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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Forgo the cap! Top 5 canned beers

Epicurious profiles microbrews that are
easy to drink and easier to open

By Stephen Beaumont - Epicurious

Canned beers have come a long way in the last half-decade or so, with many award-winning microbreweries now proudly packaging their brew in aluminum. While the jury is still out on whether or not cans are truly more environmentally friendly than bottles, there's no denying that the two containers play on equal ground in terms of flavor.

Fuller's London Pride
You might not expect to find one of the most awarded and acclaimed ales in the U.K. in a can, but voilà! This is a classic "best bitter," a brew style completely unlike pale ale, porter, or stout. It is dry rather than aggressively bitter, lightly fruity, and, to borrow a British phrase, immensely quaffable. With more than a century and a half of experience behind it, the Fuller's brewery is the last remaining family brewery in London. (England; $7.99 per four-pack of 16.9 oz. cans)

Snack Pairing: Potato Gratin with White Cheddar CheeseThe dry but lightly fruity flavors of the beer complement aged white Cheddar, that famed British cheese. Try it in this potato recipe.

Entrée Pairing: Fish and ChipsThe pairing with deep-fried fare is a natural, since the bitterness of the beer will strip the greasiness of the dish from the palate.

Sly Fox Pikeland Pils
While boring, weak, mainstream American lagers are often deemed "lawnmower beers," I've always thought the quenching, refreshing character of a good German-style pilsner like this was more deserving of the term. Aromatic, crisply flavorful, pleasingly bitter, and dry enough to slake the greatest thirst, this is simply an outstanding hot weather brew from a well-respected and family-owned brewery located not far from Philadelphia. (Pennsylvania; $8.49 per six-pack)

Sandwich Pairing: Ham and Sweet Onion SandwichesThe beer is full-bodied enough to match the big flavors of the meat, and will not be intimidated by the spice of the rub or smoke of the grill.

Salad Pairing: Grilled Tuna Salade Niçoise Thanks to their dryness and austere malt profile, German-style pilsners like this pair well with both fresh salads and fattier types of fish.

Young's Double Chocolate Stout
For those who swear they taste chocolaty notes in black beers, here's a stout that ups the ante by introducing actual chocolate into the mix. It is, not surprisingly, quite chocolaty in taste, but also mellow in character, with roasty, coffee, and faint spice notes and none of the cloying sweetness found in some chocolate ales. A lovely after-dinner treat. (England; $8.99 per four-pack of 16.9 oz. cans)

Fruity Pairing: Berries with Ricotta CreamThis ale begs for fresh, naked berries. The chocolaty taste of the beer will enhance the fruit flavors; a faintly bitter finish refreshes the palate.

Baked Pairing: Pound Cake with Chocolate SwirlAlmost any chocolate-dominated dessert will work with this stout, but the chocolaty flavor acts as a sort of "liquid icing" accompaniment.

Oskar Blues Gordon

From the pioneering brewery that helped rehabilitate the sorry image of canned beer in 2002, when it became the first craft brewer to can its ales, comes this heavyweight brew of the style sometimes referred to as "double" or "Imperial" IPA, thanks to its high 8.7-percent alcohol content and robust hoppiness. Expect chocolate, hazelnut, and raisin notes on the nose and a big body of toffee and berry flavors mixed with citrusy bitterness. Not for the faint of heart. (Colorado; $9.99 per four-pack)
Just Chocolate Pairing:
Dark Chocolate Brownies with White Chocolate The bittersweet taste, high in cocoa content and complex in flavor, will complement the similar character of this ale.

Fruit & Chocolate Pairing: Dark Chocolate Sauce Mixed fruit is ideal, but smother it in dark chocolate sauce to help balance the fruity malt and bitterness of the beer.

New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale
What started as a cult canned ale among mountain bikers in Colorado in the early 1990s is now available for the rest of us. This isn't an intimidating beer in any way; just a slightly biscuity, somewhat toasty, and well-balanced amber ale with an abundance of the quality some critics refer to as "more-ish," meaning that one sip has you wanting more. (Colorado; $16 per 12-pack)

Snack Pairing: Chili PopcornThe dry and hoppy side of the beer keep the salt from overwhelming the tongue or turning the taste sour—as will occur when more malty beers meet salty snacks.

Entrée Pairing: Grilled Chicken and Ratatouille The toasted malt of the ale matches the light smokiness of the grill, and the chicken won't be overwhelmed by the body of the beer.