer. As Shannon said, the bartender isn’t trying to cheat you out of beer, this is actually a proper pour.
Lemonade cookies with Southern Tier Sonnet. As our “teacher” instructed us we took a sip of each beer first to get a feel of the taste, spices, hops, etc. Then we tasted again but this time with the addition of the cookie. This beer did have a lightly peppery or spicy note to me when drank alone. With the cookie, it was more sweet and citrus-like. I enjoyed this pairing probably the most. I do love lemon cookies so that might be part of the favorite designation. I could see this beer as being dangerous at 8.5% abv and low ibu. It sipped much easier than 8.5% alcohol. For comparison, a Bud Light is 4.2% abv. Shannon shared that this beer could be cellared and brought out in a few years to drink. You can’t do this with just any beer though. If you kept a Bud Light in your cellar for two years, it would be skunky. Bud Light fresh? Not much can beat that on a warm summer day. But you can cellar the right kind of beer just like you would wine, with proper conditions. Wheat beer, IPAs, etc. will degrade over time. You need the correct brewing process and abv content. For our pairings this beer, the Lost Continent, Transatlantique Kriek and Certified Evil could be cellared. One fun experiment Shannon mentioned that she is going to try is tasting a cellared beer about 4-5 years old, the same brand 2-3 years old and the same brand fresh and note any differences. Things like that geek me out. If you cellar beer, you need to keep in mind: store the proper beer, have a goal of when you will drink it, no sun, temperature about 50-60 degrees with limited temperature changes, capped upright, corked upright, corked sour beer on its side, keep track of what you have (don’t waste the beer) and share with your friends!
Thin Mint cookies with Empyrean Dark Side. Thin Mints are probably my favorite Girl Scout cookie so I am glad we were seated with one cookie (instead of one sleeve) to taste. Ha! This is a dark beer and I could smell chocolate, vanilla and coffee. So this is great for you coffee lovers. It’s amazing how well the cookie complements the beer. The beer is quite dense in flavor.
Thanks-a-Lot cookies with Grand Teton Lost Continent. Why have I never ordered Thanks-a-Lot cookies? Those are good! The beer is very hoppy, 8% abv and 117 ibu, and wasn’t my favorite. However, one of the ladies sitting at our table really enjoyed this. That’s why beer tasting is fun. I definitely enjoyed it more with the cookie than alone. It had grassy notes and not the typical grapefruit bite I tend to get with hoppy beers.
Cranberry Citrus Crisps with New Belgium Transatlantique Kriek 2015. For any wine lovers, I suggest trying this interesting beer. It is a lambic ale made with sour cherries. It is tart with a cherry/cranberry taste and has a slightly sweet finish. The cookie was a perfect match. I got drawn for a door prize and picked a bottle of this. A few other fun things about beer are their names, the labels and the bottle size and shape. This is a large bottle, perfect for sharing just as you would wine. I think this would be lovely as an ice cream float.
Peanut Butter Sandwich with Deschutes Obsidian Stout
This beer is described as deep, robust and richly rewarding, a beer to linger over. You can definitely taste coffee, chocolate, malt and barley. 6.4% abv, 55 ibu. This paired great with the peanut butter cookie. Shannon said this is her favorite beer of those we were tasting this evening. She also suggested for newer or hesitant beer drinkers to serve the beer very cold. The colder the beer, the less the flavors. For those who love beer, you might want to serve this more towards 60 degrees or so. Two beers by this company Shannon mentioned that are great tastes for summer (and I fully intend to seek both of these out) are:
Deschutes River Ale
Here’s one that’s clean and refreshing enough for the long haul, but fully graced with hop aroma, malt heft and clear craft passion. Sit back, relax, and let the subtle pleasures reveal.
Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA (especially this one)
Deschutes is taking you into the next beer frontier. Brewed with wheat and pilsner malt; this IPA displays beautiful citrus aromas from Cascade and Centennial hops that meld with the esters of Belgian yeast. Think thirst quenching hopped-up wit beer with enough IBUs to warrant the IPA name.
Caramel Delights, aka, Samoas with Lucky Bucket Certified Evil
Certified Evil – that is quite a name to be reckoned with, right? At 9.1% abv (48 ibu) it could probably become evil quickly. This is a dark, malty porter meant to be sipped. The deep flavor went well with the sweet, caramel cookie. This was a smoky beer which I don’t care for too much, but the cookie mostly took that away. This beer has brown sugar, raisin juice, molasses, cardamom and orange peel in it. So think deep, dark, sweet, roasted notes.
This concluded our tasting. Many door prizes were also handed out. There will be another beer tasting likely this fall and Shannon is still thinking up ideas to serve/pair. Obviously it has to be easy since there are 60+ women at once. I think these events are so fun, a great way to be introduced to new beer and a way to appreciate the food/beer pairings. We’ve had a couple of sweet tastings so maybe next we could do something salty or appetizers/veggies/fruit?
I encourage everyone to at least try different beers. I think most people think of McQuade’s/Budweiser as just Bud and Bud Light but they really offer so much more and are very supportive of the craft beer movement. Check out their website for varieties of beer they distribute. www.mcquades.com. Getting a flight (or a sampler) of beers at places like JL Beers, Main Street Liquors, Reza’s Pitch or wherever available lets you try a small amount without committing to buying a full pint or six pack. If you do buy a six-pack for at home and don’t care for it – use it in cooking! There isn’t a (drinking) person I know of that doesn’t like beer. If they say that, they just haven’t tasted the right one yet. Keep experimenting! Finally, don’t be a beer racist – give beer a try before saying you don’t like it because it is dark. Guinness Beer is actually similar in abv and calories as Bud Light so don’t go using that as an excuse. Cheers!