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Beer and Food | Imperial Stout

Beer and Food | Imperial Stout

Welcome back to the delicious world of beer and food. America is known in the beer world as having the biggest, boldest and strongest flavors, and Alewise wanted to celebrate that by ending this month’s meal with a pairing featuring a big Imperial Stout from Firestone Walker, the Parabola. Parabola is an annual release and the 2014 version hits stores in Colorado tomorrow; it is even available already in select markets.


There are a few well known quintessential pairings in the beer world and we will be featuring one this week by pairing the Parabola with a rich chocolate dessert. We have partnered this week with a Boulder beer scene landmark, Backcountry Pizza & Tap House. Backcountry hosts a generous selection of craft beer with 68 taps and an 11 page bottle list!

The flavors in this week’s pairing are akin to bringing two heavyweights to the fight. The flavors battle in a wonderful tension of big, bold, dark flavors that pack robust punch.

The top of the BA top 250 list is dominated by a select group of intense barrel-aged Imperial Stouts. This family of beers exhibits powerful, dark, bitter chocolate and coffee notes and can even take on dark fruit (raisin, plum, fig) characteristics. Due to the time the beer spends in used whisky barrels, it will also showcase a stronger alcohol backbone and some of the toasted vanilla hints.

The 2014 Parabola is a Russian imperial oatmeal stout that was aged for a full year in a blend of barrels from Elijah Craig, Four Roses, Pappy Van Winkle, Woodford Reserve, and Buffalo Trace. The Parabola brewing recipe and methods remain the same every year, so vintage variation is rooted in barrel selection, “Every vintage is slightly different,” Brewmaster Matt Brynildson said. “That’s the beauty of making vintage beers.”

As we mentioned, we’ll be finishing off the progression of the meal this month with by far and away the biggest beer. Many of the more popular barrel-aged versions have a cult following that people wait in line hours for a chance to buy one. The popularity of these beers should make it so that in any market there will be a great craft example available.

Backcountry’s extensive collection of taps includes two hand-pumped cask ale options. Executive Chef Anthony LoPiccolo was able to take advantage of the low carbonation that the cask method imparts by incorporating an imperial stout into this week’s dish. High carbonation in the beer would be counteractive to the application he used, so this allowed him to avoid the wait of letting the carbonation out of the beer.

LoPiccolo used the Elevation Brewing Co. Imperial Stout with lactose in his chocolate mousse with fresh strawberries and toasted cashews. He was able to use an imperial style, which generally carries a higher IBU to match the intense roasty character, by not applying any heat to the beer. “You don’t cook the beer,” he mentioned, “that brings out the bitter.”

In cooking with beer, higher IBU beers are less desirable as the tannins and bitterness from the hops generally show themselves in unpleasant ways. You can braise or simmer a beer long enough to pull the bitterness out, as long as you are cooking the beer for more than 90 minutes.

For the mousse LoPiccolo mixes the beer with melted chocolate before folding in the egg whites until the desirable texture is met. In presenting the dish he starts with a bed of toasted cashews before adding a mixture of fresh chopped strawberries and the mousse, then more cashews. In resting in the mousse at the bottom the cashews become soft and trick the mouthfeel into the feeling of a nougat candy bar.


The primary elements in this pairing are definitely the roasty chocolate resonating while the strawberries bring a bright freshness and acidity to balance the dark rich flavors. The cashews not only play on the roasted flavors in the beer, but compliment the savory quality of the vanilla. While the beer weighs in at a whopping 14% ABV, the buttery soft cashews make the beer more approachable on the palate, including a fun interaction of salt and chocolate (think fries dipped in a Wendy’s shake). Not forgotten, the bourbon element in the beer from the barrel aging is complimented by the malty chocolate.

Because the Elevation beer used to make the dish this week is unavailable for retail purchase, we decided to choose the Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout from Odell Brewing Co. for our trip to Cured. The Lugene is a big beer in its own regard weighing in at 8.5% ABV, and is a seasonal release available only from February through April.


Knowing we needed something with the weight and intensity to match the dark roasted and milk chocolate flavors of the beer, ASC Certified Cheese Expert Molly Browne chose a selection of some saltier cheddars with more toasted nut forward aspects.


The favorite pairing was the Landaff, a natural rind-aged raw cow’s milk cheddar, from the Landaff Creamery in Landaff, NY. The Landaff “walks the line of approachability and interestingness” as Zoe Brikley from the Cellars at Jasper Hill mentioned, which is unique. “Generally you sacrifice one for the other.” The resulting flavors of the Landaff include not just toasted nut, but savory vegetal aspects with a nice minerality and higher acidity.


The pairing has the same chocolate and salt partnership with the sweetness of the beer contrasting the umami flavor of the cheese. By using a milk stout, a resonation of the creamy mouthfeel in both elements was intensified, while the higher ABV of the beer was helpful in cleansing the palate from bite to bite.

Wrapping up the month, hopefully seeing the progression of a Kolsch, Wild Dubbel, American IPA, Imperial Stout, and the dishes that paired with them, was enjoyable and inspiring.


Alewise is a Ciceone 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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