Milk, like the dinosaurs, has had a nice long run. It's been a good friend to cookies -- a palate cleanser that washes away rich chocolate or big old spice notes. But cookies deserve more than a reset button. Cookies should have a partner that elevates them and, in turn, is better because of the pairing. And that partner is beer.
The right beer and cookie will set your flavor pinwheels spinning (I've got the pairing for actual Pinwheels below). It will supercharge chocolate or unearth latent spices. And it works so well, you'll be ready to promote dessert to dinner.
The Boston Sail Loft Café & Bar in Boston's North End has a gorgeous view of the Atlantic Ocean and a fine cup of New England clam chowder, but when I lived in the neighborhood, I went there for one reason alone: In the middle of the wooden bar that runs the length of the place, there is a glass cookie jar with a silver top. That jar is filled with Oreos, and the Oreos are free.
This was my favorite bar snack (and occasional dinner) in Beantown. I'd ask for a pint of Harpoon IPA and then eat more of the black and white sandwich cookies than I'd ever admit in print. Whether it was the beginning of the night or the end, I was always glad to see that big glass jar.
You may not always have time to bake, but that doesn't mean you should deprive yourself or your guests of experiencing cookies and beer. In the spirit of the Sail Loft, here are a few pairings of packaged cookies to get you started. After that, just take a shot with what's in your fridge and pantry--you may just find the next great combo.
Pinwheels & Imperial Stout: This one is like campfire s'mores. It's warming and cozy and what you'll want to eat from now until the end of time. The roasty malts in the beer set off the chocolate, and the marshmallow comes in all gooey at the end. The combination is beer and cookies at its best, elevating both parts of the pairing.
Graham Crackers & Vanilla Porter: The mildness of the graham cracker requires a beer that won't overpower it. Enter the vanilla porter, which brings a bit of vanilla to play off the cinnamon or honey, and slightly amplifies the molasses in the graham cracker.
Oreos & Milk Stout: You want to dunk Oreos. I get it. I do too. Milk stouts have the right amount of body and a hint of sweetness that doesn't get in the way of what Oreos are bringing to the table. Bonus: You can still get a milk stout mustache with very little effort.
Vanilla Wafers & Bourbon Barrel-Aged Beer: Sometimes beer geeks will use vanilla wafers as a way to describe the toasty vanilla flavor of a brew. In this case, the vanilla notes of the bourbon barrel-aged brews enhance the cookie's toasty nature. The barrel aging process allows beer to pick up the vanilla and natural fruit overtones that highlight the vanilla wafer.
Gingerbread Men & American-Style Barleywine: The citrus of the hops in the beer cuts through the sharp bite of the ginger. The sugar from the cookie in turn melds with the notes of toffee, caramel, and oak that are commonly found in barleywines. As the beer warms and you take more bites, you'll keep finding those nuanced flavors in this silky partnership.
Invite a few friends over. Empty the fridge and pantry. And enjoy yourself.