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Friday, May 6, 2011

When Belgian meets Italian: Pairing Triomphe IPA with a quick & spicy red sauce

By Alexander Atkin

I love pairing beer and food. What I love most about this exercise are the odd-ball pairings that don't wind up in books written about beer and food pairing. Maybe my favorite part is just the eating and drinking. The jury's out. Either way, here's a look at a neat newcomer to the shelves at Siciliano's, and the dish that came to mind when I picked it up.

A few years ago, I learned how to make tomato-based pasta sauce from scratch (not technically marinara - the Italians say marinara must have seafood to qualify as such). It's rather simple, really. Saute half an onion (small) with a clove or two of garlic in olive oil; then add some fresh or canned tomatoes (diced), salt & pepper, oregano and basil. That's all you need when considered from a brass-tacks perspective. I like to throw some other spices, and sometimes veggies, into the pan. One of these is cayenne pepper. And this is where the pairing comes into play.

Takes about 20 minutes

When it comes to beer and national identities, Belgians are generally known for their yeast, Germans and Brits for their malt, and Americans for their hops. Everyone else falls somewhere idiosyncratically between. That's a lethargic summary, I know. But what is important here are the qualities that Belgian beers attain from their yeast. Namely, spiciness. When we consider Brewery Vivant's newly canned Triomphe Belgian Style IPA, we're looking at the yeast and hops.

Now available in cans at Siciliano's

Triomphe is a well-balanced IPA. The character derived from Belgian yeast paired with big hops is distinct. I've never tasted another quite like it. The spice qualities of my homemade pasta sauce and the spice character found in Triomphe make an intriguing pair. My favorite part, as mentioned above, is the cayenne pepper. While the cayenne produces a little heat in the mouth, the big hops of Triomphe are there to quench the sensation, so to speak. The other herbal and spicy elements of the brew do well to match the dish's flavors.

I've heard many different lines of thought on beer and food pairings. Honestly, I find the activity to be very subjective. It's a blast to explore, and you're bound to find something to like between any beer and any food. The possibilities are endless.

More odd-ball pairings to come.

Siciliano's staffer Alexander Atkin lives and writes in Grand Rapids, MI, where if not for the odd-ball we'd only have the weather-ball, which, come to think of it, is pretty odd itself.


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