Chapter 5: Palate Trips from Beer Pairing; The Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros, Julia Herz and Gwen Conley

Since the beginning of the year I have read and written reviews for about a dozen beer books. In many of these books are recipes and exercises the reader can utilize to reinforce lessons taught in the book. Last week I wrote a review of Beer Parings by Julia Herz and Gwen Conley, now I want to actually try some of the exercises the book lays out. The first is to do what Julia and Gwen call a “Palate Trip” According to them it is a “way of trying different foods with different beers with thoughts and intentions behind the experience.” For my first exercise I will take Palate Trip #5: Nice and Easy on page 96. Right off the bat I decided to give my palate trip a Japanese flair by choosing only Japanese Craft Beers. I selected beers from four breweries and tried to match them to the book as close as possible. Currently it is well out of season for an Oktoberfest. I ended up finding an Amber Ale to substitute for this style.

Below I listed the book’s recommendation first and then what I used for my palate trip.

  • Raspberry Jam / Polaner, All Fruit Spreadable Fruit Seedless Raspberry
  • German-style Hefeweizen / Chatan Beer, Weizen
  • Key lime (fudge, cookie, or pie) / Edwards, Key Lime Pie
  • American India Pale Ale / Okinawa Sango Beer, Nanto Brewery, Double Up IPA
  • Aged Cheddar / Cracker Barrel, Extra Sharp Yellow
  • American Imperial Stout / Minoh Beer, Stout
  • Dark Covered Pecans / Ritter Sport, Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts
  • German style Màrzen or Oktoberfest / Baird Beer, Red Rose Amber Ale

I first expected that I would give a description of the food and the beer where I would focus on the style elements. This would be similar to how my beer tasting post have been written. I quickly realized that the value of this test is not focusing on the food or beer individually but rather how these two played complimented and contrasted each other.

There is a heavy sweetness with a slight tartness of the fruit in the jelly. The clove of the Hefeweizen cuts into the sweetness of the raspberry jelly. Smooth transition from hefe into keylime pie. The keylime pie to IPA was the biggest “wow” moment. The tart and sweet flavors of the pie are sharply cut by the bitterness of the IPA. The pie flavors bring out the piney flavors of the IPA. The sharp cheddar seemed to dull the bitterness of the IPA but also left a mouth coating feeling from the cheese. The transition to the Stout gave the impression of a cheeseburger flavor. The cheddar cheese and umami flavors from the stout gave those taste sensations. Going from the Stout to the chocolate covered hazelnuts delivered a sensation of continuation of flavors. Neither highlighted specific flavors from either the chocolate or stout. Going from the bitterness of the dark chocolate to the Amber beer made the malt sweetness really stand out in the beer.

After I went around the plate twice I started to jump a bit. I tried the IPA with the Chocolate. The bitterness of the IPA canceled out the bitterness of the dark chocolate and highlighted the sweetness of the chocolate. The raspberry jam was a nice complimenting flavor to the stout. Tasting the Stout then trying raspberry jam causes the roasted smokiness of the stout to come out stronger in the flavor. The Amber with cheese was not good at all there were too many conflicting contrasting flavors. The stout just overpowers the key lime pie like a steamroller. The Hefeweizen with dark chocolate is up to user discretion. I thought it gave a pleasant flavor. My wife through it was just a weird flavor combination. The Hefeweizen and cheese served as palet cleansers for each other. The beer cleared the mouthfeel of the cheese and the hefeweizen cut into the mouth coating effect of the lactose in the cheese. I could enjoy a plate of sharp cheddar and a pint of Hefeweizen at the bar.

I would not do this by myself again. The cost was extremely high for a single individual. The beers alone were over twenty dollars and the food was another twenty dollars. Forty dollars to test flavors is a bit much for me. Because the tasting only needed a small amount of beer and food, you could host several people with just four 12 oz beers and the food sizes I used for this tasting. The host could share with two other individuals using 4 oz tasters of beer or six total tasters with 2 oz taster pours. My favorite pairing of this palate trip was the IPA and Key Lime Pie. The most unique flavor was the stout and the sharp cheddar. This gave a flavor of a hamburger which was completely unexpected. Over all I enjoyed the experience. I will definitely do this with more people to make it more cost effective but I can see my tasting experience expand by continuing to preform these palate trips.

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