The Beer Lover’s Table: Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen and Smoky Pork Chipotle Stew

What do you crave in November? If you’re like me, lately you’ve been longing for stews, braised meats and a bit of chili heat. (Seven hours of daylight has a way of making comfort food into a necessity.)

And drink-wise? Few things go down smoother in November than beer that tastes like a bonfire. Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen may not be the newest or hottest brew on the block – it’s been made since the 15th-century, after all – but its beguiling combination of smoky savouriness, rich malt, and an ever-so-subtle touch of menthol captivates me anew each autumn.

For those who haven’t tried it before, this is a beer that still has the power to shock. I’ve seen more than a few people splutter after their first sip: “It tastes like bacon!” (Not a bad thing, for the record.) Considered the standard-bearer of German rauchbiers, this smoke bomb gets that distinctively kindled taste from the malt, or rauchmalz, that Schlenkerla roasts in the traditional way – over roaring beechwood fires, that is.

Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen is also a profoundly food-friendly beer, with its minimal bitterness, moderate booziness, mellow carbonation and sweet-savoury flavour profile. That brings me back to those braised meats. Pairing like with like is a solid strategy for food and beer matching, and pork chipotle stew here makes for a very happy partnership.

An adaptation of New Mexico’s more intensely spiced carne adovada, this stew marries the moderate heat and smoke of chipotle chillies with melting pieces of pork. A couple of surprising ingredients here serve to really round out the flavour: raisins add a subtle sweetness while a dash of Asian fish sauce lends savoury depth. And then there’s the beer itself – if you can bear to spare it, a slosh of rauchbier is the perfect way to finish this stew off. The end result is belly-filling, rib-sticking, cold-vanquishing goodness.

(P.S. Craving dessert? It might sound surprising, but a peppermint chocolate mousse is the perfect way to conclude the feast. You’re welcome.)

Smoky Chipotle Pork Stew

Adapted from Serious Eats

  • 950ml chicken broth
  • 50g raisins
  • 3-4 tbs chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (depending on your spice tolerance)
  • 390g carton chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 1.5k boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and skin, cut into 5 cm cubes
  • 2 tbs canola oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbs ground cumin
  • 120ml Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen
  • 3 bay leaves, fresh or dried
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

To a large pot (or your most colourful Dutch oven), add the first five ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium heat, allowing the mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until raisins are soft and plump. With an immersion blender, carefully blend the liquid until smooth. (This can also be done with a tabletop blender or food processor, but be sure to let the mixture cool slightly if using.) Set aside.

Season pork with salt and pepper. In your Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the pork and cook, turning, until browned on all sides but not cooked through (you may have to do this in several batches to ensure the pot isn’t overly crowded). Once browned, set aside.

To your Dutch oven, add the onions, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and stir frequently until softened, about five minutes. Add your minced garlic and continue to cook until lightly browned, approximately five minutes more. Add oregano and cumin and cook for an additional minute, or until fragrant. Deglaze with your trusty Rauchbier.

Now, return the blended chipotle liquid to the pot and stir to combine. Add the browned pork pieces and any accumulated juices. Add bay leaves. Keep the heat high until the mixture has come to a boil, before reducing to medium-low heat for a gentle simmer.

Cover and stir occasionally so the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom, allowing the pork to braise for at least two hours – you want your meat to start falling apart after the merest pressure from a spoon. The sauce should be quite thick; if not, reduce uncovered for a few more minutes. If you’re feeling extra beery, you can add in another splash of Rauchbier at this point.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve alongside a freshly poured Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen. Cheers!

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen.

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