Dinner With Dogfish Head Brewery

March 12, 2013

Dogfish Head Brewery is in the middle of their A-Hop-Eclipse Tour and we were chosen to be one of their participants. Focusing on their India Pale Ale selections, each location has been asked to design a menu that reflects the diversity of hoppy beer. As it turns out, this isn’t the easiest task as IPA can be fickle when it comes to food pairing.

Traditionally, bold, spicy food works best with the flavors found in IPA; floral, pine, citrus. Ethnic foods with ingredients like lemongrass, coriander and curry spice become enhanced by the similarities in the beer. And just like how the malt bill in a well-balanced IPA serves to temper the bitterness of the hops, so it does for evening out the heat register from chili pepper, too.

Fried items benefit from the sharp, crisp textures of IPA that amplify the crunch of the breadings and batters. Mild, yet flavorful, cheeses like Spanish Valdeon and white cheddar plus some pungent fromage like Limburger pair well with the right IPA. Finally, savory dishes also work wonderfully with IPA’s malt comparable to the sweet notes while the hop bitterness can balance out the heavy richness of a dish.

Dogfish makes a number of diverse IPAs perfect for a multi-course dinner. Here’s what Hopjacks honcho and classically-trained chef, Joe Abston, came up with.

First, we pass around Dogfish’s newest Life and Limb Ale, Rhizing Bines. This beer, made in conjunction with Sierra Nevada, is DFH’s newest release and makes for a balanced, light-bodied citrus-berry beginning.

An amuse-bouche of lobster deviled egg with lemon confit is going out with Aprihop; the lobster and lemon pairing well with the sweetness of apricot while the hops handle the deviling spice.

A gooey goat’s milk Midnight Moon mac & cheese with black trumpet mushroom will find its sharp, grassy cheese notes and fungus umami counterpoint to 60 Minute IPA’s floral hops and buttery malt.

Fried green tomato with fresh crab and Creole remoulade pit crunch, acid, shellfish sweetness and smoky, spicy sauce up against Hellhound On My Ale’s big lemon notes, warming alcohol and solid malt.

An upscale spin on Frito Chili Pie finds venison and British Tickler cheddar paired with 90 Minute IPA; seared and spiced game with bright, earthy cheddar yielding to chewy, citrusy, oily hops.

Next, Southern barbeque sweetness gets a makeover. Spicy braised pork shoulder with stewed greens act as the food equivalent of 75 Minute IPA; bitter and spicy together with a hint of maple.

Seared hangar steak with onion compote and truffle oil roasted fingerling potato becomes the perfect dish for Indian Brown Ale. Dark toast malt richness with dried fruits and herbal hops find a friend in each component of the dish.

Last, a play on candy apple sees pie tarts with Norwegian Gjetost cheese melted on top. Burton Baton’s oak-aged vanilla and dried fruits plus floral and citrus hops bring out the best in the caramel-apple combination.