One of the most remarkable things about beer is how well it can compliment or contrast with food and create a perfect pairing. I always try to recommend food and beer pairings, or beer and cheese pairings to people, but I am often met with a lot of resistance. So many people are still so focused on pairing wine with food and cheese that they can’t see beyond the vinyard. Others only know of commodity grade beers, and of course those are terrible pairings – they are not beers designed for flavor.
Real beer though; real beer with ripe and distinct flavors and aromas, unique textures and ranges of flavor can create food pairings that can not be rivaled by any beverage. Not even wine! I just happen to be doing some cooking the other day, and took advantage of the opportunity to write about this perfect pairing. The Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and a Spicy Asian Stirfry.
Spicy food is where beer shines! Think of your favorite Vindaloo dish, or hot fajitas.. Try to think of a wine that makes a great pairing. I said great pairing too, not tolerable, great. It just doesn’t work. I love wine, I really do, but I also understand its shortcomings, as I do with beer. And one of wine’s is that spice makes red wine taste hot, and white taste like gasoline. That being said however, I welcome the challenge!
So that spicy hot Vindaloo? The answer, well hopped IPAs! The bitter, crisp and floral flavors and aromas in well hopped beers will cut right through the spiciness of Vindaloo and refresh your palate for the next bite. Beyond that, beer’s carbonation is a natural palate cleanser, scrubbing clean all the heat from your mouth.
In my case here, I made an Asian inspired stirfry with green and red peppers, green beans, broccoli, red onion, and chicken stir fried over dark soy, fresh garlic, ginger, spicy szechuan, paprika, a touch of liquid smoke and chili powder. I lay it on top a bed of freshly cooked jasmine rice and poured a glass of one of most quenching beers on the planet; the Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.
Exactly as described above, the heat and potent flavors from the garlic, ginger, soy and chili will my mouth with huge aromas, spice and lasting power. Water would not have done here, and white wine would have been.. well.. gross. But the 60 Minute IPA came right in with bright citrus hops and clean bitterness and cut though the deep flavors of the stirfry and met my tongue with balancing crispness. I was cleansed, refreshed, and ready for a nother bite with a clean palate. Without the Dogfish each bite would just built and built in heat until the end of my meal would be completely muted.
This was a fantastic pairing, actually pretty perfect, but many great beers would have fit here just as well. Almost any IPA or Imperial IPA would have been great; crisp cool pilsners, aromatic hoppy amber ales, or even a refreshing weizen all would have been excellent. There is no trick really to find the best pairing, just let your palate guide you and pair flavors you love with flavors you love!