From the Brewhouse to the Smokehouse: Gettin' Tipsy with Tins
Pairing good tinned fish with a drink can be intimidating. You have the chance to elevate both when they work well together, but you also don’t want the seafood to get lost behind what you’re drinking. We totally get it. But we are definitely here to say (and, hopefully, show) that finding a companion to our cans doesn’t have to be daunting. Later on, we'll talk about some of our favorite Wildfish pairings, but first, we’d love to chat briefly about some ideas behind creating a pairing.
Coupling food and drink is a rabbit hole that is hopefully a welcoming one. You can choose to venture down as deeply (or not) as you like—and hopefully that is an appealing idea! However, there are a couple factors that we think are even more important than which drink you choose (and aren’t usually taken into account when most pairing equations are being composed.)
Creating these equations is often left at Food + Drink = Elevated Food and Drink. And that’s not a bad place to start. However, taste is purely subjective. My palate isn’t your palate. Putting your likes and dislikes into that equation is incredibly important and should always be considered.
We also want to stress that a drinking/eating experience can be made better thanks to the time, the place, and the company you have. For some of us, it doesn’t get much better than a Rainier after (or during, don’t judge) a long hike with friends. Sure, opening a can of rare Smoked White King with a bottle of allocated wine, limited beer or hard-to-find whisk(e)y is awesome, but enjoying it with whatever you have on hand is equally as encouraged! More often than not, a simple pairing is the best pairing, sitting on the edge of the rabbit hole and letting your legs dangle into it. All that being said, let’s get into some more specific ideas that we would love for you to try if you’re looking to go even deeper!
Both of Wildfish’s Smoked King Salmons walk the knife’s edge between rich and naturally sweet, so look for something that will play well on that edge. When it comes to beer, Allagash White couldn’t be better suited for the job. Spiced delicately with orange peel and coriander, it has a peppery and lightly fruity aroma and a pillowy mouthfeel that elevates the salmon. Look for Belgian-style witbiers like Hooegarden, Leffe, or even Blue Moon will do in a pinch if you can’t find Allagash’s version. If you’re more in the wine or cider drinking mood, we would recommend something with a gentle acidity, and a solid but not overwhelming minerality. A muscadet (Jo Landron La Louvetrie Muscadet Sur Lie) or Norman or Breton-style cidre (Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie) would be perfect. Acidity and minerality are natural complements to Smoked King Salmon.
Smoked Coho’s robust smoke and fat profile is screaming out for something bubbly and chilled with an acid profile to match! For a beer that is readily available, look for Dogfish Head’s Seaquench. It’s acidity and salinity come from black limes and sea salt and are excellent for when you are chowing down on something rich and smoky. Looking to go further? We also love a chenin blanc as well as traditional geuze. The acidity and carbonation levels of something like Les Capriades’ Pet’ Sec Chenin Blanc and 3 Fonteinen’s Oude Geuze helps cut through the smoky richness and provides a wonderful contrast to the fat content of the coho. High carbonation levels in these will make you want to take another sip and another bite! Striking out on finding these? Can’t go wrong with some dry Angry Orchard cider.
Smoked Pink’s gentler smoke profile makes it the right pairing for cold lager. This versatile salmon works well with the cold and crisp macro lager as well as the richer, more brooding maltiness of a Schwarzbier or Dunkel (Negra Modelo is also a favorite choice of ours that is readily available!). When it comes to wine, look for a chillable, dry red wine with some nice fruitiness, something along the lines of Occhipinti SP68 Rosso. This is a wonderful wine that is thought-provoking (if you’d like to dig into its berry and bramble notes), but is just as easy to accept as perfectly quaffable and will vanish just as quickly as the salmon.
A can of Classic Coho is an incredible chance to experience the true nature of coho. In the spirit of letting the fish shine here, We would recommend something restrained, like a helles lager. We love Hofbräu Original. With a beautiful product like this coho you want to accent nuance with nuance, so your best bet is something gentle, yet expressive. Can’t find that? Go for your favorite local, or not-so-local, lager.
Wildfish’s Smoked Octopus is a special offering and one that will stand up to a more robust beverage choice. You can’t go wrong with the perennial classic Alaskan Smoked Porter (older vintages would be awesome if you have any!) While the alder-smoked malt is the main star, it also has beautiful supporting darker malt flavors like baker’s chocolate and toasted whole grain bread. We also love it with some Springbank whiskey. The peat-smoked malt and the brininess of the octopus are a perfect match. If you can’t track these down, look for a local porter or stout. While they don’t have any of the smokiness of the beer or whisky, their notes of cocoa and roast will hang tough with this smoked cephelapod.
Meanwhile, umami-rich Smoked Herring would pair well with a skin-contact wine; something like Donkey & Goat’s Stone Crusher would be excellent. The moderate tannic structure would stand up to the umami levels, while the stone fruit characteristics are dynamite with the robust smoke. For a beer pairing, we would suggest something along the lines of a Flanders-style red ale like the quintessential Rodenbach Grand Cru. If you have access to it and are looking to treat yourself, try and track down a De Dolle Brouwers Oerbier Special Reserva. This beer is phenomenally complex and would be absolutely stellar with our rich Smoked Herring. Limited options available to you? Grab a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It is plenty dry and has a welcomed bitterness, and citrusy aroma that will play nicely with the umami herring.
When it comes to Smoked Geoduck, this may be one of our favorite pairings! We would highly, highly recommend making a geoduck Michelada or Bloody Mary. We prefer a Michelada, so crack open a light Mexican lager like Modelo Especial, add some tomato juice and some of the juice from that geoduck can you’re quickly emptying, a splash of lime juice, chili powder, a little soy or Worcestershire sauce, and your favorite hot sauce and you are off to the races (or on your way to curing that hangover…). If this piques your curiosity, you may also be interested in this recipe for a Geoduck Bloody Caesar, too.
Smoked Coho Caviar
And finally, our Smoked Coho Caviar. We love to pair this product with Ruffles brand potato chips, you can get a little insight to our thinking on this topic in our blog post, Tvorog and the Taming of the Salt. And because when faced with this combination restraint is nearly impossible, we suggest you have a frozen bottle of crisp ‘n clean Siberian vodka ready to balance the salt-splosions that are on the way. We're somewhat partial to Mamont and Beluga Noble.
If some of these beverage names seem a little obscure but you’ve an interest in them, this is a great chance to seek out a local shop that specializes in wine and beer. We tried to give some guidance on not just what specific wine or beer would work, but the characteristics of those wines and beers that would work well so you can use those to guide your search. We’d also highly recommend chatting with the wine or beer buyer at your local spots and they should be able to point you in the right direction if you mention the types of things that you’re looking for (e.g. dry, chillable, roasty, sour). And if you aren’t interested in hunting for any of them, we hope that you’ll try some of the more readily available options provided!
Circling back to our earlier point about eating and drinking being experiential, we want to reiterate that whatever pairing you’re feeling in that moment is the perfect pairing. These are just some suggestions based on what we’ve enjoyed in the past. Ultimately, there is no room for pretension when it comes to enjoying Alaska seafood. A universally recommended accompaniment for all we do is some crackers or bread, a tallboy of whatever’s cold, good company, and a sunset if you have one. You can’t go wrong when you’re starting out with Wildfish.