The Session #8: Bittersweet – by Ron

The Session - Beer Blogging FridayThis edition of the Session is sponsored by Beer Haiku Daily.

The topic: Beer and Food

Bittersweet is a term often used to describe something ironic or paradoxical. It can also be used to describe a taste. I’m going to use it both ways.

From what I understand of pairing food with wine, which is admittedly very little, it seems that the robustness of flavor in the food is matched with robustness flavor in the wine. For example, a merlot paired with steak, a Riesling paired with turkey, or a sweet wine with dessert pastries. (Constructive criticism welcome, no flames; I’ve admitted my lack of knowledge in wines.)

This, as a rule of thumb, works when pairing beer with food as well. The basic premise is that you don’t want to have a drink that overpowers the taste of the food, or vice versa. By that I mean you don’t want to put a burgundy with a light seafood dish, just as you wouldn’t put a smoky porter with it either.

Some of the best pairings of beer and food, however, come from a strong contrast in tastes making each bite of food and each sip of beer their own remarkable experience. Together they play off one another, creating an alternating experience of tastes.

You, the reader, like this contrast…I’ll bet on it. Ask yourself what drink goes great with a cinnamon bun…coffee, or tea is likely your answer – something bitter. This is bittersweet and the contrast makes each better. Sometimes the bittersweet comes all in one bite, like sugar in your coffee, or dark chocolate.

Getting to the paradoxical part…I suggest you go out and try an IPA with a fried banana split. Crazy? No, it’s bittersweet! This is exactly what I had at the Back Bay Brewery in Boston many years ago. (Sadly, it closed in 2000.) It was this brew pub that educated me in pairing beer with dessert.

This was one of those times I’ll never forget. My wife and I were out in Boston on business and exploring the town in the evening. I had researched the Back Bay Brewery where they advertised the best desserts and beer. What an experience this was…trying dessert with beer and loving every minute of it. It was a great place to relax as well, with an upstairs that had both tables and sofas a-la-Central Perk. My wife had a chocolate mousse in a cookie “beer mug” paired with a brown ale. She was just as happily surprised by how well they paired.

Yes! Beer and dessert! It can be great, but it must be done right. Please don’t try and substitute an ESB for that glass of milk you are having with your Oreo cookies. Make it an event and think it through.

Let me dream up some possibilities…how about a strawberry/chocolate cheesecake with a dry stout, or key lime pie with a German heller/maibock?

Bitter and sweet…and how sweet it is.