The Ultimate Low-Key Reunion with Old Friends: Pair Craft Beer with Fresh Seafood Ordered Online

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There are endless pairings possible for beer and seafood, making it the perfect choice for a laid-back reunion with old friends. Image source: Flickr CC user Gustavo Andrade

My husband is at an age where he doesn’t get to see even his closest friends as much as he once did. Everyone is busy with work, kids, relatives, or those inevitable household to-do lists. That’s why he recently decided to organize a get-together--just a casual night for him to spend time with his good friends, eat some great food, and drink some beer.

For this casual reunion, I suggested my husband and his friends set up at a nice place, maybe outdoors with a great view or ambiance, and serve craft beers with the perfect seafood and shellfish appetizers to match.

Hot Crab Dip Appetizer

When planning a reunion focused on craft beer and seafood, you don’t want complicated recipes--you want as much time as possible to hunt down and pick out the perfect selection of craft beers, and to relax with your friends without running back and forth to the stove. With that in mind, let’s start with a super easy hot crab dip. You’re going to want high-quality crab for this dish, nothing heavy on cartilage that you’ll have to remove. Cartilage in crabmeat will ruin the texture of this dish.

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. While that’s heating, assemble the following ingredients in this order:

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • ¼ cup finely minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon of allspice seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon of dry mustard
  • ¾ cup of light cream
  • 7 ounces of cream cheese cut into small pieces
  • 3 ounces of grated sharp cheddar

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the shallots and cook them in the butter for a couple of minutes. Add the water, simmer for 30 seconds, then stir in the cayenne, allspice, and dry mustard. Add the half-and-half and bring the mixture to a simmer, then whisk in the cream cheese, piece by piece, and the grated cheddar, a handful at a time.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir the mixture for a minute or two. Then add the following and stir until combined:

  • 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 10 ounces of lump crabmeat
  • ¼ cup of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Transfer your mixture to a baking dish and sprinkle with 2 slices of bread without crusts, torn into ¼-inch pieces. Bake at 400 degrees until the dip gets hot all the way through, which should be between 18 and 22 minutes.

Craft beer pairings: Belgian-style saisons and German-style hefeweizens pair best with this dip. These beers are light and refreshing, which is key to complementing the rich, creamy nature of the appetizer. These beers also bring out the salinity and natural sweetness of shellfish while simultaneously cleansing the palate, making them ideal as the first beers of the evening. Hefeweizens and saisons also generally have a low alcohol by volume, which also makes them great for starting the evening--as with wine, it’s best to begin with lighter flavors and lower alcohol content, and increase from there.

Smoked Salmon Bites Appetizer

Smoked salmon is an obvious choice for any party. Take the dish further and make these smoked salmon bites--you can make them ahead of time so you have nothing to fuss with once your friends show up. Now, remember smoking great salmon is an art, kind of like making brisket in Texas--the quality varies significantly depending on the recipe used. You’ll want to get your smoked fish from a good supplier who appreciates craftsmanship.

In a bowl, combine the following:

  • 4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons of thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper

Next you’ll need:

  • 8 slices of marble rye bread with crusts cut off, gently flattened with your hand
  • 4 ounces of sliced smoked salmon

Spread the cream cheese mixture onto each slice of bread, and then top the mixture with salmon. Spread any leftover mix over the salmon and roll each bread slice into a sushi-style roll, before cutting the roll in bite-size slices.

Craft beer pairings: The powerful notes in sours and American IPAs are perfect for cutting the fat and smoke of a smoked salmon-based appetizer. All salmon dishes, smoked or otherwise, pair well with sours or American IPAs because the hops accent the delicate flavor of the fish. For an even better match, consider beers in these styles that also have notes of citrus.

Aguachile Ceviche Appetizer

Finish up the evening’s food offerings with ceviche—no one will complain. I suggest starting with fresh peeled shrimp, which are affordable, convenient, delicious, and—if purchased from the right supplier—sustainable. You can also use coarsely chopped diver scallops (also called dry or dayboat scallops). Either way, start by mixing the following:

  • 2 dozen small shrimp--you can cut these into chunks, but I like to leave them whole
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

Divide this mixture into the vessels you plan to serve the ceviche in. Margarita glasses work well. Blend the following:

  • Juice of 6 limes
  • 6 serrano peppers, seeded and thinly sliced (more if you enjoy spicy food)
  • ½ bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pinch of sugar
  • 1 large cucumber, julienned (optional)
  • A dash of fish sauce (optional)

Pour the liquid over the shrimp mixture, and then refrigerate for about 10 minutes to let the flavors combine and the shrimp “cook” in the lime juice. Serve with sliced avocados as a garnish.

Craft beer pairings: I would actually choose a light lager like Dos Equis or Corona to go with this dish, which you can garnish with wedges of limes leftover from the ceviche. Basic beers like Dos Equis are a simple, unfussy match for citrusy raw seafood; however, these aren’t exactly craft beers, so if you want something a little more upscale and unusual, serve wheat beer as well. The crispness from a good wheat beer--or even a lambic, if you want to try something really different--is a perfect compliment to the lingering acidity of the spices and the fish. Just be sure to stick with light wheat beers that won’t overwhelm the flavor of the fish.

After this feast, any group of old friends is sure to come away satisfied. The best part is, with the ease of ordering seafood online and having it shipped to your door by a reliable distributor like DailyFreshFish.com, you’ll have extra time to hunt for the perfect craft beers for the reunion. DailyFreshFish.com will bring you fresher fish and shellfish than any in the supermarket, with no driving around. Also, they only sell seafood that has been sustainably raised or caught, which helps support the ocean and those who make their living from it.