Archive for Duck-Rabbit Brown 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.