Pairing Girl Scout cookies with adult beverages


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If there ever were a food marriage made in heaven, it'd have to be milk and cookies.

Now that you're a grown-up, though, you may no longer drink milk unless it's lightening your coffee or moistening a bowl of cereal. That can make for a long, dry Girl Scout-cookie season.

There's a solution for non-milk drinkers, and it's called beer or wine.

We asked a few local experts which brews and spirits go best with a variety of Girl Scout cookies. And after a few initial laughs -- "Is this for April Fool's Day?" PG wine writer Elizabeth Downer asked -- they came up with a definitive list, along with some general observations about pairing God's gift to cookie eaters with adult beverages.

When it comes to serving wine with the fundraising cookies, says Ms. Downer, the rule is to go sweet instead of dry.

If you pair a sweet food with a non-sweet white wine, such as a dry chardonnay, she explains, it can make the wine taste sour. In the case of dry red wine, it can accentuate those bitter, dry-mouth tannins.

"Something sweet with another kind of wine totally kicks it," she says. "It has to be sweet."

Regarding beer, it's best to pair chocolate, vanilla and fruity desserts with roasty (coffee notes) and chocolatey (rich, dark beers) brews, says beer consultant Matt Simpson, owner of the Beer Sommelier (thebeerexpert.com). Vanilla-based dessert also go well with sweet, malty beers, which have low hops and lots of caramel and toffee notes.

Here are the Simpsons' suggestions, along with those of wine enthusiast Jack Brice, who runs Pittsburgh's Grapenuts wine tasting group. To find Girl Scout cookies in your area, go to girlscouts.org or download the free Girl Scout Cookie Finder app on iTunes.

Thin Mints

These all-time faves are among the strongest tasting Girl Scout cookies, so you need a beverage that can stand up to the mint. Wine: Mr. Brice recommends a sparkling Shiraz, such as Bleasdale Red Brute Sparkling Shiraz Langhorne Creek (PLCB No. 22835, $15.99). Spicy but not overly sweet, it has "rich flavors and full enough body to compliment the chocolate and stand up to the mint." Beer: Mr. Simpson suggests a hoppy, chocolatey American porter such as Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Tagalongs

It can be difficult to balance beer with a heavier peanut-butter cookie, but a raspberry lambic does just that, says Mr. Simpson, because it is a light, sweet ale with a tart finish. Try Lindemans Framboise. With regards to wine, Mr. Brice thinks a nutty port would complement the smoothness of the peanut butter and chocolate flavors. He recommends Cockburn Porto 10 Year Old Tawny Port (PLCB No. 14609, $24.99). Ms. Simpson, on the other hand, likes the idea of a PB&J combo. She suggests Casa Narcisi's Concord 2012 (narcisiwinery.com, $12), a sweet, fruity wine made from Pennsylvania Concord grapes. It is "superbly rich with a distinct and luscious 'grape jelly' aroma."

Samoas

A cookie with three predominant tastes -- caramel, chocolate and coconut -- requires an equally complex wine. On the top of Mr. Brice's list is R. L. Buller Victoria Tokay (PLCB No. 11403, $14.99), a fortified wine with notes of orange and "spice on the nose," followed by the rich flavors of toffee, caramel and spiced fruitcake. For beer, Mr. Simpson suggests a dry, Irish stout that's been aged in bourbon barrels to round out the rough edges and bring out a vanilla and coconut flavor. He suggests Hunahpu's Imperial Stout from Tampa's Cigar City Brewing, a big, dark beer that incorporates cacao nibs, chiles, vanilla beans and cinnamon.

Savannah Smiles

These lemony, sugary treats pair wonderfully with a Belgium-style saison, which tastes bready with a champagne-citrus note, says Mr. Simpson. If you can find it, consider pairing the cookies with Jack D'or, a saison Americain from the Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project in Somerville, Mass. For spirit lovers, Mr. Brice suggests Pallini Limoncello (PLCB No. 7537), a bright-yellow Italian liqueur made with lemon zest, sugar and alcohol. One sip/bite and you'll swear you've died and gone to the Amalfi Coast.

Do-si-Dos

Sherry is known for nut flavors, so choosing a medium-dry variety (which actually is somewhat sweet) is a natural for this crunchy peanut butter-filled oatmeal cookie. "It stands up to the sweetness while complementing the peanut flavors," says Mr. Brice, who recommends Pedro Romero Medium Dry Amontillado Sherry (PLCB No. 10296, $10.99). On the beer front, Mr. Simpson thinks a perfect pairing is a medium- to full-bodied foreign stout with notes of chocolate and coffee, such as Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, which is brewed with "generous hops" and roasted barley.

Trefoils

Shortbread cookies, says Mr. Simpson, go a long way when you taste them with a doppelbock, a creamy, full-bodied caramel lager with a relatively sweet but dry finish. Try something like the limited-release Platinum Blonde Doppelbock from Wisconsin's Capital Brewery. Le Mesnil Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Champagne (PLCB No. 39622, $32.99) is a good bet for wine lovers, says Mr. Brice, because it provides "finesse and nuance to complement the buttery notes of the shortbread."

Dulce de Leche

The milk caramel chips in these bite-sized cookies pair perfectly with Belgian blonde ales, says Mr. Simpson, because the hint of fruitiness in Belgian yeast won't overpower the caramel but instead make it "just right." The perfect pour includes beers such as Leffe Blonde from Abbave de Lefe, which has light orange and spice flavors. Or go French, and pair these sweet treats with bubbly from the famous Veuve Clicquot Champagne House. Lovely and crisp, with aromas of honeysuckle and grapefruit, Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec Champagne (PLCB No. 46881, $23.99) would be a great choice, says Mr. Brice, thanks to its creamy smoothness and texture.


Gretchen McKay: gmckay@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay; Nicole Martin: nmartin@post-gazette.com.

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