I’ve picked a few that pair well with Chinese cuisine.
To keep it simple you might choose a Chinese beer such as Tsingtao ($10.99/ 6×330 mL). Introduced to China by German brewers in the early 20th century, it’s a light bodied lager reminiscent of German lagers. Or the biggest selling beer in China, Yanjing ($2.99/ 500 mL) from Beijing, is a rice beer.
A new beer for Chinese New Year is the Central City Red Racer Lucky Pig ($2.79/500 mL), a collaboration by Red Racer and Hong Kong Beer Co. This blonde ale is infused with ginger and tangerine for a fruit-forward flavour with subtle ginger spice.
If you want to match specific dishes, there are plenty of brews to choose from. Take Fried Rice. A Pilsner such as the original Pilsner Urquell ($2.49/500 mL) from the Czech Republic would be excellent. The malty flavours will work with the sweetness of the peas and carrots. The beer’s ability to quench your thirst will balance the rich oily rice and chicken or other protein. And the Pilsener’s Saaz hops will pair with the garlic and other spices in the rice.
Or you could go local with a tasty craft beer such as Hoyne’s Pilsner from Victoria ($5.59/650 mL). And those that are fond of Belgian brews, Duvel Strong Golden Ale $4.09/330mL) is your cup of tea. It’s light bodied so it won’t fill you up. Duvel’s citrus and spice nose will complement the variety of meats and veges in the fried rice, and its dry finish cleanses your palate.
For dim sum like prawn or pork dumplings and spring rolls, wheat beers (white beers, weissbiers and witbiers) with their refreshing character, light body, and silky mouth-feel can also handle sweet and sour flavours. Belgium’s Hoegaarden ($14.29 6×330 mL) is a tasty witbier, spiced with coriander and curacao orange peels. It has a heady, spicy nose with a soft and delightful sour and sweet taste. A local version is Driftwood White Bark Witbier ($11.79/4 x 473 mL).
Another popular dish is General Tso’s Chicken, which is crispy, saucy and spicy. Open up a tripel like Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde ($6.99/750 mL). This 9 per cent triple fermented blonde ale is well balanced on the palate with a chorus of fruit, spice and hop notes that make this highly effervescent “liquid gold” so distinctive. The ale’s spice pairs nicely with the chilli in the dish and the fruitiness and carbonation balance the sticky sauce. And the fizzy carbonation lifts some of the fat from the fried chicken.
Or you can go for one of my favourites, Victoria’s Driftwood Fat Tug IPA ($6.19/650 mL). Its bitterness will sooth the heat of the chilli sauce and the hops will make the green onions and garlic more prominent. Plus, the crisp dry finish will wash down the fried chicken.
There’s also my local Britannia Brewing Wave Crusader XPA (11.29/ 4 x 473 mL), a fusion of British pale ale and American IPA. Its UK crystal malt balances the west coast hops.
With hot and sour soup, you want a beer with good balance, not too sweet nor too acidic. Reach for a bitter or an ESB (Extra Special Bitter). Richmond’s newest brewery is Monkey 9 Brewing Company and its Malty Papa ESB with its big malty backbone and mild hoppiness would be a good bet.
With a rich dish like Peking Duck with it’s crispy skin and caramel flavours, crack open a richer, slightly sweet beer like Stanley Park Amber Ale ($1.99/500 mL) or Sleigh Booster Imperial Red IPA from North Van’s Bridge Brewing. The bitterness will cut some of the richness of the duck and the hops will be accented with the plum sauce or hoisin dipping sauce.
Enjoy your culinary celebrations for the Year of the Pig. It’s time to “pig out’ and to dip your tongue into the wonderful brews available locally and from around the globe.
Eric Hanson is a Richmond wine and food enthusiast