Beer and Spicy Food: Hoppy, Sweet, or Bubbly?

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:

Many of our exchanges follow this pattern.

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.

Fancy hobo glass.

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.

Beer and BBQ Pairing Throwdown

Thursday’s BBQ was good. Not my best ever, but good. And drinking a slew of tasty brews along with it was a task, albeit one I was willing to undertake for the greater good. We all have our crosses to bear.

For BBQ, you’ll usually be safe with something light and crisp. But if beerbecue wanted shit to be safe, we would tightrope Niagara Falls with a safety harness.


So I am going to try Duchesse de Bourgogne, Tröegs Trogenator, Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, and Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum, each with and without a vinegar-based sauce.

First up is the wild card: The Duchess:

Players love to hate on the Duchess. In fact, some sour beer freaks sneer at her as a training-wheel sour. Haters gonna hate. It has a nice, sweet, malty character and a cherry and almost balsamic-like sourness. I thought it would be good with BBQ because vinegar obviously works with pulled pork, and the experts claim that “sweet beats heat” and “sour cuts fat”.

One concern was that a sour beer combined with a vinegar-based sauce would be a little much. But apparently, kinky sour-on-sour action can actually tone the sour down a bit and help the other flavors shine.

And I think it did pretty well, especially considering I couldn’t find it recommended anywhere. And when combined with the vinegar-based sauce, The Duchess actually started to taste a little like Cheerwine (a tasty, highly-carbonated, Southern, cherry-tasting soda)…which with Carolina BBQ is legit.

Next, we had Tröegs Double Bock.

This is a great beer: Toasty bread, caramel, complex mix of dark fruits, and sweet, but not cloying. This tasted pretty good without the sauce. Although, it is pretty heavy (monks actually used double bocks in lieu of food during fasting). In fact, it might have even been a little too big for the pig. And I was a little ambivalent about it with the vinegar sauce. But, I bet this would rock the party with a mustard-based sauce (it would be like a Teutonic reunion without all the attempted world domination…hopefully). And I bet it would go well with some sweet and spicy BBQ ribs, or with barbecued beef brisket.

Then came along, Dale’s Pale Ale:

We’ve reviewed Dale’s big alter-ego, Deviant Dale (which, incidentally, also got us some search engine traffic from people curious about eproctophilia). However, don’t let Pale Dale’s comparative normalcy fool you…he’s no slouch. With citrusy and piney hops and a significant bitter finish, Dale is known for blurring the line between Pale Ale and IPA.

Dale didn’t disappoint. The sugars in my dry rub create a nice, caramelized crust; and Dale’s supporting, caramel malt hooked-in nicely with that. Also, hops are big into play-dates with savory, as well as salty and spicy, all of which can be prevalent in BBQ. Further, hop bitterness can douse any spicy flames. My one concern was that the hops would overwhelm the BBQ or wouldn’t play nicely with the vinegar, but neither happened. Good on you, Dale.

Last, Sierra Nevada Hoptimum:

Who put those pesky vegetables there?

Hoptimum is a 100 IBU Imperial IPA, with huge and complex hop flavor. It’s a beast. Perhaps too beastly for these purposes. I did enjoy it, but probably just because it’s such a ridiculously good beer. And for some reason, the alcohol seemed a little more prevalent than usual, especially with the vinegar-sauced BBQ. Maybe it would be better with some spicier ribs. Although, I have seen some sources claim that the higher ABV of double and imperial IPAs can actually ratchet-up the heat of spices and defeat the hop’s otherwise cooling effect. In any case, it’s a damn good beer, and I still enjoyed it.

Fortunately, all the beers were tasty (I already knew this), but some worked better than others with the BBQ. Ultimately though, I think the profound conclusion is: Beer tastes good with BBQ.

Smoker Mod, Smokin’ a Butt, and Beer and BBQ Pairing Throwdown

Today was too nice a day to bother myself with working. So, with a new smoker modification in mind, a butt (Boston) in the fridge, and me never having posted about beer with bbq, I’m gonna make some pulled pork and try some different beers with it.

As always at beerbecue HQ, we need our blues. Today’s selection is Junior Kimbrough. His blues legitimacy is high: He didn’t get national attention ’till he was about 60, he sired 36 children, he died with a common-law wife, his mid-tempo and droning-thumb-on-the-bass-strings style exemplifies north Mississippi hill country blues, and he looked like this:

Son, he’s got more blues in one forehead frownline than you got in your whole damn body.

I decided to fashion a charcoal ring for my Weber Smokey Joe modified smoker. The Weber Smokey Mountain has one, and it seemed that piling fuel on the charcoal grate wasn’t working very efficiently. So I made this:

Metal lathe, four washers, two nuts and bolts, and some aviation snips.

You can also use a heavier gauge expanded metal. In any case, make sure to use gloves, as metal lath and expanded metal can cut the crap out of your hands. Then you load up your fuel and just use the Minion method to get things rolling.

Today, I’m smoking a 5 1/2 pound Boston Butt with my usual rub. I was planning on using the usual vinegar-based sauce. However, last night I came downstairs, and my wife, the BBQ sauce diva, banished me from the kitchen as she tweaked her old vinegar-based BBQ sauce. I have been authorized to release the new recipe on the sauce recipes page. My native-South Carolina wife may be a vegetarian/pescatarian now, but her BBQ-Sauce-Fu remains strong.

Then after about 6-8 hours, there will be a BBQ and beer pairing throwdown. I am pitting the following beers (sampled with and without sauce on the BBQ):

The Duchess de Bourgogne: This may seem odd. In fact, after extensive Internet searching, I have not found anyone who even remotely recommends this. What do they know? Sweet and sour is good with BBQ.

Tröegs Troegenator Double Bock: Bocks and double bocks are usually a good BBQ pairing. Sweet and malty.

Oskar Blues Pale Ale: Pale Ales are generally good with BBQ. And this one will push the hop and BBQ envelope at bit, as it is a fairly hoppy pale ale.

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum: If some hops are good, more must be better. Let’s see how hoppy we can go.

Stay tuned…

Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s – A Short History of Deviance and Eproctophilia

Next up, Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s IPA (in nifty 16-oz. tall boy cans):

According to Oskar Blues, their Dale’s Pale Ale sold its soul at the crossroads, and voila: Deviant Dale’s IPA. Granted, Dale was no wallflower to begin with; but he was a pale ale, so he was generally a pretty neighborly fellow. In fact, enough so, that upon hearing of his recent deviance, his neighbors likely had the typical reaction, “Dale was such a nice guy. I never would have guessed. I mean, look at his hydrangeas.”

Although, maybe Dale’s deviance shouldn’t be such a shocker. History is full of surprising deviants. James Joyce’s love letters to his wife reveal that he was rather fond of spankings (eh, fairly tame), very hard spankings (OK, to each his own)…and he had a bit of a case of eproctophilia (uhhhhh). So enamored was he with his wife Nora’s flatulence, that he proudly proclaimed, “I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women.” Wow. Somewhere, Bob Eubanks is kicking himself for not having thought of that.

I must be getting home, really. We're having cabbage for dinner tonight.

Of course, Benjamin Franklin was a forefather of our country…and apparently also a post-menopausal-cougar hunter. In written counsel to a young man on the choice of a mistress, he salaciously asserted that with older women there is no hazard of children and that “as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being by Practice capable of Improvement.” Ben, you sly dog.

This deviant pours clear golden-amber, with a glorious, frothy, white head that slowly recedes and leaves significant lace and curtains. The smell…oh the smell. It smells like you are standing at the confluence of an Ataulfo mango grove, a thai basil farm, an orange and grapefruit grove, and an Afroman concert. The taste is pungent, resinous, and citrusy. This thing is a Columbus hop bomb: The pungent, piney, and slight spiceyness of a great mango; the Afroman concert; some woodiness; and citrus (orange and deep grapefruit) playing a supporting role. The malt is a bit of an afterthought, but there is just enough there. Actually, a little more sweetness and caramel come out when the beer warms. It has a medium body and just the right amount of carbonation. And the finish gives you a nice bitter burn, with the aforementioned aromas and flavors swirling around in your sinuses.

Every time I open the fridge, I look at this beer. I think about it periodically during the day. If the Haybag gets home before I do, I am hoping all the way home that she has one poured for me when I get there. This is now one of my favorite IPAs. Actually, I think I might be developing a Columbus hop fetish.

The Haybag: This is a very good IPA. I am a little worried, however, that you are starting to exhibit some deviant hop behavior.

It's a disease!

Thanksgiving Lineup: money where my mouth is.

Here is the beerbecue Thanksgiving starting lineup:

We stuck to the Thanksgiving-friendly styles, and branched-out to two beers we hadn’t quaffed before.  They are as follows:

Unibroue La Fin Du Monde; St. Feuillien Saison (first-time); Schlafly Biere De Garde (first-time, although the Haybag swears we have had it); Oskar Blues Old Chub; and the Haybag went all rogue for dessert with Dogfish Head Bitches Brew (3 parts imperial stout and 1 part honey beer with gesho root) for dessert.

What’s your Turkey Day lineup (beer, wine, shots, straight from the bottle)?

Subsequent Editor’s Note: Don’t drink Schlafly Biere de Garde with Thanksgiving dinner.  I loved it on its own, but with Thanksgiving food it turned evil.  Stick to their pairing suggestions on the bottle (fruit, cheese, cured meats).

Thanksgiving Beer Pairings: We be all classy ‘n s$%t

As I mentioned, dangermenparenting sent out the bat signal to beerbecue to come up with some good beers for Thanksgiving. That’s right…I said beer for Thanksgiving. What? Do you think Pilgrims and Indians had a bunch of Chateau Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux at the first Thanksgiving? That’s not what I learned in grade school. They had beer, dammit….and this:I received several suggestions from friends on past successes. I will try to give credit to them where possible. So, here we go..

We need something that can hang with heartiness, but not overpower earthy comfort. So for Thanksgiving, beerbecue says: screw the hop bombs for one day out of the year, and go with earthy, sweet, lightly spicy or fruity, or a combination thereof. There are several beers that can fit this bill, and I will throw a couple variations for turkey prep differences, and some dessert selections.

Pretty safe, but very tasty: Latch on to the sweet, earthy, and caramel with a Dogfish Head Indian Brown, a Brooklyn Brown, or, as Tom suggested, a good German Marzen. Or even go a little darker with New Belgium’s 1554 Enlightened Black Ale.

A little more adventurous: Belgian Tripels. These little beauties have a light to moderate sweetness, some fruit (like apple, banana, pear, or oranges), earthiness, and sometimes a slight peppery, clovey, or spicey flavor from the Belgian yeast. The carbonation does a good job of clearing the palate, but the high carbonation can turn some off…like the Haybag. Also, they usually manage to mask their high ABV, even though they aren’t correspondingly heavy. And we all know high ABV can help in dealing with in-laws.

Try any of the following tripels: Allagash (a suggestion from Tony (not the DMP Tony) in the comments to the previous post); Unibroue La Fin Du Monde; Westmalle, St. Bernardus, or even New Belgium’s Trippel, which is now pretty easy to find in the DC-area. Also, some sweeter variations include Gouden Carolus, Weyerbacher Merry Monks, and Green Flash Trippel.

Perhaps even more adventurous: Although typically a Spring and Summer beer, the Saison/Farmhouse style would work. These will be dry, earthy, spicy, crisp, and light-bodied. You can try Saison Dupont (see the poetic description from Tony on Beer Advocate that says its all). Or I can also vouch for Ommegang’s Hennepin. The Dupont has a passing, but typical, barn funk (wet earth and hay), that is worth giving a shot. The Hennepin, on the other hand, lacks da funk.

What funk? I don

Smoked turkey curveball: I think the above suggestions work for roasted or fried turkey. But for smoked turkey (like the beerbecue residence) you might could go for something to stand-up to and compliment the smoke, like Founder’s Dirty Bastard or Oskar Blues Old Chub.

Additional curiosities: Tom suggested Troeg’s Mad Elf (cloves, honey, and cherries…not a bad Turkey Day combo). Ommegang’s Three Philosophers has dark fruit, cherries, and brown sugar (slight sourness from the cherries). Tony suggested Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse, which apparently paired very well with a thyme-roasted chicken his wife made (I imagine the Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse would work well, too). And Chris suggested Guinness with a Jameson chaser, which gets the prize for most efficient.

Dessert: For dessert, you can go with Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, or any of Southern Tier’s Blackwater Series Imperial Stouts or their Backburner Barleywine. Alternatively, if you don’t want guests sleeping on your couch, you could try Tony’s “lighter” suggestions for dessert: Chimay Blue (fruit, spice, rich malt) or a Unibroue Noire de Chambly (fruits, spice, and slight chocolate).

Uncle Sal had the Chocolate Stout...and a Budweiser.

The Haybag: I give a thumbs up on those Browns. Also, even though ruling out hop bombs is blasphemy in this house, I think we are going to roll with Oskar Blues Old Chub to complement the smoked turkey. And I am cooking, so keep ’em coming, “Uncle Sal”.