First Course: Cajun Crab Stuffed Mushrooms paired with Hop Bomb IPA
Why it worked: Balanced IPAs almost always work with spicy dishes. Hops accentuate spice and malt quenches it. This was no exception. The mushroom stuffing had a very pleasing mouth-warming sensation that was invigorated by the hops of the imperial IPA at first, and then cleaned off the palate by the big malt body. The earthiness of the mushrooms worked really well in bringing out an earthy character in the hops that was otherwise unnoticeable. A bit of lemon zest sprinkled on the plate complimented the citrus notes in the beer as you would expect.
Second Course: Spinach Salad paired with Raccoon Red Ale
Why it worked: This salad was fairly mild and clean, so it didn't have a lot of interaction with the hoppy beer. The sweetness of the caramel malts certainly paired with the sweetened Italian dressing. Jess made the observation that a stronger cheese such as Parmesan or feta (instead of Munster) would probably have worked better.
Third Course: Beef Wellington paired with Subzero
Why it worked: The alcohol in this strong ale actually helped cut the heat from the poblano peppers. Beef generally works well with big malty beers and this was no exception. The creaminess of the cheese in both the potatoes and the beef wellington was just a bit too much to be able to pair with the beer.
Fourth Course: Chocolate Empanadas paired with The Hammer Baltic Porter
Why it worked: The Hammer is already a big, roasted Baltic porter and the few months it has been sitting has mellowed the alcohol and brought out a lot of creamy chocolate. It makes sense that the dark chocolate in the empanadas paired with the chocolate in the beer, but the surprise match here was that the sweetness of the dessert canceled out the sweetness of the beer and revealed a really nice cherry quality. Definitely a great pairing and always fun when new flavors like this emerge.
Pairing lessons: Big malty beers do a nice job of helping subdue balanced spicy foods. Hoppy beers typically pair with sharp and somewhat salty cheeses, choose a delicate cheese and the hops will likely wipe it out. When pairing similar flavors, try to pick a complex beer because the secondary flavors are what will come out the most.