Hopped Up Eugene April 23-29
On that rare occasion one cannot finish a growler of beer before it goes flat, what does a person do with it? I have been pondering this question for several weeks now, as Bend Brewing Co. Ching Ching sits in a third full growler in the back of my refrigerator. In Oregon, it has got to be a downright sin not to finish a growler full of anything, so I was determined to do something with it. Given that this is a 2014 bronze medal world beer cup award winning sour beer, what came to my mind was reduction. A slow simmer on the stove to syrupy perfection. Good for a variety of uses – replacing vinegars and acids in a salad dressing, or incorporation in an otherwise too sweet dessert.
I first tasted this beer at a Eugene Foodie’s event at the Tap & Growler this past March. When I asked the guys behind the counter to make up some food and beer pairings, they did not disappoint. All three pairings were well thought out, taking food and beer from their menu and explaining why they believed they were a good match.
The pairing that stood out the most was the Ching Ching paired with vanilla panna cotta and raspberry drizzle, courtesy of Noisette Pastry Kitchen. Sweet velvety panna cotta with just a hint of raspberry. Nose full of tart cherry and grain aroma, a very drinkable sour beer with tasting notes ranging from lemon, to cranberry and rhubarb. This pomegranate and hibiscus brewed sour does its job, leaving a slightly acidic after taste that bolstered the flavor of the dessert. Inspired by the flavors of that night, I opted to make a strawberry shortcake.
Strawberry Shortcake is fairly straightforward. So is reducing any liquid down to a syrup. As the simmering process starts, the house filled with a heady Ching Ching scent. Yes, it smelled like beer, but we also caught the piquant fruit and floral scent it is known for. Forty five long minutes later, patience is the name of any liquid reduction game, the results were in. I was left with a tenth of what I started with.
It tastes fantastic reduced down to its most sour of forms. The syrup is slightly sweet, but gets you like a Warhead Extreme Sour Candy if you try to suck if off the spoon, which of course you will do, as none can go to waste. None. I have since used Ching Ching Syrup on a multitude of food. Of course the shortcake, for which I both drizzled the syrup over and into the whipping cream for a little extra something. And it works wonders in salad dressing. Some smoked salt, a good olive oil, a good bit of whisking in the thick syrup and you have an amazing and refreshing dressing.
As much as I hate to waste good beer by not drinking it, all thoughts point toward further syrup reductions and the multiple bottles I’ve got out in my garage. Some sacrifices must be made so that I can “eat” my beer again in the near future. I think a sour beer is the perfect starting point, but there is a Moab Brewery Hopped Rye out there that is calling my name, saying it must be reduced and put on a cheese plate for dipping bread in.
The Eugene Foodies meet on a monthly basis, always in the last week. They are hosted by a variety of restaurants, breweries and vineyards in and around Eugene, with intentions of bringing good food and drink to food lovers. There is even talk of a pop up restaurant concept in the works. The Foodies have grown exponentially over the past several months, and welcome any and all to their ranks. Please check them out on their facebook page for daily food conversation and each month’s planned event.