Friday, June 20, 2014

BBQ & Brews - NoDa Brewing

After reviewing Virgil's Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook it got me thinking about which beers go well with which BBQ and grilled foods. With all the craft brewers around the country and summer here, I thought it would be cool to talk to some of the local Charlotte craft brewers and see what they said and which of their brews they would recommend for BBQ and grilling.

NoDa Brewing Company Brew House
BBQ is a food that is nuanced and affected by various factors, from rubs to sauces to the woods used to smoke it. Trying to pair the perfect beer can be difficult, so for this series, we'll be talking in generalities of flavors. Good BBQ allows the meat to show through and the various factors enhance it. A good beer should do the same or play counterpoint to the flavors.

I visited the NoDa Brewing Tap room and talked with Andy Grimes, sales/marketing beer guru. He was very knowledgeable about beer and BBQ. We talked about how to pair beers with BBQ and grilled items and he gave me recommendations on which of their year round beers to pair with which meats.

The NoDa Story (as taken from their web site -
NoDa Brewing Company is a homegrown Charlotte brew house located in (and named after) the city’s most bohemian and artistic neighborhood—NoDa, named after North Davidson Street. 
Our approach is to handcraft small-batch beers with a dedication to quality and variety. Our size and attitude allow us to brew unique and artistic recipes as well as our renditions of classic varieties such as Stouts, Witbiers, and Winter Warmers. We are actually the only brewery in town with deep roots in the homebrewing scene. After winning numerous homebrew competitions, by popular demand, we took our beer to the general public. From our taproom to our kegs to our cans we hope you taste and enjoy the commitment, detail and love we put into every last drop of our NoDa beers. 

The Tour
If you want to learn how the beer is made, I highly recommend taking the Brewery Tour. Chris Bazzle was the tour guide and did a great job explaining how the beer starts from a pile of grain and gets converted into a variety of brews. Not only is he interesting but he is entertaining too.
Chris Bazzle Tour Master

I also learned a few things on the tour.
  • When brewers talk about a barrel, it is a measurement equaling 31 gallons 
  • NoDa Brewing brews 3-4 batches a day
  • It takes 1000lbs of grain for 500 gallons of beer
  • When a brewer talks about liquor in the brewing process, he is referring to water
  • They have to maintain a temperature of 149-154 F to break down the sugars for the yeast to turn it into alcohol
  • The liquid extracted from the mash is wort, which means root and is the "root" of the beer
  • There are over 20 varieties of hops which help to add flavor to the beer 
  • During the brewing process they can add "spice satches" to add flavors 
On the brew board at Noda Brewing each of the beers listed had three abbreviations next to them with numbers. Chris explained what these are and what they mean.
The Brew Board
  • SRM - Standard Reference Method; specifies the beer color. The lower the number the lighter the beer; the higher the number the darker the beer. 
  • ABV - Alcohol by Volume; Beer in NC is allowed to have up to 15% ABV 
  • IBU - International Bitter Units; the higher the number the hoppier the beer
Each of these numbers can help you decide what type of beer to choose if you know what your preferences are.

Hearing about and seeing the process it takes to make beer made me think of the similarities between making a good brew and making good BBQ. When making a good beer you have hops, water and yeasts as your base, add a specific heat and let it cook over time. With good BBQ you have meat, spices and smoke over a specific heat and let it cook over time. The things you add will change the flavors of the beer or BBQ and make them really good or really bad.

Andy and I sat down and talked about how to pair beer with BBQ and grilled foods so the flavors would work well with each other. For the lighter grilled and smoked meats (chicken, hotdogs), Andy recommends something that compliments the flavors, doesn't fight with them and has more body. It doesn't distract from the toppings you add to a hotdog and allows the flavors of the grilled or smoked chicken to come through. A good pale ale works well with BBQ chicken. With a hamburger, you would want to look for something that can cut through the strong flavors and cleanse the pallet. When eating brisket, you would want something that is hoppy and has bitters since the beef is a stronger flavor it holds up well to those types of beers.

The taps.
Pulled pork and ribs are a bit trickier to pair because of the variety of sauces people use on them. With a mustard or vinegar sauce, Andy recommends a counterbalance to the acidity with something that is amber with yeasty breadyness. With the sweeter Kansas City style sauces, a fruity, citrus flavored beer will complement the flavors and bring out the subtleties in the meat. Depending how the ribs are cooked, a medium beer would complement the flavors of a sweet wet rib while a darker beer would work well with a dry rib.

Andy Grimes beer guru
Andy's NoDa Brewing Recommendations
  • Burgers - Jam Session or Hop Drop and Roll - cuts through the flavor cleans the pallet 
  • Hot dogs - Ramble on Red - more body doesn't take away from the additions 
  • Grilled Chicken - Jam Session, Cavu - lighter and doesn't fight with the flavor 
  • BBQ Chicken - Jam Session - lighter and doesn't fight with the flavor; allows the smoke the come through 
  • Pulled pork
    • Mustard sauce - Ramble on Red - counterbalances the acidity - competing flavors 
    • Vinegar sauce - Ramble on Red or Cavu 
    • KC style sauce - Hop Drop 'n Roll 
  • Ribs - Ramble on Red, Coco Loco - depending on the sauce 
  • Brisket - Coco Loco, Hop Drob 'n Roll 
I was able to taste NoDa Brewing's four main beers. Below are what they are, NoDa's descriptions and my thoughts on them.

Ramble On Red 
A red ale with character, Ramble On Red uses the unique combination of rye malt and Belgian Special B with Challenger hops. While it has more body than most reds and a malt-forward profile, it is still a session beer of the finest variety. 
This is a nice amber beer. It was one of my favorites to taste. It had a nice flavor, a little on the dryer side but I like that.

Coco Loco 
Deep, rich and delicious. This robust porter has a base of Chocolate and Brown malts for a stunningly deep rich color with ruby highlights. The slight bitterness from American chocolate is balanced with the sweet notes of organic coconut we toast onsite at the brewery. It was even awarded the Great American Beer Festival Silver Medal in 2012.
A great dark beer. It's made for sipping. With the chocolate, coconut and carmel flavors in it it has coffee taste to it. I enjoyed it but not as much as the lighter colored beers.

Jam Session
The evolution of American Pale Ale—still a session beer but it sacrifices nothing—clear hop flavor shines through without being too dominant, and there’s a great malt flavor uncommon to the variety. The backbone of this beer is the balance of imported Maris Otter and Caramunich malts with the pine and citrus flavors of Centennial, Simcoe, and Citra hops. 
I really liked this beer. it was smoother than the others and had a nice fruity balance to it.

Hop Drop 'n Roll
2014 World Beer Cup® Gold Award Winner, American-Style IPA. Hops in your face. Crisp, mouthwatering, American citrus hops dominate for an ideal IPA character. It’s hopped before, during and after the boil with late boil additions of Citra and Amarillo for a complex flavor profile. The rich golden color comes from a blend of English and American base malts accented with substantial amounts of Vienna and Wheat malt. This is the beer that started it all for NoDa Brewing. 
This is a very citrusy and hoppy beer. I could see it served with a slice of orange. It wasn't my favorite but it was good.

They also serve a variety of seasonal beers that are great.

Thanks again to Andy and Chris for taking time to talk with me and educate me a little more about beer, the brewing process and pairing it with BBQ. While none of these rules or pairings are set in stone, I recommend you give them a try and share your thoughts. Hopefully it will help you find the right beer for the perfect bite.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like an awesome experience! Love tap rooms!