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Michael Agnew

Michael Agnew

Certified Cicerone

I am a Certified Cicerone® (sommelier for beer). As owner of A Perfect Pint, I do professional beer tasting events and beer dinners for private parties and corporations.

About the Author: Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew is the lead educator and owner of A Perfect Pint. He conducts beer tastings for private parties and corporate events. His beer musings can be read in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, his own Perfect Pint Blog, The Hop Press at Ratebeer.com, the City Pages Hot Dish Blog, and in respected national beer magazines.

  • Website
  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
  • Favorite foods: As a CSA subscriber, I am a fan of all kinds of veggies, especially asparagus, brussel sprouts, and every sort of cooking greens. But I also love a good slow-cooked cut of beef. Chicago Style dogs and Taco Bell are guilty pleasures.
  • Last bite on earth: Best beer of the year for the last three years running...Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge.

Which Beer Goes Best With Halloween Candy?

You had the decapitated mannequin in the front yard. The spooky lighting was lit. The creepy sound effects record from the 1960s was blaring from the turntable. You were set to scare the heck out of some unsuspecting trick-or-treaters and then reward their fearlessness with a bounty of sugary treats. The only problem was, not many kids showed up. Now what? You're stuck with buckets and bags full of candy. Might as well throw a party and serve all that candy with beer. More

Beer Pairings: What to Eat with Oktoberfest Beers

With the release of seasonal beers being pushed ever earlier on the calendar, mid-August usually marks the appearance of Oktoberfest on the shelves. I even saw one in mid-July this year. While some will grouse about this seasonal-creep, I don't mind so much. I would gladly drink Oktoberfest beers all year long. Here are a few dishes I like to cook up when I've got Märzenbier on hand. More

The Best Beers to Drink With Junk Food

It was sometime around midnight at the start of the fifth South Park episode of the night when the hunger began to take hold. Swooping and screeching and diving into cupboards, we searched the kitchen for something to eat. The situation was desperate. We needed junk food. A convenience-store stumble was our only hope. More

4th of July Beer Pairings

Independence Day is the ultimate cookout day; family and friends gathered in the backyard, food, fun, and fireworks. Plus, the day wouldn't be complete without a cold brew (or three) to wash down all that grilled meat. Here are a few pointers to help you make the most of your patriotic pairings. More

What to Eat with Pilsner

In my world, Pilsner is the perfect beer. Poured into a tall, tapered glass and capped with a fluffy inch of white foam, its brilliant golden hue has a way of making me seriously thirsty. It's also a great accompaniment to a wide range of dishes. More

What to Eat with Wheat Beer

Wheat beers tend to be a love-'em-or-leave-'em proposition. People either like them or they don't. For some it's the sharp taste of the wheat that turns them either on or off. For others it's the banana and clove flavors of the yeast used in German varieties. But it's these very peculiar properties of wheat beers that make them fantastically food friendly and perfect for lighter summer fare. More

Food for Hopheads: What To Eat With Double IPA

With their hopped-up intensity they easily overwhelm most foods and seem harsh and astringent with many dishes that can stand up to them. For my palate they're a bit too bitter and boozy for sweet dishes and add too much fuel to the fire for spicy. But that doesn't mean you should take double IPA out of your pairing toolbox altogether. More

What Food Goes Best with IPA?

These beers turn up the volume on flavor, so they need dishes with similar intensity to stand up. When pairing IPA with food you have three basic flavor hooks at your disposal; bitterness, hop flavor (spicy, grassy, herbal, earthy, and citrus), and caramel. Hop flavors have a great affinity for spices and light fruits. Bitterness has a cooling affect. Paired with spicy dishes, IPA will fan the flames at first, but douse them in the end. Bitterness also amplifies salty and umami flavors. The caramel flavors in the beer will latch onto the sweeter side of a dish, tying into things like caramelized onion or the crispy skins of roast poultry. And the hop acids and carbonation make IPAs great palate cleansers to take on even the fattiest deep-fried delights. More

Beer and Food Pairings for St. Patrick's Day

St. Patty's Day is here again. This holiday perhaps more than any other—particularly the religious ones—is associated with drinking beer. It's a suds-fueled release of energies pent-up during Lent's long days of denial. Another important part of this Saint's day celebration is the adoption of certain "traditionally Irish" foods. Sounds to me like the perfect excuse to create some tasty beer and food pairings. More

How to Pair Beer with Cheese

Beer and cheese have a natural affinity. In fact, they are almost the same thing. Both start with grass; barley and wheat in the case of beer, and actual grass in the case of cheese. Putting together a beer and cheese tasting is as easy as assembling an assortment of cheeses of different textures and types and choosing a bevy of beers to go with them. Here are a few suggestions to get you started. More

Drink Beer With Chocolate on Valentine's Day

As a general rule, when pairing beer with chocolates, you want to go rich and go malty. The toast, roast, caramel, and chocolate flavors of malt-forward beers are a perfect match for the decadent creaminess of truffles or the bitter bite of high-cocoa chocolate. Tart fruit lambics are also fun partners for chocolate treats: they beautiful balance the richness of creamy ganache fillings. But don't ignore the bitter brews completely: roasty beers can work the way the coffee does with sweets, and in combination with the right dessert, a balanced IPA can be just the thing to make your tastebuds swoon. More

The Best Beers to Drink with Takeout

"I don't feel like cooking tonight. Let's grab some take-out." Who hasn't said that at least once? No matter how much you like to cook, sometimes you just aren't feeling it. In those instances, a delivery pizza or a jog around the corner for Chinese is just the ticket. While you're out, pick up some beer. But what beer to choose? Here are some general pointers to help you find a good match for whatever dishes you're ordering. More

Beer Pairing: What to Drink with Honey Glazed Ham

In many households it's turkey at Thanksgiving and ham at Christmas. For my family that nearly always means a ham that's succulent and honey-glazed. The sweet/savory combination of salt, smoke, porcine richness, and caramelized honey make for a pretty delicious meal. Of course, I like to make it even better with beer. More

Cicerone Picks: Best Beers for Thanksgiving

Too many people think that beer is great for everyday dining, but reach for wine when it comes to special occasions. The notion is that grape is a more comely companion to the elegant feast than grain. But truth be told, beer's range of flavors makes it a much better match for turkey and trimmings than many would expect. More

Beer Pairings: What to Drink with Pad Thai

Whether it's takeout or you've made it yourself, pad thai provides a symphony of flavors. There are fresh, green flavors from scallion, sweetness from sugar and tamarind, and umami from fish sauce, meat, egg, and/or tofu. Peanuts add a nutty inflection, while lime juice brings a bit of balancing acidity. And let's face it, there's some oil to cope with, too. That's a lot to consider when searching for a delicious beverage pairing. More

Beer Pairings: What to Drink with Macaroni and Cheese

There's a nippy chill in the air, at least here in the Northland where I live. It's time to turn away from the lighter fare of summer in favor of those cozy comfort foods that carry us through the winter. What could be more comforting than macaroni and cheese? Mac and cheese is also the perfect food for the darker, fuller-bodied beers of the season—balanced beers with brown and orange hues that match with the colors of autumn. More

Ask a Cicerone: What's the Best Affordable Beer?

I'm a Cicerone myself and have to agree with many of the earlier comments. As I read this I thought, "Wow. You guys have a different notion of 'affordable' than I do."

Ask a Cicerone: What's the Hardest Food to Pair with Beer?

The Best Beers to Drink with Christmas Cookies

@ibeentired - I thought about putting Anchor Christmas in with the spice cookies, but this year's version is to my palate so heavily spiced that I thought it might be a nutmeg and ginger overload. Definitely worth a try though.

Plan Your Fall Meals Around Pumpkin Beer

@ryuthrowsstuff - My research suggests that even in Colonial days pumpkins were used mostly as a supplemental sugar source, along with corn and other things. They did import barley to the colonies, but it was expensive so they didn't import enough to make all the beer needed. Could be wrong, but that's what my research has turned up.
True thought that many modern pumpkin beers don't actually include pumpkin. Many do though.

Plan Your Fall Meals Around Pumpkin Beer

@scalfin. Unfortunately no. You need enzymes from a sufficient amount of barley to break down the starch in the squash.

Why Do Some Folks In The Drinks Industry Like Cheap Beer?

High Life all the way! Sometimes you just want something simple and stupid. It's like Taco Bell. It's reliable. And in those moments when it's right, it's exactly right.

Beer Pairings: What to Eat with Oktoberfest Beers

@ Laura - That's a bold place to start that journey.

Beer Pairings: What to Eat with Oktoberfest Beers

@John Levon - dubious meat is one of my favorite dishes.

Beer Pairings: What to Eat with Belgian Tripel

If Karmeliet isn't a tripel, then it is something else that is spot on for the style profile of a tripel. Besides, it's only us non-Belgians that feel the need to stamp all their beers with style monikers. It is what it is. In my book, if it looks like a tripel, smells like a tripel, and tastes like a tripel, it's a tripel.
The theory of three times the malt would account for the step up in alcohol content. But three times the malt compared to what? The single, I suppose. But I am fairly certain that Westmalle at least uses the same base grain bill for all of their beers; single, dubbel, and tripel. The only difference is the addition of candy sugar, dark sugar in the case of the dubbel.
And yes, tripels are fantastic with turkey dinner!!! Now you have me anticipating Thanksgiving already.

Beer Pairings: What to Eat with Belgian Tripel

Beer Pairings: What to Eat with Belgian Tripel

I would personally steer clear of darker-quality, earthy food flavors like mushrooms. As stated above, sometimes super-spicy foods can make the high alcohol become hot. I'm also not a fan of Tripels with caramel deserts. Your results may vary.

Beer Pairings: What to Eat with Saison

@Damian - Tangy and dry works as well. Saison with aged gouda is fantastic. But if you haven't tried a brettanomyces inflected saison with a funky washed-rind cheese, you really must do.

Beer Pairings: What to Drink with Pad Thai

Beer Pairings: What to Drink with Pad Thai

@meatyUrologist - I would think you could go with any of the fruitier American pale ales or IPAs. Bell's Two Hearted, Founders Centennial, Stone Pale ale etc.

4th of July Beer Pairings

@Lee M & Tango Rad - Okay, Okay! I'll go with Anchor Liberty Ale!

4th of July Beer Pairings

That's really fascinating.

4th of July Beer Pairings

Hmmmm...never heard of anyone eating salmon, peas, and new potatoes. What tradition does that come out of?

What to Eat with Pilsner

@HerbSperb - I haven't had a Becks in many, many years.

Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Metaxa Ouzo

The only proper way to drink ouzo is straight-up shots. It's smooth going down until it then explodes somewhere in the middle of your chest. Anise flavor, but not so sickly sweet as Sambuca. That stuff makes my jaw lock from all the sugar.
Ouzo is wonderful if you can get something better than Metaxa. I'm fond of Ouzo 12 (probably also cheap rotgut, but tastes much better than Metaxa).

What to Eat with Pilsner

@texas blues - If that is the case, you have been EXTRAORDINARILY lucky. I've seldom had a bottle that wasn't at least a little bit skunky.

Beer Glassware: Does it Really Matter?

In tasting events I tell clients about the different glassware. At home I drink nearly everything in a Spiegelau tulip. It's the perfect beer glass.

What to Eat with Wheat Beer

@DouglasH - I think dunkelweizen is especially under-appreciated. Even I don't think of or drink them very often. But they are really fantastic beers.

Food for Hopheads: What To Eat With Double IPA

Hmmmm...that's certainly a topic worth exploring with a few samples...

Food for Hopheads: What To Eat With Double IPA

@mayan - Wow! You get super-specific with your stylistic breakdown; single, extra, double, imperial... And I thought I was a nerd. :-) But I agree about 120 Minute being just stupid. Interestingly though again, for me it's an unpleasantly sticky, syrup bomb. Not sure if you meant stupid like that or stupid bitter.

Why would anyone drink an old IIPA? But I do know the difference between sugar and hop flavor. I'm a fan of IPA and IIPA that leans less on bitterness in favor of boatloads of late addition hops for plenty of flavor and aroma.

Food for Hopheads: What To Eat With Double IPA

@ mayan - I agree with you on the residual sugar thing. I would add that with the types of dishes you mention, I would probably steer clear of IIPA all together. But, as mentioned above, I would steer clear of IIPA with most foods.

It's interesting though. I find both Unearthly and Abrasive to have a pretty hefty load of sweetness. Living in MN I've had more than my fair share of Abrasive. The first release of Abrasive as 16-Grit was totally lacking that sweet balance. It was undrinkable in my opinion. The reformulation of a couple years ago boosted the residual sugars and made it a much better beer.

Beer History: Sahti, A Weird and Wonderful Finnish Beer

perhaps the most distinctive aspect of sahti brewing was its use of juniper. Traditionally made using a hollowed-out log known as a kuurna (in modern brewing parlance, this would equate to a lauter tun, where the grain would be separated out from the liquid wort resulting from the mashing process), the wort would be strained through juniper twigs or boughs, imparting a green, herbal flavor. The addition of hops was usually skipped in favor of this step, although some formulations contained both hops and juniper. Another peculiarity was that baker's yeast was typically used instead of a more common brewer's yeast, often imparting something of a sour flavor. More

The Cider Press: Blurring the Lines Between Beer and Cider

Apples and beer have a long intermingled history. In Germany, you'll see Frassbraus, a nonalcoholic beverage made from malt extract, apples, and spices. Belgians include apples in their pomme lambics. The British mix up an apple shandy called the Snakebite. So it's only natural that today's brewers and cidermakers are bringing apples and beer together again. We recently had a chance to sit down and explore a few of these beverage hybrids. More