So for this next food and beer pairing I wanted to explore pairing beer with spicy food. I found this one especially interesting because there are two schools of thought around pairing beer with spicy food. School one – pair a lighter, malty beer with spicy food. The beer will then provide balance to the meal and temper the heat. Typical examples of this are Mexican or Indian lagers combined with the typically spicy cuisine of those regions. School two – a hoppy beer, the hops will accentuate the spices in the food, basically “kicking the meal into overdrive.”
Okay – so let’s try and break down the science. When looking at many types of spicy food we are really looking at spicy peppers. The active ingredient in these peppers is capsaicin. Capsaicin is fat soluble; unfortunately, most beers don’t have fat in them. What our malty beers have in them though is sugar. Sugar helps block the receptors in the mouth. This gives the feeling that some of the heat from the food has been neutralized. Thus the reason for pairing spicy food with malty beers.
So what about the hoppy beers with spicy food? Here the science seems to become more anecdotal (if anyone out there finds something better on this please let me know). The logic is that alcohol acts as a solvent to capsaicin – breaking it free and allowing it to spread around your mouth. This maybe where the “kick” in heat comes from. The other argument I hear is that the hops actually compliment the spices in the food – improving the overall flavor of the dish.
When I tried my two beers with the mango salsa recipe below I found everything above listed to be true. I will note that when selecting my hoppy beer, I tried to take into consideration what hops are in the beer and how they pair with the dish. With the Saga IPA the hops have a strong tropical fruit aroma and flavor to them. As a result, I went with a dish that had spice but also sweetness to it. If I was going to pair with a more traditional spicy food, I would have selected an IPA in a more traditional British style.
Summit Maibock (Blond Bock)
Stats | ABV: 6.7% | IBU: 40
Summit Saga IPA
Stats | ABV: 6.2% | IBU: 80
I’ve put a link in the “Additional Reading” section below to the mango salsa recipe from eathealthyeathappy.com. The only changes I made to the recipe were replacing the pablano pepper with several jalapeno peppers to kick up the spice a bit.