Spiced Popcorn + Beer Flights

 
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When it comes to choosing one dish or one drink at a restaurant establishment, I often struggle to make a confident choice that complements my mood or craving at the moment. I’d almost always rather opt for group gatherings and shared plates to allow myself to taste and try a variety rather than confine myself to one flavor profile or texture. You can therefore imagine why I become giddy when seeing a beer flight option on tap room menus.

One of our go-to local breweries in Memphis, High Cotton Brewing Co., located in the recently revitalized Edge District of Downtown Memphis, offers flights of any four select drafts during weekend hangouts. I opted to create a similar spread at home for an autumn football gathering. The interactive tasting talk is a great way for guests to explore new favorites and match their flavors with standout meal ingredients. Approachable yet adventurous, beer flights are a beautiful storyteller of the beverage and, in addition, look great on a party table!

Though many will argue that beer and cheese pairings are purely meant to be (and I won’t argue against it!), I’ve found that a communal bowl of homemade sweet-and-spiced popcorn will keep guests satisfied while entrées are cooking. This popcorn is absolutely addictive, especially when eyes are glued to football on the television or in conversation with a friend. I’m especially fond of popcorn due to its light and airy texture that outweighs (no pun intended) the heavier chips and dips that typically kick off a tailgate, dinner party or fall weekend hangout.

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Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup popcorn kernels

1. Coat a medium pot with oil with 2-3 kernels, then cover and heat stove to medium high. 

2. Once kernels begin to pop, add remaining kernels to the pot, replace the lid, and shake over the heat until all corn is popped. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.

3. Toss in the sugar-salt-spice mixture, and mix well.

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The beers, described by the founders of Memphis-based High Cotton Brewing Co.:

HEFEWEIZEN

"Hefe" meaning 'yeast', and "weizen" meaning 'wheat', come together nicely to create this traditional Bavarian bier. The style is identified by its unique yeast strain and the large portion of wheat in the malt bill. You'll taste prominent wheat flavors two-step with clove, banana, and slight citrus.

RASPBERRY WHEAT

The American Wheat Ale trades in the hefeweizen yeast for a cleaner yeast option. A hazy pink body tastes of sweet and sharp raspberries pervade with a wheat profile. 

BELGIAN IPA

A hybrid of American hops and Belgian farmhouse ale yeast creates a super hoppy, fully integrated beer that’s equal parts fruity, floral and herbal. The taste of fresh grapefruit is accentuated by floral and herbal notes and accompanied by a malt bill that supports but doesn’t overwhelm the hop character, all the while building to a crisp, citrusy finish.

SCOTTISH ALE

Traditional Scottish session beers reflecting the indigenous ingredients, with less hops than their English counterparts due to the need to import them. The initial malty sweetness is accentuated by a low kettle caramelization, and is accompanied by a low diacetyl component.
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