Full disclosure: Many bloggers receive free beer in the mail, then review it, but fail to mention they're reviewing complimentary samples. Not me. Sometimes I request samples for my stories; sometimes they're just sent. Lately, in addition to receiving emailed press releases about beers, I'm getting releases from various food publicists. The appeal of some of these foodstuffs showing up on my doorstep is fun, but I'm a beer writer not a food writer and it seems wrong to solicit them, then the publicist has nothing to show for it. I've never blogged reviews. Til now. Here begins my series of food sample + beer pairings*. (*IF the suggested beers are comped samples, I'll disclose that.)
Just in time for Passover, I received a box of matzah. Yes, matzah, that unleavened "bread" which is more like a supersized cracker that is enjoyed, or at least consumed, for the entire week that celebrates the Israelites' freedom from slavery in Egypt where, upon a hasty escape, they did not have time to let the bread rise. For this reason, Jews eschew leavened products. Already, pairing matzah with beer (fermented with yeast) sounds unkosher.
Osem Israeli Orange-flavored Chocolate-coated Matzah grabbed me because chocolate-orange is one of my favorite flavor combos. One of the last things I ate before moving from San Francisco was a pint of Swensen's Swiss Orange Chip ice cream. This is definitely a dessert or snack item and probably not something you'd find at a traditional Seder table. This appeals to both my sweet-tooth and my crunch-tooth. For you see, I crave crunchy foods. Each square of matzah is fully enrobed in dark chocolate that is detectably orangy, but they could've gone a lot further if they'd used natural orange flavor or, better yet, real orange zest! Having said that, I doubt those "Whack & Unwraps," y'know, those round balls of chocolate with various fruit flavors that are popular around Christmastime, have any real essence of fruit in them and those are pretty tasty, too.
For a beer pairing, a good choice may be Ramapo Valley's Passover Honey Beer, the only kosher for Passover beer in the world. This is achieved by brewing a "beer" out of honey making it actually more like mead, a honey wine. But between being impossible to find and being disgusting by all accounts, let's scratch that idea.
One obvious choice is Shmaltz's Jewbelation Vertical under the He'Brew brand. A blend of every Jewbelation from the past 7 years (Jewbelation 8-14), this whiskey barrel aged beer (sample provided) pours thick, almost goopey, and is rich to boot. While not a chocolate-beer, it is chocolatey, almost mocha-y, but also has fruit flavors like fig and date that compliment the chocolate-orange encrusted cracker.
Tied would be Ambacht's Matzobraü from Hillsboro, Ore., brewed with honey and actual matzah, but as it states on the label, it is not kosher for Passover. In fact, it's made right after Passover, using owner/brewer Tom Kramer's leftover "bread of affliction" which he adds right to the mash. You can only find this in about half a dozen bottle shops around Portland, unfortunately. More of a slightly fruity Belgian-style ale and less like liquid matzo brie (especially if you add onions to yours instead of cinnamon and syrup), while not in the least bit citrusy, the honey and banana flavors meld nicely with the hint of orange, and the like-minded bread flavors make this suitable for a mid-meal nosh.
Until the next package shows up, chag sameach Pesach