By GUY D’ASTOLFO
With Christmas almost here and New Year’s Eve just around the corner, party season is in high gear.
When planning a menu for a dinner or a bash, why not give the celebration a local touch with beer and wine from the Mahoning Valley?
Craft breweries and small wineries now dot the Northeast Ohio region, including Rust Belt Brewing Co. in Youngstown, and Myrddin and Mastropietro wineries, in the western part of Mahoning County.
Rust Belt Brewing has been around for just two years, but owner and president Ken Blair has discovered the foods that pair best with his brews. Rust Belt, located inside the B&O Station building at 505 Mahoning Ave., near downtown, offers six beers, with two more ready for a first pour in January.
There are four “session” beers: Blast Furnace Blond, Rusted River Red, Old Man Hopper’s IPA and Coke Oven Stout. Session beers, according to Blair, are easy to drink with a mild-hop profile. You can drink a few pints at a time without being overwhelmed (they are usually 5 percent to 6 percent alcohol).
Rust Belt also is offering two beers under its John Young Select line: McPoyle’s Milk Stout and St. Michael’s Double Pale Ale. These beers are meant to be showcase products and conversation starters among beer lovers and have higher alcohol levels — 6 percent to 9 percent.
Early next year, the brewery will unveil two new products: XOXO Doppelsticke, an old German-style beer; and A Big Ail, a Belgian-style.
Here’s a look at Rust Belt’s beers and the foods they go with best, according to Blair:
Blast Furnace Blond Ale: “It’s a lighter beer that won’t kill the taste of delicate foods,” said Blair. Complements fish or cheeses. An appetizer array with pear jelly, white cheddar and Blast Furnace Blond was a hit at a recent Rust Belt event.
Rusted River Irish Red ale: “We’ve had a lot of successful pairings with Christmas ham and roasted pork,” said Blair, who also suggests barbeque. “The caramel characteristics of the beer come out and blend well with roasted meats.”
Old Man Hopper’s IPA: “It has noble hop characteristics,” said Blair (noble hops are cultivated in Europe). “You taste the flavor of the hop, but not the bitterness.” Goes best with spicy or salty dishes, said Blair, who recommended the corned beef from Kravitz Deli.
Coke Oven Stout: Pairs well with oysters or any seafood dish, and also with chocolate.
McPoyle’s Milk Stout: “I think of this as a dessert beer,” said Blair. “It goes especially well with chocolate. We paired it with the pumpkin cheesecake from Mocha House in Boardman, and it was decadent.” The name comes from the fact that lactose is used to sweeten the beer, giving it a body that is heavier and silkier on the tongue. “There is a slight sweetness to the beer,” said Blair, “but it’s not necessary for a beer to be sweet to pair it with a dessert. The flavors just complement each other.” It also has coffee and roasted-flavor characteristics.
St. Michael’s Double Pale Ale: Pairs best with very spicy foods. “It’s high alcohol [9 percent] and hops level maintains the spiciness,” said Blair. “You get more flavor out of the food.”