Archive for craft beer pairing

Sierra Nevada Flipside (2014) Red IPA with Bush’s Black Bean Tortilla Chili

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2014 by cueball

The recipe


Black Bean Chili

This is a simple chili recipe from Bush’s Beans.  It takes about an hour with prep to cook and serve.  It can be a bit spicy with the 2 tablespoons of chili powder and ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  You can take some of the heat off just by cutting the cayenne or cutting back on the chili powder, but that’s why you serve it with sour cream.  Here is the link to the complete recipe.

The beer

I look forward to the Fall and Winter because they are my favorite seasonal beer times of the year.  All three of the seasonals I look forward to every year from Sierra Nevada, Celebration, Ruthless Rye, and Flipside, are Fall and Winter beers.  This is the Flipside time of year, so I decided to see how this would pair with the chili. First, a little about Flipside. 

As with every beer that Sierra Nevada puts out, it is very well done.  Flipside pours a nice clear dark copper color.  Piney and grassy hops aroma are evident immediately with a bit of a biscuity malt aroma in the background.  The taste starts off with the grassy and citrusy notes of the hops with very little alcohol heat and little to no evidence of the caramel or chocolate malts included in the recipe. It is pretty light on the tongue and actually provides a kind of refreshing taste.  It would be a pretty good sessionable beer if not for the 6.2% ABV. 

The pairing

I have learned through strenuous testing that I prefer brown and amber ales with spicy food, especially Mexican and Mexican inspired food.  I had hoped with the use of the darker malts, Flipside would go well with a chili.  It went OK.  My goal was for the caramel and chocolate malts would bring out the caramelized taste of the browned onions (I browned the onions longer than recipe instructs.  Going for depths of flavor.).  With little to no taste of the malts I was targeting, this did not work out as well as I had hoped.  However, if your pallet does not lean towards the darker malts and caramelization tastes as mine does it, you will probably enjoy it a bit more.

An idea to make this recipe a little more beer friendly is simply to add beer to the recipe. I would probably use a more floral/citrusy hoppy pale ale to bring out more of the cumin flavors.   If you look at the recipe the only liquid included in the ingredients comes from the liquid the canned corn comes with.  You could drain the corn and instead use about a half to a full cup of room temperature beer in its stead.  That would probably improve the flavor as well as eliminate some of the salt from the recipe. 

The conclusion

In the end this is a good simple and quick recipe and a good high quality beer that just did not work together (Sounds like most of my dating relationships).  This is a recipe that I would recommend pairing with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Lonerider Peacemaker Pale Ale, or Foothills Brewing Pilot Mountain Pale Ale


Quorn Chik’n Cutlets cooked in a balsamic vinegar reduction with herbed steamed potatoes and steamed broccoli with a Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2014 by cueball

Duck-Rabbit Brown AleThe goal of any pairing is to highlight flavors in both the beer and the food that may not be immediately noticeable when each is taken on its own.   You are trying to find something that you haven’t noticed before in each that will in turn highlight something in the other. You want the food and the beer to play off each other like a good basketball or soccer team.  This is true whether you are going for a complementary pairing or a contrasting pairing.  You are attempting to orchestrate something that is greater and different from the individual parts you are using.  This is much like what chefs do when creating new dishes and brewers do when creating new beers.

In the case of the Quorn cutlets in the balsamic vinegar reduction, I was going for a complementary pairing.  It seemed like a simple match.  A sweet balsamic vinegar reduction paired with a not so sweet brown ale (also one of my favorites), Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale.  In my mind I hoped the caramel notes in the balsamic would play off of the caramel notes in the Brown Ale without having to worry about the sweetness of the beer’s malt getting in the way and hoping the hops would play a more prominent role.

To be clear it did not fail as a pairing, but it did not work as I had hoped.  It almost worked.

The reduction was pretty basic.  It was a half cup of balsamic vinegar with two teaspoons of lemon juice, a teaspoon of honey (maybe I should have eliminated this), and pepper and chili powder to add a bit of spiciness.  It was a sweet reduction bordering on syrupy.  However, the lemon juice cut into the sweetness and brightened it a bit.

The problem was that the reduction and the Brown Ale didn’t really work together as much as cancel each other out.  Now, if I had eliminated the honey and then increased the lemon juice, would that have changed it?  I don’t know, but I will change the recipe and find out later.

I believe with how the recipe was constructed it would have benefited more from a hoppier beer or a beer with more citrusy flavors to contrast with the reduction.  Something like a west coast style pale ale (not an IPA) or a hefewiezen/wheat beer.

Usually when I’m thinking about a pairing I gravitate towards complimentary pairing.  It seems easier to put like tastes next to each other and hope they bring out something additional in each other. However, this pairing is a good illustration that the contrasting pairing works just as well as the complimentary pairing and in this case sometimes better.

What happened was the two like flavor profiles canceled each other out.  Nothing could be highlighted because the comparison was too close and the flavor profiles of each were much too strong.  They each needed something to go against to really shine.  A food that has a really strong flavor needs a beer that has some form of strong contrast to bring out the best in both.  In this case a hoppy West Coast style pale ale (not an IPA) would have done wonders with the taste of the reduction.  Alternately, I have been trying to think of a good dessert to pair with a brown ale and I am beginning to think it is not some kind of chocolate dish, but maybe a fruit based desert that may work better.

Mixed Vegetable Frittata and Allagash White Food/Beer Pairing

Posted in beer, food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2014 by cueball

This may be my favorite pairing so far and it will probably stay as one of my favorites for a good while.  Why?  It was a purely spontaneous pairing.

This is what happened.  I spent the morning as I do on Saturdays watching Premiere League soccer and cleaning my house.  I met Eightball for lunch at my favorite place in Shelby for beer (today the newly tapped Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale) and food, Pleasant City.  Then I went over to my local beer store, Dragonfly Wine Market, tasted  few of my favorite North Carolina beers (Lonerider: Sweet Josie and Shotgun Betty; Mother Earth Brewing Endless River; and Highland Brewing Oatmeal Porter) and purchased more beer then I should have but not as much as a I wanted.

I arrived back home and almost drove to the grocery store (which would have been my third trip in two days) when I decided to look at what I had laying around.  For whatever reason, the milk, eggs, and frozen vegetables jumped out at me.  A frittata would be a great light dinner with a lot of flavor. So I went through my recipe books and found a recipe for a pasta frittata.  I didn’t have pasta, so I just substituted the vegetables and added some Parmesan cheese to make it all come together and in 30 minutes I had nice light and feathery tasting frittata.

As soon as I decided on the frittata, I knew exactly what I was going to pair it with.  Taking advice from the ur-text of beer and food pairing, The Brewmaster’s Table, witbier was the obvious choice of what is currently in my fridge.  Luckily, my only witbier at the moment was the Allagash White.

First off, as it should, Allagash White pours a little cloudy and has a nice quickly disappearing head.  On the nose, you get a little bit of cloves from the yeast and the orange peel and coriander among others from the added spices.  On the front of the taste, you get the bright orange peel/citrusy taste with the cloves, coriander, and other spices coming along behind.  On the finish there is a touch of wheat that makes you want another sip.

The White’s orange peel and coriander flavors matched perfectly with the brunchy nature of dinner.  Even with its substantive and full flavor it is light enough to not over power the eggs, milk, and Parmesan mixture.  The frittata is a great last second way to use up extra food.  You can use any filler you want:  pasta, mixed vegetables, spinach, ham, sausage, etc.  In this case I used frozen mixed vegetables to make a quick simple meal.  I also love to use left over pasta or almost caramelized onions.  With the frittata you can make it taste however you want by changing the filler ingredients and the cheese used to bind it together.

This meal would have been better with fresh vegetables, but I was in a hurry and wanted to do something simple.  Isn’t this is how most people deal with wanting to cook something at the after a long day at work or at the last minute to help make a real meal:  What’s in my fridge and pantry that will let me make something that tastes good and is relatively easy?  The next time I’ll get vegetables and chop them and add different flavors and textures to make this better, but because of the situation and how I was feeling at the time this was almost perfect.

This was the essence of what I really want to do.  Find simple, maybe not easy, foods that anyone can make and then try to match them with beer?  In this case I choose a light brunch/breakfast type food for dinner.  To match with that I wanted to first find something that was light and had a profile that was reminiscent of orange juice.  Witbiers are the perfect beer for that situation.

Now, this may be the first of two food and beer posts this weekend.  Eightball and I are probably going to watch Daytona tomorrow.  What beer goes best with driving around in circles for 500 miles?


Vegetable Pot Pie and Hi-Wire Brewing Bed of Nails Brown Ale Pairing

Posted in beer, food, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2014 by cueball
Tastes better that it looks

Tastes better than it looks

I used to think I was a pretty good cook.  I thought that because I can chop onions and mince garlic and put some stuff in a slow cooker and make a pretty good meal.  Yeah, I know how to cook good rice but today’s recipe was easily the most complicated thing I have ever made.  Vegetable pot pie has so many moving parts.  I take that back.  It has a major, huge demonstrably difficult moving part called pie crust.

Anyway, we’ll get to the food in a second.  On to the beer.

Bed of Nails Brown Ale, Hi-Wire Brewing

I’ve become really fascinated with English and English-style beers since thinking about and trying this pairing experiment.  Bed of Nails Brown is another English-style American beer, this time from a relatively new brewery out of Asheville, Hi-Wire.  The reason I chose English-style beer for nice bit of comfort food made was precisely because while it is full of hop bitterness it is not overwhelmed by the more American hop taste.  You get a lot of the hop aromas in the glass, piney and citrusy, with this beer, but it does not over power you with that same piney/citrusy taste.  The hop bitterness works well with the cocoa/chocolate bitterness to make a very well-choreographed and easy drinking beer.

Vegetable Pot Pie

I got his recipe from  I tweaked it a little, but not much.  It actually tasted very good.  Better than it looked actually.  The crust was a little gummy as I figured it would be.  This is the first pie crust I’ve made.  Anyway the vegetables tasted it great.  They were cooked to the perfect texture and were seasoned well.

Back to the crust for a second.  In the short time I’ve really been trying to work on my home cooking skills I have found baking to be the hardest thing.  I haven’t burned anything in the oven yet, but you don’t have to do that to screw up a pastry.  Timing and temperature have to be so precise in baking that the slightest mistake can screw up a dish.  That makes it not to dissimilar to brewing.  I have learned the same thing through a couple of screwed up home brew batches.

Why this pairing worked

By being an English-style beer Bed of Nails hops are less assertive then the more American-style browns like Duck Rabbit Brown or Lonerider’s Sweet Josie.  The use of the soy sauce with the primarily root vegetables and mushrooms fit perfectly with the less hop forward taste.

In my time trying to find good beer and food pairings I have come to one conclusion, besides the one where pale ales, to some extent, work with almost anything.  This is the conclusion:  Brown ale + umami = awesome.  This word is borrowed from Japanese where it literally translates to, “pleasant savory taste.”  To me it means more than that.

It is the idea of the comfort and home comfort food, Southern food, and “Soul” food represents.   It is the food equivalent of that favorite quilt you have that you always wrap yourself in when you have flu.  For me brown ales tend to accentuate that taste and feeling in foods.

I haven’t posted in a little over a week because of a weird cold that never turned into an actual cold, but wouldn’t go away and a bout of insomnia caused by the cold that then made the cold feel worse, but I’m back now.