Another food and beer experiment: Beer and spicy food. Actually, this one almost didn’t even get off the ground. The following is a text exchange from me to the Haybag proposing a change in dinner plans:
Conventional wisdom dictates that hoppy beers go with spicy food. Although, I have seen some outright dismiss this as a myth, while others proclaim that high-ABV hoppy beers will actually make the heat worse. So, I decided to pair up some spicy Thai Drunken Noodle with Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s (hoppy), Left Hand Milk Stout (sweet and malty), Saison Dupont (bubbly), and Steigl Grapefruit Radler (sweet and fruity).
The Thai restaurant near us is good, and they list their Pad Kee Mao on their menu as available on a one to three pepper heat scale. When pressed, they revealed they have two undisclosed levels of pain: (1) Four Peppers; and (2) “Five Pepper Thai Spicy”. The first red flag I ignored was when they asked me twice if I was sure I wanted Five Pepper Thai Spicy. The second was when they made me sign a waiver.
After coughing my way home from the airborne particulate pepper choking the air in my car, I psyched my digestive system up for the upcoming havoc (read: prophylactic antacid). Let’s do this:
Deviant Dale’s (Hoppy)
I am a big fan of Deviant Dale’s. It’s bitterness and dank, resinous Columbus hops go well with the spice and basil of the hell feast before me. From the first bite, my taste buds long for the flavor combo, but it seems to provide no more relief than would the fleeting respite of an uncaring glass of water. In fact, I think it might be making it angrier. It tastes great together, though. It’s pretty twisted.
Fortunately, Deviant Dale’s eventually starts working some tongue soothing magic. But not before my internal body temperature has apparently climbed several degrees:
Left Hand Milk Stout (Sweet and Malty)
This is a milk stout. So it has lactose, which is milk sugar. Milk sugar will generally not ferment, which adds body and leaves behind residual sugars for increased sweetness. This beer seems to fit the “Sweet Beats Heat” rule. Also, milk is a well-known counter-measure for spicy food.
This thing is nearly the opposite of Deviant Dale’s. My tongue yearns for the refuge of its creamy, full-bodied, sweet, chocolatey, malty goodness; but the flavor combo isn’t going to rock any worlds. Body temperature continues rising. Nose begins to run.
Saison Dupont (Bubbly)
Saison Dupont brings it with herbal, lightly lemon, funky hay and grass, and a little spiciness of its own. But the key is that this beer’s palate-cleansing carbonation could strip the chrome off a trailer hitch.
This might have been my all-around favorite. It was tasty with the Pad Kee Mao, and it did a good job of dousing flames. Interestingly, the carbonation is so prickly that if you prolong the interaction with the spice by holding the beer on your throbbing tongue, it feels like a masochist challenge. Saison Dupont doesn’t F around.
Stiegl Radler Grapefruit (Sweet and Fruity)
This crazy bastard is half Stiegl Goldbräu and half natural grapefruit soda. If you’re going to drink a Shandy or some other such beverage, it might as well be this stuff. At least the fruit tastes real. Although, the Haybag claims it tastes like a hobo drink.
It is sweet, which can cut heat. And I thought the acids from the grapefruit juice might be able to cut through spice. It did an OK job.
No more Five Pepper Pad Kee Mao. Indeed, the beers ultimately soothed my throbbing tongue, but they did nothing to preclude a full-body sweat. In fact, at one point I thought my eyeballs were going to melt like that Nazi at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I think I’ll go back to the Two or Three Pepper version with Deviant Dale’s (or I bet Troegs Perpetual IPA would be good, too). Dale has just enough sweetness, creaminess, bitterness, and complementary flavor to be perfect with reasonably hot Pad Kee Mao. Maybe I’ll throw more Saison Dupont in the mix when it starts coming in 16 oz. tall boys.