Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese Burgers

29 January 2014
Comments: 0
29 January 2014, Comments: 0

Caramelized Onion, Blue Cheese Burgers with Smoked Paprika and Arugula

Westy main pic half size

This week our cooler manager, Stephen, joins me with a beer pairing for this great burger. His contributions below in THE BEER: and Stephen’s Music Selections: are noted in italic. Thanks, Stephen!


Because I’m moving in February, the theme for my Food.Wine.Music. Friday nights has been “use what’s in the house.” I have a lot in the freezer and pantry that I don’t really want to pack up and move.

Image Taking inventory of what was around last Friday, I came up with Angus burgers, blue cheese, onions and gluten-free hamburger buns. I thought caramelizing onions was the only way to go here, so I started early on that part. A while back, I remember how fantastic it was when I added smoked paprika to onions I was caramelizing. The smoky aroma while they slowly turned all sweet and golden was amazing!

Nice thick burgers topped with blue cheese and smoky caramelized onions – probably not too difficult to put this together without a recipe per se so, onto the best part, the pairing…

THE WINE (or BEER as it turned out):

In keeping with the “use what’s in the house” theme, I was considering the options.
Cristalino, Brut… No.
Stone Boat, Duet… well maybe?
My last bottle of Fetish, the Watcher (a previous Wine Spectator Top 100)… ya, that works.

So, I opened up this big Australian 2008 Shiraz and was enjoying a glass while keeping an eye on the caramelizing onions and picking out some tunes. Then, an intriguing thought came to mind. This burger would probably go with Westvleteren VII. Now, I’m not really a beer person, so I checked out my hunch with our Sherbrooke cooler manager, Stephen. He confirmed it, and even told me the reasons why it worked. Cool!

So, I’ll turn the blog over to Stephen now, and he can tell you about pairing this burger with a few Belgian beers including Westies…


When David approached me about whether or not pairing Westvleteren VII (or “Westie 12” as it is affectionately called) with his burger recipe would be a good idea, it didn’t take very long to reach a conclusion. After a quick reflection on the Trappist ales’ rich and complex flavour profile, my answer came back as a resounding “YES”.


As some of you may already know, the Westie 12 is one of the most rare and sought-after ales on the planet. Indeed, before the Brothers of Westvleteren decided to carry forward with a limited distribution of the Westie 12 to coincide with the construction of a new monastery, finding a bottle outside the Abbey in Belgium was virtually impossible. If you were one the few lucky ones who managed to get a hold of a bottle or six, it did not take long to figure out what all the fuss was about.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of great examples more readily available in the province that are made in the same style and would fit with David’s burger recipe just as well. Some of my top picks include: Rochefort 10, St. Bernardus Abt 12, Dieu du Ciel Rigor Mortis, and Ommegang Three Philosophers.  (Use the links for each to check out product profiles on the Sherbrooke website.) 

As a Belgian Quadrupel, the Westie 12 is a dark, bold, and full-bodied ale with a relatively high ABV. Like other beers made in this style, the Westie 12 showcases malt-forward notes of dark fruits, caramel and toffee combine with spicy esters reminiscent of anise, cloves, and vanilla. In my opinion, it is these complexities that make it pair beautifully with the smoky richness of the burger, the sweet quality of the caramelized onions, and the sharp saltiness of the blue cheese.

For more information about Westvleteren VII, visit Rate Beer dot com and Beer Advocate dot com


David’s Music Selections:
Some of you might not know that Stephen composes and records music which he distributes on Bandcamp. I thought one of his pieces, would be a great way to kick off a playlist for the dark, smoky nuances of this great burger beer pairing.

I thought Jan Garbarek’s soaring soprano sax and the early monastic voices of the Hilliard Ensemble would be an excellent match for Belgian ales made by monks. So, I’ve included three tracks from the album Officium.

I also included a few of my jazz favourites.

1. Neyahtakaw, Gunwale – Wapaskau, Gunwale
2. Both Sides Now, River – The Joni Letters, Herbie Hancock
3. Sanctus, Officium, Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble
4. A Case of You, Live in Paris, Kiana Krall
5. O Salutaris Hostia, Officium, Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble
6. Blue in Green, Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
7. Pulcherrima Rosa, Officium, Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble

Stephen’s Music Selections:
Keeping in theme with the beer/food pairing I chose pieces with a dark, smoky quality which are subtly complex and are suitable to the kind of deep contemplation that an ale like Westvleteren XII requires.

1. Richard Skelton – Brook [Marking Time]
2. The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble – White Eyes [From The Stairwell]
3. Grouper – Alien Observer [AiA: Alien Observer]
4. Julia Holter – City Appearing [Loud City Song]
5. Peter Evans Quintet – Ghost [Ghosts]
6. Tim Hecker – Analog Paralysis, 1978 [Ravedeath; 1972]

Hi – My name is David Middleton. I work at Sherbrooke Liquor in Edmonton, Alberta and I’m passionate about sharing good food, wine and music. My Friday afternoon ritual is the highlight of my week! Here’s how it goes: • pick out a cool recipe • pair with a nice bottle of wine • mix some new music – I make a lot of playlists in iTunes! • set out my mise en place and start cookin’ Hope you enjoy!

Stephen, our cooler manager at Sherbrooke, joins me this week with a beer pairing and some music selections.  His contributions are in italic above.  Thanks Stephen! 

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