Pairing Notes: Stout & Mash

Food and wine pairing have a long history of examination, but beer pairing is a relatively new field of study. The Brewer’s Association is actively working to develop a lexicon to use in analysis, and some culinary schools and chef-professors are already designing curriculums in their programs to involve beer as well as spirit pairings courses. It’s a daunting process, however, and one that isn’t all that similar to wine pairing theory. Beer has potentially hundreds of flavor components, and furthermore certain people are more and less sensitive to some of those flavors by nature. My aim in these forthcoming short articles is to examine some classic (and not so classic) beer and food pairings and pinpoint just a few reasons why they work. As always, personal taste differs, so follow your tongue!

stout and mash

Today I’m taking a look at a classic winter combination: stout and potatoes. For this I chose a dry, Irish-style stout with a silky mouthfeel, a decent roasted malt character and moderately low hop bitterness. Stout and potatoes in many incarnations are friends, but I particularly think a creamy mashed potato dish (especially with a touch of buttermilk or sour cream and some rich Irish butter) is a winner. March approaches and, green beer aside, I know some out there are St. Patrick’s Day enthusiasts out there. If not, it’s a great excuse to have some good beer and hearty, fulfilling food. But before you fill your belly, let’s break it down a bit.

Three Reasons Why This Pairing Works

1. Both are smooth. A dry stout (and especially one on nitro) has a velvety smooth feel on the palate. A decent bowl of mashed potatoes is also creamy and supple on the tongue. In this case, they go together because they are similar. Like with like.

2. And then, the differences: a well-attenuated, not sweet dry stout cuts the richness and dairy sweetness of the mash. This leaves you able to take many bites in sequence while drinking without getting “taste fatigue.”

3. Earthiness. Dry stouts usually have a nice level of minerality and earthiness, much of which comes from brewing water sources are high in minerals. Breweries with a different water profile will often adjust their water for brewing stouts to achieve a similar quality. Potatoes also have an earthiness as root vegetables (or you might call it terroir). So the two products act a complements to each other, both bringing you a sense of connection to where they came from.

Craft dry stout recommendations: North Coast Old # 38, Victory Brewing Donnybrook Stout, Boulevard Brewing’s Dry Stout.

What’s your favorite beer to drink alongside mashed potatoes? Leave me a note in the comments!

Categories: Pairing Notes, Uncategorized

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