Monday, December 15, 2014

Toronto beer professor shares holiday secrets

Mike Donachie MetroIt’s time to take another look at beer, Toronto’s professor of beer has said, and there’s never been a better time to do it.

Roger Mittag, who really is a professor of beer at Humber College, said the credibility of the drink deserves more attention, especially during the holidays when people are thinking about what to take to parties.

“The big thing for me is to help people to understand and appreciate it,” said Mittag, founder of beer education company Thirst for Knowledge.

“That means to slow down and look at the beer, and smell the beer, and taste the beer. Get it out of the can and get it into a glass so you can appreciate everything the brewer has put into it.

“Think about having it with food.”

There’s been a resurgence of respect for the humble beer, Mittag said, after 15 to 20 years of what he sees as a focus on wine.

“I think people have, for years and years, taken beer for granted,” he continued. “But now they’re starting to understand it goes with different kinds of foods.”

Mittag is the founder of Prud’homme, Canada’s first certification program for beer sommeliers, who help people to appreciate the drink.

As well as teaching at Humber’s School of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism, he’s an expert on beer technologies — yes, that’s a real thing — like the “widget,” a 1980s invention that infuses beer with nitrogen as it’s poured from the can, making a pub-style pint possible. It means people can enjoy a Guinness stout properly at home, with a real head, a softer texture and more nuances in the flavour.

“I love all beer and I think all beer has times and circumstances in which they’re best consumed,” Mittag said. “Into colder months, something with a little bit more body, with roasted malts in there, and a little more bitterness tends to be more comforting.”

Mittag also said beer can have some health benefits. Because it usually has less alcohol than other drinks, he said, it’s that great social drink that helps people control their state of inebriation better. In theory.

“There really isn’t any fat in beer,” he added. “There are lots of carbohydrates, but carbohydrates are easily digested.

“The reason we get beer bellies is over-consumption. It’s a combination of beer and the wrong foods at the wrong times.”

As for Guinness, that old idea that it’s good for you is true, Mittag said. It’s a myth that it contains iron, but it does have antioxidants that bring health benefits.

But it all comes with a warning: Everything in moderation.

That’s true for the turkey, too.

Happy marriages

Mittag offered some advice on how to pair types of beer with seasonal foods.

  • For a turkey dinner, or other light-tasting foods, try a traditional lager like a pilsner. The clean-refreshing taste is complementary. Or consider a fruit beer.
  • For dark meats like steak or a roast, or rich foods like an aged cheddar or a chocolate dessert, a good, full-bodied stout can mean a perfect relationship. There’s also an opportunity to have stouts with contrasting foods, like cherry cheesecake.
  • For soft cheeses like camembert or brie, which often turn up on the table at celebrations, try a wheat beer, especially the ones that are Belgium’s great gift to the world.

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