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Hosting a Craft Beer Boil
Whether it’s a Fourth of July party or just a regular summer bash, it’s a great time to crack into seafood and beers. Summer beers pair perfectly with seafood, and fresh seasonal produce like corn and watermelon. The best part about throwing a big seafood boil (or “bake”) is that the food preparation is shared by all—if you can even call it that. Smacking reddened lobsters with mallets and slurping up oysters from the half-shell are some of the hallmarks of this American tradition.
I sense that this is where I should elaborate on the marvelous ingenuity with which the seafood boil/bake was first invented. But the truth is, a big pot or hot stones spread on the beach are probably the most primitive of cooking vessels. And a seafood boil, whether it’s the Louisiana-style crawfish boil infused with Cajun spices or the New England all-in-one boil with potatoes, is the same idea: one hot, messy, communal way to feed large masses. The bibs especially point to this.
Here’s a few ways to fashion your seafood meal, with suggested beer styles for each.
Shrimp & Lobster Boil with Rolls & Po’ Boys
It’s pretty hard to resist simply scarfing down lobster meat once you’ve conquered the task of cracking its shell. But adding just a few more ingredients can turn it into a satisfying sandwich. Make a little station, setting out toasted hot dog rolls, sauces like mayonnaise, tartar sauce and Tabasco, fresh herbs like dill and chives, and lemon wedges for people to make their own seafood rolls or po’ boys. These classic sandwiches work well with either lobster or shrimp meat—or why not try both?
Pair it with: Zesty, floral, herbal, refreshing IPAs, Pale Ales and Wheat Ales
Like: Ithaca Flower Power IPA, Boulder Beer Hazed & Infused Pale Ale
Clam or Oyster Bake
If you happen to have your own private shore, you can pull off the real deal by digging a ditch to make a small fire atop some rocks. The shellfish get steamed above it, sheathed in a layer of seaweed. This elaborate event is not well-suited to backyards, however. So just use your hibachi grill as the “ditch” and charcoal as the “stones.” Plop the clams, oysters, mussels or other shellfish right on its racks. You can spread damp seaweed on top of them to add the classic aroma. It’ll smell like the sea thanks to the fresh bivalves being heated just enough to pop their shells open. This is always fun to stand around and watch.
Pair it with: Tangy, citrusy, refreshing, slightly funky summer ales or ciders
Like: Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale, Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale
Cajun Crab & Critter Boil with the Works
Crabs are one of the peskiest sea creatures to pick apart, but they’re also one of the most delicious. Chesapeake blue crabs from the southern states are considered some of the most delectable, and they’re only in season during summer. Treat yourself to the rare luxury, and throw some crawfish (aka crayfish, crawdads or just “critters”) into the pot for more immediate gratification. These little crustaceans cook faster than popcorn, and are generally eaten by sucking them out of the shell. Be sure to season the cooking water with Cajun spices and bay leaves for classic flavor. And while you’re at it, season some chicken or make a side of gumbo or jambalaya to serve at this special soirée.
Pair it with: Crisp, smooth, effervescent, golden Pilsners and lagers
Like: Dogfish Head Good Helles, North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner ■