August. The month when cicadas chirp about the heat louder than the rest of us complain, the month of final summer hurrahs at the river, of Saturday mornings at the bustling farmers market and impromptu backyard cookouts. And Virginia Craft Beer Month. Lucky for us, Downtown Harrisonburg has four of our own craft breweries, that make languishing away these last warm evenings on the porch with a growler fill, food and friends an easy proposition. Here are a few dinner ideas to pair with our brewers’ favorite “right-now” beers.
Three Notch'd Brewing
Blake Cramer, homebrewer and upright bass player for the bluegrass quartet, Shenandoah Alley, worked with head brewer Mary Morgan at Three Notch’d Brewing to create ‘Shenandoah Alley’ Ginger Steam Ale. This spin on American style ale, has a nice biscuit toastiness with a solid kick of ginger and is perfect for pairing with Asian flavors. Use peak summer vegetables and herbs from the Harrisonburg Farmers Market in this main dish salad.
Grilled Vegetable Salad with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette
Unsweetened coconut (optional)
12 okra pods or a large handful of green beans
3 ears of corn, shucked
2 large zucchini, halved lengthwise, centers scooped out
2 long red chiles (such as Anaheim), stemmed
1 small eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1" slices
1 tablespoon sea salt
Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to high. Combine okra, corn, zucchini, chiles, eggplant, and salt in a large bowl; drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Grill vegetables, turning frequently, until crisp-tender and lightly charred, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, if you like coconut, toast a handful lightly in the oven. Place grilled chiles in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic to let steam for easy peeling. Set chiles aside for dressing.
Cut corn kernels from cobs and roughly chop zucchini and eggplant into 1" pieces. Trim any tough tops from okra and cut okra (or beans) in half lengthwise. Set chopped vegetables aside in a bowl.
For the dressing:
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon palm packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nuoc nam or nam pla)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 cups (loosely packed) mixed fresh tender herbs such as basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, and tarragon
Peel or scrape off charred skin from chiles and discard. Mash chiles (with seeds) and garlic with a mortar and pestle until a coarse paste forms. Add sugar and pound until dissolved. Stir in fish sauce and lime juice.
Drizzle dressing over warm vegetables; add herbs; toss well. Serve over rice if you prefer.
At Brothers Brewing, Adam Shifflett is digging the Apricot Verdure, a Berliner Weisse beer currently on tap. Brothers puts a spin on it with a kettle sour rather than a sour mash, giving it a clean, lemony acidity. The base beer is then blended with nearly two pounds of apricots per gallon of beer to give it a big pop of fresh, juicy apricot and a nice tart finish.
A refreshing beer like this is perfect for hot days--the kind where turning your oven on is out of the question. Try a porch picnic instead gathered from Brothers, Friendly City Food Co-Op and Bella Luna.
Perfect Summer Picnic
Growler of Apricot Verdure
Brie or other soft cheese
Stone fruit--peaches, nectarines, plums or apricots
Good quality ham or prosciutto
A hunk of crusty bread from Bella Luna,
A handful of your favorite nuts (if you haven’t tried marcona almonds, you’re missing out)
Wolfe Street Brewing
Wolfe Street Brewing loves the gigantic hop aromas of pineapple and citrus in their Snake Oil IPA. A moderate body and an assertive bitterness finish off this beer. This edgy beer needs and an equally edgy sandwich. Fill a growler and fire up the grill.
Curried Chicken Sandwich
Brine 2 skinless, boneless Shenandoah Valley Organic chicken breasts (about 1 pound), halved horizontally in:
1 cup buttermilk
1 t kosher salt
¼ t freshly ground black pepper
1 t good curry powder
½ t ground cumin
½ t ground turmeric
Combine in a Ziploc bag and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1/2 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1 tablespoon mayonnaise plus more for serving
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
freshly ground pepper
4 large or 8 small slices country-style bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup picked dill with tender stems
Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Combine celery, fennel, yogurt, lemon juice, celery seeds, and 1 tablespoon mayonnaise in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Set slaw aside.
Grill chicken until cooked through, 5-7 minutes per side. Brush bread on both sides with oil and grill until toasted, about 2 minutes per side; spread with mayonnaise. Build sandwiches with bread, chicken, slaw, onion, and dill.
Pale Fire Brewing Co.
Sometimes, the most carefully crafted beers pair best with the simplest of food. Pale Fire’s award-winning Salad Days American Saison is the perfect accompaniment to roast chicken and lightly-dressed salad. Heavily season a whole chicken with salt, pepper and herbs and roast your own or--if you don’t feel like cooking--Byler’s at the Farmers Market is a good substitute. Grab some greens and gorgeous heirloom tomatoes while you’re there and then meander across the street to Pale Fire to fill your growler. These are indeed the salad days of summer. If you ask me, it doesn’t get any better than this.