Trying new flavors with beer is the perfect way to figure out what your taste buds like, and gain more insight into making your own beer. Food in general pairs so amazingly well with beer, that I’d always recommend mixing and matching. Spicy food with an IPA; Sour beers with a sweet desert; A Rausch beer with fatty meat.
Yesterday, I stopped by the Sierra Nevada Torpedo room in Berkeley, CA, and was greeted by the folks from Kettle Chips. They had setup a pre-paired lineup, including 4 of their chip varieties and 4 of Sierra Nevada’s epic fermentations. To be honest, I had never thought about doing a beer/food pairing and using Chips as the food; Just hadn’t crossed my mind. Yet the Kettle lineup offers such a diverse profile, that it was hard to say no. Here’s how it went…
Audition Salted Caramel Scotch ale w/ Kettle Sea Salt
Sweet and Salty takes the cake as far as flavor combinations I enjoy. Best way I can describe this pairing’s result was like eating one of those caramel’s or chocolate pieces from a local candy shop when they’ve placed a touch of sea salt on top: The inherent sweetness of the caramel flavor in this beer backed off a little, and was replaced with an almost Umami-like savory quality on your tongue. My mouth immediately began to salivate, and I just wanted more beer!
Torpedo Extra w/ Kettle Jalapeño
Probably the most eye opening, as far as effect on your sensory network. Tasting the beer first, then eating the chips created a back palette burst of Jalapeño flavor, without necessarily adding heat/spiciness. Kind of my preference, since I’d rather tasting the pepper without having my tongue fried by spice. Interestingly, if you tried the two in reverse (chips then beer) the effect was nearly opposite. Almost immediately all of the Jalapeño spice burst open and became super intense.
Hoptimum w/ Kettle Cheddar
Either of these flavors are stellar, and I have to tell you, still not sure about the pairing. Tasted great to eat the chips right after a sip (or before), yet couldn’t begin to tell you why. Even the Beer-tender who brought the beers over described it as if he was still struggling to figure it out. Always a good sign! My only guess is that the bitterness level of Hoptimum acts as a compliment to the natural fatty side of cheese, but just a guess.
Narwhal w/ Kettle Maple Bacon
Here’s the big boy! A beautiful Imperial Stout (10.2% ABV) propped up by the smokey/sweet flavors of maple smoked bacon. Such complexity, and yet still so simple. Reminded me of eating a cake batter pancake, with bacon on the side, and everything just swimming in syrup. In true pairing fashion, though, all of the flavors mixed so well that they cleaned up your palette, and made you just need to take that next sip/bite.
Let me know what pairing combinations you come up with. Trying new flavors is always exciting, and a bit scary, and usually results in awesomeness.