Tastings School - In hop heaven

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In hop heaven

Ben McFarland asks a panel of experts for their food pairings with the eminently hoppy India pale ales

Unless you’ve been sitting in a darkened room with your eyes shut and your head encased in a block of concrete, blindfolded, then – chances are – you’re likely to have read an article about how great beer and food are together.

And what a lovely couple they make. Things have advanced well beyond the paltry pub pint and a ploughman’s to posh pairings in Michelin-star eateries - complete with sommeliers, champagne flutes and stuff – and beer has rightfully returned to the head of the dining table.

With this in mind, each issue Beers of the World will ask an expert panel of ‘foodies’ to provide a selection of dishes and flavours with which a particular beer style finds harmony. So quit banging your knife and fork on the table, pop your napkin down the front of your shirt and, with a Tom & Jerry style lick-of-the-lips, get ready to tuck in.

BEER STYLE: INDIA PALE ALE (IPA) Stacked with hops, hops and more hops, IPAs began life as a beer especially designed to withstand the vagaries of the voyage from England to India.

More recently, IPA has enjoyed a phenomenal revival principally on the back of cult-status among American craft brewers who have taken the characteristics of traditional IPA and, well, made them bigger. Expect huge citrus aromas, spice, mouth-puckering bitterness and plenty of strength.

Bruce Paton Bruce Paton is a “beer chef” based in San Francisco who works in close association with the leading players on America’s thriving craft brewing scene. His website is: www.beerchef.

com “I always start with the beer and then create the dish to go with it. IPA is my one of my favorite styles so I have no trouble trying them.

Here in California, our IPAs are fairly hoppy with a prevalent malt backbone to balance them. I usually choose either a spicy dish that the hops will complement or a meaty dish like duck that will match the roasted malt flavours while the hops cut through the fat so you can enjoy the next bite. I have also paired Pliny the Elder which is a Double IPA with Point Reyes Blue Cheese and it was a match made in heaven. The beer tamed the strong flavour of the cheese while the cheese in turn eased the bitterness bringing out the malt flavours.” Rupert Ponsonby Rupert Ponsonby has been integral in beer’s recent gastronomic good fortune. Rupert is also co-founder of the Beer Academy which currently runs a number of educational and entertaining courses on matching beer with food.

“Along with wheat beers, IPAs are probably one of the most perfect beers to make a wide gamut of foods sensational. It’s the hops that do it, strutting their stuff like the most catwalk friendly grape. Lychees, lemon, lime, marmalade or apricot blossom – all can be demonstrated by India pale ales. On the over-riding principle that strong beer flavours need strongly flavoured dishes, IPAs and spicy tandoors are perfect bedfellows – the IPA’s hops being the perfect foil for the rasping capsaicins in the curry and bringing clean citrus fruit flavours – like liquid chutney – to the dish. But beware: softer flavoured southern Indian curries would be blown asunder by the IPA’s hops.

“Beef or red deer in reduced sauces are great with IPAs, especially if the sauces contain other flavour elements such as caramelised onions or dumplings or carrots. These help to link the IPA to the food – the slight marmalade flavours of the Worthington’s White Shield add flavour to the meat.

“Roast garlic pods are heaven with the delicate lychee characteristics of Goose Island IPA, while Thornbridge Hall’s Jaipur IPA (with its orangey colour and citric style) is terrific with chorizo and roast cod. Devilled kidneys on brioche, meanwhile, provides the silky sweet bed and the kidneys the meaty succulence to make more malt-driven IPAs sit up and think, and for dessert? Poire tartin of course. The seared base of the tart echoes the tartness of the IPA, whilst the slightly caramelised fruit lifts it into orbit.” Henry Dimbleby Henry Dimbleby is a leading London restaurateur and chef who co-owns Leon, a string of terrifically healthy and tasty, good-food venues. Check out www.leonrestaurants.co.uk “I concentrated on two contrasting examples of India pale ale. The first was Goose Island IPA from Chicago, which was a perky, very citrus-driven sharp beer that I thought was very punchy. I think it would go terrifically well with a lovely game dish and served with red cabbage.

You need big, punchy flavours that the beer can get its teeth into.

“Worthington White Shield, a classic British IPA, was another that caught my eye. It’s smaller, warmer, softer in taste and more ideally suited to a lighter dish such as a fish stew. A Bouillabaisse from province with tomatoes and pepper would work very well.” Fiona Beckett Fiona Beckett is an award-winning food and drinks journalist and co-author of Appetite for Ale – Hundreds of delicious ways to enjoy beer with food.

“Curry’s the obvious one. Most are so much better with an IPA than a lager unless they’re mouth-searingly hot in which case you won’t be able to pick up on the hops. A medium hot curry like a Rogan Josh is great, for example or something like tandoori chicken. Spices really make hops sing.

“Other pairings – a bit less obvious – include chicken liver paté and IPA, especially an American IPA with a touch of sweetness. My son Will, who runs the Marquess Tavern in London, discovered that one at the Anchor Brewery in San Francisco and it really works.

“And my favourite – roast pork and IPA – with lots of crackling. Again it works particularly well with an American IPA like Goose Island or, even better, a double IPA. I came across a brilliant one called Kill Ugly Radio which I drank with an organic belly pork sandwich at a very beer-friendly restaurant called Blackbird in Chicago. (Lagunitas brewed it to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Frank Zappa’s Album Absolutely Free). It picked up perfectly on the sweetness of the pork and cut right through the fat.”