On-Tap Recap: Two shout-outs to stouts
Monday. It gets a bad rap for bringing to an end all that fun we had for two-sevenths of each week. As though Monday is personally responsible, as though it rose up out of the shadows of the future to personally smother the weekend in the prime of its youth with a lumpy, off-white pillow.
Now I hate the moon’s day as much as the next guy. But I’m changing that starting today by giving myself – and hopefully you – a reason to look forward to Mondays. What is this gift, you ask? Why, nothing less (or more) than the vicarious and voyeuristic thrill of hearing about some beers I drank over the weekend.
Excited yet? I am. Let’s begin.
Sunday was brew day. To get myself going, I started with breakfast at home: scrambled eggs and center-cut bacon cooked perfectly by the gal I love while I made these yeasted brown butter waffles from Bon Appétit magazine. They’re the best waffles I’ve ever eaten, easy to prepare – most of the work is done the night before – and they go great with real maple syrup or mixed-berry compote (for an added brewer’s-breakfast touch, I sometimes have mine with homemade barley malt syrup).
I discovered they also went wonderfully with a Founders Breakfast Stout. I hoarded a few bottles of this October-December seasonal offering, and these were unfortunately the last, but I will be brewing this clone recipe from Brew Your Own in the very near future. There’s just something about this beer I can’t get enough of. Is it the childlike joy of having the flavor and aroma of chocolate on my palate first thing in the morning? The silky smoothness of satisfying oats? Or the skillful use of coffee in exactly the right amount to achieve a perfect balance of bitter with sweet, no mean feat for an ingredient as easy to overdo as coffee? I don’t know, but it’s sublime. At 8.3% ABV, it’s a wake-up of the most pleasant kind. I wouldn’t recommend getting it in your mouth before that first bite of waffle, but I won’t judge you if you do.
After the grain dust had settled on my brew day and my blood orange witbier wort (details to follow later this week) was safely locked away in its fermentation chamber, I went on a mission for Indian take-out: chicken tikka masala and saag aloo. I paired this with a bomber of Ballast Point Indra Kunindra, a 7% ABV India-style export stout with curry, cumin, cayenne, coconut, and kaffir lime leaf (say that list of ingredients five times fast). Ballast Point is a brewery I’m still getting acquainted with, having only had their Sculpin IPA … but Indra Kunindra was such a unique idea I was looking forward to trying it. The curry and kaffir lime came through with a noticeable fresh/tart/hot burst, but the export stout at the beer’s base was just too middle-of-the-road for the aromatics overlying it. It might have worked better as a fuller bodied sweet stout (with more residual sugar to bring out the coconut and lime) or even as a dry stout (with more roast to accentuate the spices). As it was, it just felt dissonant. It didn’t go all that well with the food, either. The spices and aromatics were analogous, but the stout demanded a heartier protein pairing. My favorite Indian spot doesn’t do beef curry, so I’ll stick with IPA for my next take-out.
Sadly, I missed out on the hat trick by not being able to make it up to one of my favorite weekend stout spots: Pinthouse Pizza Craft Brewpub. Late last week they tapped The Big Lebarrelski, a special offering on both nitro and CO2 of their White Russian Imperial Stout (“The Dude” – definitely my favorite stout in Austin) aged in Four Roses Bourbon barrels. Here’s hoping they still have some next weekend. If they do, I’ll tell you all about it next Monday …
Strangely, in India every restaurant I went to served nothing but Kingfisher (sometimes Kingfisher Dark). The light, not particularly tasteful beer actually compliments the food quite well as it serves as a palate cleanser and washes down food that can sometimes be served just this side of scalding.
As for beef curry… pretty much nowhere that’s authentic will have it as beef consumption is culturally and religiously taboo for Hindus. Similarly you generally won’t find pork since 13% of the country is Muslim. You will find lamb, mutton (a bit greasy and tough–not really to my taste) and buffalo though. Not so much chicken tikka masala either, but holy cow was the regular chicken tikka and tandoori chicken amazing!
Kingfisher’s not a favorite of mine, but it does pair well with Indian cuisine. It’s been said that it was that counterbalance between a light, refreshing beer and hot food – not to mention the climate – that led to the popularity of Burton-style pale ales in the British colonies in India, leading to the development of the India Pale Ale style. Modern American IPAs are much hoppier and sweeter than their ancestors, but those characteristics also make for a fantastic pairing with curry.
Aside from a brief period in college when I experimented with beef vindaloo (hey, who didn’t?) I think of beef curry as odd for the reasons you mentioned, though it’s readily available in many establishments billed as “Indian” in the West that are more Pakistani influenced. Lamb is the red meat of choice, which is one of the problems with pairing Indra Kunindra. Even lamb would have been too mild to stand up to it.
It occurred to me last night that Indra Kunindra might go very well with an Indian dessert like gulab jamun. Sadly, my take-out place doesn’t do gulab jamun either. 🙂