Springtime produce is finally hitting farmstand shelves, which means that, after the long, dark days of roasted root vegetables and little else, the time has come to indulge in the classic vegetables of the season: artichokes, asparagus, cardoons, fava beans and more.
As much as I wait for these each year, however, they do present a conundrum at the table: What do you drink with them? Artichokes and asparagus are particularly notorious for the way the tend to ruin most wines, leaving a taste in the mouth that reminds me of the unholy love-child of tin foil and turpentine. And while high-acid whites like Champagne and Riesling work decently with them, there really is a limited range of grape-based beverages you can sip alongside.
Which is why I usually don’t. Instead, I drink beer.
And in a city like Philadelphia, with no shortage of great local brews available throughout the year, we have the opportunity to really create some seriously delicious pairings, especially now.
When trying to decide which ones to drink with spring vegetables, it pays to not just consider the specific veg itself, but also how it’s been prepared. Gently steamed asparagus will pair perfectly with a lighter style of beer like a pilsner or a kolsch. A spring vegetable salad, with its typical drizzle of vinaigrette, sings with a wheat beer, especially one with pronounced orange notes. Grilled vegetables offer you the opportunity to play with the deeper, more caramelized flavors that are developed by the open flame employed in the cooking. For those, I like darker beers: A nice black lager, a porter or even a smoky rauschbier would work.
With Philly Beer Week coming up (May 31-June 9), all kinds of new and interesting bottles, cans and kegs will be finding their way here. Take advantage of them all as you pilfer the farm stands and markets for the newly arrived bounty of the season.
PW's Year of Beer: Allagash White