The following is a guest post from Beer of Tomorrow's John Verive.
Pairing beer to food is becoming more popular and common, but too often the matches you see are inspired by wine-pairings. Too fussy. Too esoteric. Too high-concept and not approachable enough.
This doesn't have to be the case though; beer pairs with simple foods even better than it pairs with complex and challenging dishes. The multitude of flavors present in different beers mean that there's a style for just about every food you can imagine, and the Beer Belly menu is a full of elevated comfort foods that easily pair with craft beer for a taste-expanding experience!
Death By Duck
The Beer Belly team has worked hard to build a menu full of unique takes on common pub grub with a focus on dishes that can pair with the fresh, local craft beers on tap. One of the most iconic items on the Beer Belly menu is also one of the more versatile when pairing with beer: the infamous Death By Duck.
Death By Duck is a decadent take on one of the classic beer foods - pommes frites, but -- unsatisfied with a simple basket of fries -- Chef Wes serves-up his signature fries tossed in duck fat, covered in duck skin cracklings, seasoned with a sweet-and-smoky blend of salts, and topped with an unctuous pile of duck confit. The dish is a great way to experiment with pairing food and beer since it works with so many disparate styles of beer.
Food Pairing Basics
When matching beer to food the most important element is balance. You do not want the beer to overpower the food or the food to mask the flavors in the beer. The goal should be to elevate both individual elements to be greater in combination.
Death By Duck is a complex dish with bold flavors, and as long as you pick a full-flavored brew it is tough to find a beer that doesn't work with the dish. Here are a few simple concepts that will help guide your choice of beer and make the most of matching with the Death By Duck.
Strong Food and Strong Drink
The simplest guideline for pairing food and beer is to match the intensity of the beer to the intensity of the dish. A simply seasoned grilled chicken breast should be paired with a lighter brew without bold flavors that would overpower the chicken.
In contrast, Death By Duck needs a more assertive beer to stand up to the strong earthy and roasty flavors. The rich duck confit has a deep flavor that matches with strong, darker beers like Belgian dubbels and German dopplebocks.
Emphasize The Common Flavors
Another aspect to pairing beer and food is to highlight the harmony between the dish and the drink. You can pick out a specific flavor in the dish, even a background flavor, and highlight that with a beer that has similar notes. The classic pairing of an imperial stout and dark chocolate highlights the roasted flavors of each and makes this a classic beer and food combination.
Death By Duck uses a sprinkling of sweet onion sugar to contrast the rich salty fries and confit, and a subtly sweet biere de garde or a malty, caramel-sweet double IPA will pick up and amplify this sweetness in the Death By Duck.
Showcase the Differences
Contrast is the third important concept when pairing beer and food. Beer is a complex beverage and it will interact with food in interesting ways. The carbonation of beer helps to scrub your palate, lifting tongue-coating oils and readying it for the next bit of food. Hop bitterness can amplify spiciness in food, and the roasted quality of darker malts will balance a salty dish.
The idea of contrasting flavors is already seen in Death By Duck's raspberry mustard dipping sauce. The bright and acidic condiment helps cut through the fries' salty richness, and a dry and tart fruit beer (or a more assertive sour ale) will contrast with the dish in the same manner.
A Can't-Miss Suggestion To Get You Started
A beer that stands out as one of our favorite matches for Death By Duck is Vigil, the dark-wheat ale from Monkish Brewing in Torrance. Vigil is brewed with wheat and dark malts, and the addition of thyme makes it a complex and unique brew that is a natural pairing with food.
The beer shares some qualities with the doppelbocks and Belgian dubbels that are often paired with duck confit, and complex yeasty notes of the brew highlight the earthy flavors in Death By Duck. The subtle sweetness and lively carbonation of the beer help to offset the richness of the fries and confit, and Vigil's herbal finish compels you to take another bite of ducky fries. Before you know it you'll have an empty glass and be out of fries.
Stop by Beer Belly to try your hand at pairing craft beer to the delectable Death By Duck, and if you'd like to try the dish with our suggested pairing of Monkish Vigil, you'll find it on-tap during the Beer of Tomorrow First Anniversary party on Saturday, March 30th! The party starts at 1pm, and it will feature an all-LA beer line-up including Vigil, Golden Road Brewing's newly revamped Wolf Among Weeds, and Gams-Bart from LA Ale Works -- all excellent choices for pairing with Death By Duck.
Why not order a flight of beers and find which pairing you like best?