Monday, February 22, 2016

Girl Scout Cookie Beer Pairing...Minnesota Style!

For this past chilly February Jack Of All Brews homebrew club meeting, we tried something new as a special tasting event.  Last year I saw some tweets and facebook posts about pairing craft beer with the highly anticipated yearly release of Girl Scout cookies and was intrigued.  This year we decided to try this as a club event, and here are our results!

Looking at a few articles and blog posts on the subject from last year, I realized that many of these beers were not available in Minnesota (or were so rare that they might as well be.)  Why not stick with Minnesota craft beers only?  Challenge accepted!  Our treasurer Steven--who's daughter is a Girl Scout--supplied us with the necessary sugary discs for this tasting.  I took my Tuesday afternoon to visit a couple of local liquor stores for the perfect beers.

By the time we got to the cookie pairing our group had dropped from about 25 to around 15--more manageable, but still a lot of people to enlist in an organized write-up.  And hey, this was after tasting a lot of homebrews earlier!  I ended up just taking (spotty) notes as people exclaimed or commented on their thoughts.  I've attributed a few of the quotes.

Do Si Do's/Peanut Butter Sandwich and Waconiator Dopplebock

I had planned on using Schells Firebrick--thinking that a malty lager would be a good pairing with this fairly dry peanut butter cookie, but discovered a rare bottle of this even maltier seasonal from my own city's local brewery.

* Nice. Good.

* Maltiness matches well with peanut butter.

* The dopplebock seems less sweet with the cookie.

* The cookie makes it taste better (Bryan).

Shortbread and Steel Toe Wee Heavy

What to pair with a buttery sugar cookie famously from Scotland?  Why not a strong caramel-like Scottish beer like a Wee Heavy/Scotch Ale?  Steel Toe is one of my favorite breweries and I was happy to find a bottle of this locally.  Other potential options for this pairing would be other malty UK beers like English barleywine or old ale.

* Warm alcohol clears the sweet buttery mouthfeel of the cookie.

* Not sure they mix well--the cookie is in one side of the mouth and the beer in the other.

* (Sarajo discovers dunking the cookie in the beer and the whole thing turns for the better!)

* All out dunkage!

* The beer and cookie have similar flavor notes, but this might be better with another beer.  Helles?  Pils?  Bitter?

Caramel DeLights/Samoas and Brau Brothers Moo Joos

Ideally I wished for a coconut stout but Town Hall's Three Hour Tour is long gone for the season.  I opted for the thick and milky Brau Brothers milk stout contrast a bit with the coconut and caramel of this cookie.

* Works with the caramel and chocolate!

* Cookie overpowers the beer.

* The beer overpowers the cookie.

* Flavors seem muddled together.

* Smoke shows up in the flavor of the beer with the cookie involved.

* Too much Yin, not enough Yang.

* Somewhere in between complementary and contrasting.

Lemonades and Surly Furious

Lemon icing topped shortbread cookies?  Lets get away from malty and roasty beers for once and try something citrusy like a strong IPA.  Surly Furious is a MN classic and has a bit of English malt and yeast character as well as a strong hopping.

* This was actually my favorite of the pairings--the lemon glaze on the shortbread really accentuated the citrus hop bitterness in the beer and made it taste even more Furious! (Eric)

* Sour of lemon rind!

* Yin and Yang!

* Thins the beer, but makes it better.

* (This beer was very polarizing--we were divided "emotionally" on this one about 50/50.  Some loved it, some hated it.  Certainly the most interesting of the pairings we tried.)

Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties and Fulton Worthy Adversary Russian Imperial Stout

This is my favorite cookie--laden with thick peanut butter, crisp cookie, and a somewhat waxy chocolate coating.  The strong flavors in this need something strong to stand up to it so a Russian Imperial stout is a good choice.  There are not a lot of RIS beers in Minnesota that are available in the bottle (other than Surly Darkness) but Fulton's Worthy Adversary is now year round!

* The beer is too bitter for the cookie.

* Not a good mix at all.

* Each are good on their own, but not together.

* (Several people did not like the beer.)

* This is my favorite pairing--smooth.  (Mike)

* The beer is thin, could be more chocolaty.

Thin Mints and Mankato Brewery Mint Stout

Thin Mints are probably the most popular cookie, and as a result we went with two pairings!  the first was a bold move when I discovered Mankato's Mint Stout sitting on the shelf right next to the other beer I had planned for this.  The pairing of like with like can be amazing, but other times can fall a little flat so this one was a bit questionable.  But hey, how could we pass up the opportunity to try?

* (A collective groan goes through the room as I pull out this beer.)

* Eric, what have you done?  What have you done??? (Chris)

* These wash each other out.

* Pairs well.

* These are a different type of mint and just don't quite go together.

* The cookie makes this beer taste better than on it's own.  But it still isn't good.

* Pepto-Bismol mixed with an after dinner mint.

* Like brushing your teeth, then drinking a beer before you go to work.

Thin Mints and Fulton War & Peace 

Fulton's War & Peace is a Peace Coffee infused version of the Worthy Adversary Russian Imperial stout.  Several other folks have suggested a coffee infused RIS (such as Alesmith Speedway Stout) to pair with this cookie, and this was the only local one I could find!

* The best pairing for Thin Mints is a glass of milk.

* I get chili or chipotle pepper from this pairing.

* Tannic notes from the coffee beans?

* Beer seems thin with the cookies.

Overall Experience

This was a fun event for our brewclub to try out and everyone had a good time.  What we discovered overall is that cookies and beer just aren't incredibly great together.  Most of the beers ended up tasting thin or more bitter after tasting the sweeter cookies.  In the end though, we got to eat cookies and drink beers, so everyone won!

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