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Beer and Food – American IPA Food Pairings’

Beer and Food – American IPA Food Pairings’

Welcome back to the delicious world of beer and food. Hopefully last weeks pairing was as inspirational for you, as it was very exciting for us. In case you missed last week’s article, the New Belgium Wild 2 Dubbel we paired with Oak at Fourteenth was a great precursor to the meal we are enjoying at The Golden Eagle Inn this week. That meal pairs perfectly with the American IPA.

The Golden Eagle is “A relaxed, fine dining, mountain bistro, with a menu guided by the seasons, highlighting local organic produce & antibiotic free meats naturally prepared for the modern palate.”

A classic American IPA will showcase a medium to very strong hop intensity with stone and tropical fruit, citrus, and piney resinous flavors or aromas indicative of the Yakima and Willamette Valleys which accommodate for as much as 95% of America’s hop production. The strong malt backbone needed to support the powerful hop aspect should have a low to medium flavor intensity so the hops are properly supported while still being present. There may be some lingering hop bitterness or alcohol showing in the medium-dry to dry finish.

Balance in beer can be defined as GU : BU (Gravitational Units : Bittering Units) and the American IPA is a benchmark example of the relation between the two, as the American IPA should generally have a 1:1 Ratio or close to it.

GU is specifically related to the original gravity of the wort used to make the beer, and in brewing terminology is most often referred to in Degrees of Plato. However an easy way to think of Gravitational Units with well attenuated beers is to move the decimal of the ABV one space (meaning a 5.5% ABV beer would have a GU of roughly 55). The IBU (International Bittering Units) is the most common numerical evaluation of hops in beer and should be easy to find, in some cases it will even be on the package.

The chill of the wintery mountain air is immediately diffused walking into the warm, inviting feel of the Golden Eagle. The Golden Eagle houses an assortment of beers on tap from Avery Brewing Company. One such offering, Avery IPA, created a mind blowing pairing when partnered with the Peking-style Rotisserie Duck, sourced from Crescent Duck Farm in Long Island, NY

These specific ducks have thinner skin than traditional Peking ducks which lends itself to their cooking method. Executive Chef Bryan Doi starts out with a rub consisting of ginger, garlic, Szechwan, cinnamon, star anise, coriander, and soy sauce, moving into a quick three minute blanching, then lacquering with a mix of 5-spice, maltose syrup, and rice wine vinegar, before finishing in the rotisserie. This method produces a succulent meat instead of focusing only on an extra crispy skin.

The strong bitterness of the hops and the carbonation of the beer are just the perfect thing to balance out the rich fatty duck. Meanwhile, the malt bill melds well with the caramelization imparted by the rotisserie cooking method, and that sweetness provides another balancing element to the fat. The hops resonate with many flavors in the dish, including the bright flavors of the tamarind sauce highlighting the citrus notes, and the lingering effect of the seasoning with the pine and spice of the hops. The elements of this pairing make for a rollercoaster of sweet, earthy, and savory sensations that drive you back for more.

While the means of using a rotisserie cooking method is not as accessible, you can still look for a fatty game bird when replicating the maillard reaction or caramelization of the skin. The easier part of creating this pairing at home will be the beer, as Avery is currently distributing in 35 states. When Avery IPA is not available, it would be ideal to focus on an IPA with hops from the aforementioned regions.

In addition, to offer some variety and give an example of an easy substitution, we have chosen the Alesmith IPA for the cheese pairing this week, as there will be a lot of similar elements at play.

Our visit to Cured this week is sure to be one of the easiest for finding a cheese to pair with, as the American IPA style paired with a medium-bodied blue-style cheese is one of the most classic pairings in the world of ‘fermented sunshine’. ASC certified cheese expert Molly Browne selected an assortment of three Blue cheeses of varying intensities, and true to the tale of the three bears, one was too subtle, one was too strong and the middle was just right.


The winning selection in question is the Bayley Hazen, from Jasper Hill Farm in Greenboro, VT. The reason these styles work so well together, is that there it blends the grassy, funky elements in the cheese with the dank, resinous piney profile of the hops. There is also an enjoyable symmetry between the nutty aspects of the cheese and malt profile in the beer, as well as the tang that the penicillium roqueforti fungus imparts in the cheese complimenting the citrus of the hops. These resonant elements all work together in an inviting tension between each other, as the flavors of this pairing bounce back and forth between each other.

Look for the final installment of this months dinner next week, when we visit Backcountry Tap & Pizza while enjoying a brownie made specifically for PorchDrinking using the Odell Brewing Company Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout.


Alewise is a Cicerone and Beer Education Co-op founded by Eric Linder and David Bird in Boulder, CO. Our goal is to strengthen the beer community by fueling the knowledge and passion of those involved or interested in joining it by making things more accessible and fun.

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