Here in the south, fall is the most fickle of seasons. One morning you wake up and sing glory to the heavens for the sublime season of brisk mornings and chilly evenings, and the next morning, it’s 90 frickin’ degrees and muggy.
As such, it can be tough to find a beer appropriate to the weather. What do you select in the critical moment when you’re at the store and are unsure whether you’ll be spending the evening trying to warm yourself by the fire or cooling yourself beneath your porch fans, but are quite sure you’ll be drinking beer?
Behold Schwarzbier. Literally “black beer”, a schwarzbier is a dark lager, which means that it tends to retain the crispness, light body, and dry finish of a pilsner while also bringing in some more sweet and roasted flavors from the darker malts used in brewing. For me, this means that it can enhance the rich and smoky atmosphere of an evening around the chiminea, but also makes a good choice for those warmer evenings when you’re craving a crisp and refreshing beer with some pleasant complexity.
One of my favorite schwarzbier-style beers locally available is Bière Noire, brewed by Bayou Teche in Arnauldville, Louisiana. Technically an ale due to the yeast used in brewing, this beer is still a delicious example of the complex flavor that can be achieved while retaining the refreshing crispness the style embodies. And my favorite part? It’s brewed specifically to go with some of my favorite foods: po-boys and jambalaya. Ooooh boy, I just went weak in the knees thinking of them together…
An aside: the last time I attempted jambalaya, I at first poked a little fun at my husband’s pride in his ability to have mastered the recipe, as I realized that the steps involved were not as intensive as presumed. However, immediately after the aforementioned goading, I managed to wreck the entire batch with an overly generous seasoning of cayenne pepper. So, I’m not going to give you advice on how to modify the ol’ jambalaya recipe, because I apparently can’t make it myself yet.
With that out there, I’m still thinking that this since this beer is specifically brewed to be paired with foods like po-boys, it should be given that honor. For the sake of the belle (as well as the belly) I usually go with pan-seared fresh gulf shrimp rather than the roast beef smothered in gravy which I so desire. Give the shrimp a quick clean and throw ‘em in a lightly-oiled pan with your favorite cajun seasoning, then set them aside until you’re ready to use them.
Now in my opinion, at least 55% of how good a poboy is lies in the quality of the bread. The crunch-to-pull ratio is key; it’s necessary to find a bread which has both in abundance. (For my friends here in Mobile, you can go to Bebo’s Springhill Market and get a loaf of Reisling’s bread delivered straight from New Orleans every Tuesday and Friday, which is the most perfect bread for po-boys ever and is the reason our household only eats po-boys on Tuesdays or Fridays.)
Because I won’t skimp on the quality of my bread by getting some wimpy sandwich thin substitute, it’s still worth trying to cut some calories, especially since we’re pairing this meal with a beer. Slice off a 4-5 inch piece of bread, then cut it lengthwise and scoop out about half of the bread on the inside. (I try to get scoop mine down to weigh about 3 ounces on our food/hops scale, but that’s just my preference.) Immediately feed the scooped out bread to the nearest dog or child because otherwise you will eat it in all its deliciousness and defeat the purpose entirely. This, by far, is the most painful part, but it’s also where it gets good. By scooping out that 2-3 ounces of bread, which aren’t missed because the bread still retains all of the characteristics needed for a delicious po-boy, it cuts out anywhere from 160-280 calories, 2-4 grams of fat, and 31-46 carbs. Sounds toast-worthy, doesn’t it?
At this point I recommend you add a little mayo, some crisp lettuce, a couple of juicy tomato slices, some red onion, and a generous amount of Crystal Hot Sauce, then pour your schwarzbier into a pilsner glass and enjoy the weather, be it what it may. Santé!