Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Lupulin vs Scoville



This one bugs me: hops vs chilli heat. The go-to food and beer match for anything spicy is so often something super hoppy. But I think it's a terrible way to go: hops kick at the capsicum heat of chilli and rather than mellowing the mouthful, it sends it in incendiary new directions of flaming bitterness which leaves the tongue begging for you to stop. How can that be a good thing?

I don't want a bite of hot food to be followed by a crack of hop bitterness – they poke each other, make each other more intense, and then set of the pain and bitterness receptors which kicks in the get-the-hell-away flight mechanism. Instead of hops, what I want is something cooling and refreshing: a wheat beer, an oatmeal stout, a helles. Rather than trying to put the Scoville scorch out with more heat, these beers with their cool, rounded, smooth flavours are soothing and balancing.

I've never understood English IPA and curry and never got the idea of Mexican food with US IPA; they fight rather than play. There are, however, some good matches with heat and hops, but these rely on malt sweetness to balance and hop fragrance (instead of bitterness) to lift it: spiced Jerk chicken and IPA can be brilliant and Thai dishes with Pacific pale ales. These work as the flavours balance each other. Balance is key when it comes to getting food and beer matching right. There’s no balance is big hop bitterness and fiery chilli heat.

Does anyone actually think that really bitter, hopped-up beers work with very spicy, chilli-up foods? 

29 comments:

  1. I enjoy the heat boost, but am just as likely to go for a malts number. What I like from the hops+heat pairing is it can accentuate some of the Fruity chilli flavours, rather than just amplifying the heat.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love the heat and the hops but it all depends on my mood and the food I love a firey chilli con carne with IPA, lager and coffee stout.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Andy & Steve are right, I think hops and heat have their moment, but you have to be in the right mood. If I'm going for an IPA with spicy food I lean towards more malt (like a Kernel), if I just want to relax and mellow, then it's a wheat beer or a Pilsner for me...

    Would LOVE to try unfiltered unpasteurised Pilsner with some chilli or curry

    ReplyDelete
  4. Another vote for heat and hops here, I always follow a hot chilli or curry with an IPA and love the way they interact.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Steve - The fruity boost is good, I concede that, but only when you can taste it. It's needs hops but not a vicious IBU level.

    Andy - You would like them, but then the huge amount of both hops and chilli that you consume probably makes your tolerance level very high!

    Thatchers - I've never had that right mood! The only way I find it works is when the body on the beer is full and can soften the battle between the two. Kind of like a pillow fight in the mouth.

    Nathan - You are either crazy or I am a wimp. Perhaps both.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I read somewhere once that the compounds which give chillis their heat are not water soluble but they are soluble in fat and in alcohol. This is why hot dishes are often served with yoghurt dips or sour cream or guacamole, the fat helps to clear you tongue of the hot stuff. Also an alcoholic drink works much better than a soft drink. It would follow that beers with a higher ABV would work better at cleansing the palate. Is it because beers with higher ABV also tend to be hoppier the reason they are matched with hot food?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Got another vote for the hot and hoppy combination. Not all the time of course but every so often it just fits (and get the endorphins running).

    ReplyDelete
  8. Another fan of spicy foods and hoppy ales here, though I am a big fan of spicy foods to begin with anyway. I've had great experiences with a few combinations but one of my favourites has to be a hot Thai Red Curry and a good hoppy pale ale.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am a fan of spicy foods with hoppy beers, more so because the hoppy beers are often much more dry than their malty kin (in these parts). A really dry amber lager with spicy foods is awesome when good examples are available.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I like hoppy beers with Indian and Thai foods but not REALLY hoppy beers as that's just flavour overload, something like a Punk IPA or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale works really well for me. However with Mexican food, it's got to be served with a really well made Margarita!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yes! Love the fight between the bitterness and the heat.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm not into the heat vs bitterness battle.

    Give me a nice, cold Wheat Beer any day.

    Nate
    http://www.twitter.com/NateDawg27
    http://www.boozebeatsbites.com

    ReplyDelete
  13. 100% agree with you. Drinking 90 IBUs on top of a vindaloo is like rubbing salt into an open wound.

    For me, heat strips away your ability to taste flavours clearly. The hotter something is, the close your pint gets to tasting like bitter soda water.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mark makes a very good point that I'd like to expand upon.

      Fierce chilli heat does stop you tasting food clearly I believe, so taking that to its conclusion I can't see a point having a tasty pint with a ferocious curry. I'd much rather have a crisp, clean (boring) larger so help lubricate it.

      On the otherhand, when having a nicely balanced dish (where the heat doesn't overpower the spices or other ingredients) then a heavily hopped beer can bring something to the party, nicely complementing the curry/chilli/whatever .

      But as everyone has different tastes and can take different levels of heat, the point at which a hoppy beer may become unpleasant will differ.

      From my point of view:
      A jungle curry from a little place down Bournemouth way required(!) a very cold Asahi.
      But a home made vindaloo with 3-5 chillies (for 2) went really well with a BBF Southville hop

      Delete
    2. Peter - I'm with you on using hoppy food with less ferocious dishes. They can add a great aroma or body which can work very well. I guess it's the distinction between flavour and heat.

      Delete
  14. So I guess it might not be a good idea to mention beer made with Chilli in at this point....

    ReplyDelete
  15. Good to see the fightback for my side!

    All you people who like big hops and big chilli heat are nuts! I've never enjoyed it. Maybe my tongue is just too delicate.

    alan - That's interesting... Sweetness works as it cools things down. That's why a wheat beer or milk stout can work well.

    Adam - That sounds like using sandpaper on a nasty cut!

    T_i_B - Nah, I hate chilli beers! Why would you want to drink something hot?! Saying that, I have had some very good beers with chilli in but they give fruitiness instead of heat or just a tickle of warmth.

    High five Nate and Mark! We should go for a blisteringly hot curry and take our wheat beers with us while all those other suckers drink their silly IPAs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only Chilli beer I've ever liked has been Mikkeler Texas Ranger. All the others I've tried without exception have been undrinkable.

      Delete
  16. I'm a chilli head and hop head. I treat them like a man would treat his wife and mistress - amazing on their own but never should they both meet!

    With a curry I'm quite happy with a pint of very cold Kingfisher - lager is reserved for curries and kebabs for me! I'd probably still do the same if I ate a milder curry to cleanse the pallet. Then finish the meal off with a nice double IPA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tim - I love that analogy!

      Delete
    2. Hah - my fiancé doesn't!!

      Delete
  17. I think IBUs are a very false measure in terms of actual palate perception; it all depends on the balance of the beer.

    For example, Stone IPA is a big beer, it has a lot of hop character, but it's also underpinned by a decent base of caramel from the malt. However, a massive West Coast IPA like Sculpin would indeed fight with something hot, you would get hop burn on top of chilli heat.

    As for English IPAs, I think it can go with spicy food well but you need to look to a more 'true to style' type like Meantime, again for that balance in character, the hop bomb New World homages are often very predicated on a thinner body from the malt, relying on carbonation and alcohol level to provide mouth feel, and then aggressively showcasing the hops.

    I really do think that it's all about balancing your beer and your food wisely, which I will admit can be a damn tricky act to get right!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I think IBUs are a very false measure in terms of actual palate perception; it all depends on the balance of the beer."

      I don't think they're a VERY false measure, but I do agree with what you're saying. It's IBUs in the context of malt sweetness and everything else going on within the beer that's important.

      Maybe I should've said "Drinking [a percieved] 90 IBUs on top of a vindaloo" ... :P. You know what I mean.

      Delete
    2. Sorry to say you can't drink a perceived 90 IBU. it either is or is not (and diminishes when older), however you could drink a beer with a higher or lower perceived bitterness than stated, that part depends on the balance within in the beer and the persons ability and sensitivity on tasting....

      Delete
  18. One of my favourite combos - a nice fruity IPA and chili cheese.
    Innovation + Extra Hot Mexicana

    ReplyDelete
  19. I do, but I'm still going to tease you that you can't perceive 90IBUs though - MWAH, HA, HA!!! Enjoy Leeds, at least you won't have to put up with me!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Mark, good call! How about next Friday?

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm not really a good drinker, and I don't drink a lot. But the idea of eating spicy foods while drinking? Oh, I don't think I can ever bare that!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Tex Mex Chilli with Stout. Nuff said.

    ReplyDelete