Clayton’s Corner~ A Favorite Food & Beer Pairing!

Over at the Clayton’s Corner headquarters, if I’m not drinking, talking, or making beer, I’m probably eating, talking, or making food. With food on the brain, this week I decided to talk about a great SanTan food and beer pairing.

For those unfamiliar with the SanTan brewpub in Chandler, we have a house specialty called Cochinita Pork Pibil. Native to the Yucatan, the dish has three main components: Pork (shoulder, or very traditionally, a whole roast pig), a citrus-spice marinade, usually with orange and achiote native to the Yucatan, and banana leaves for wrapping the pork in while it roasts. This them can be expanded upon; often other spices are used to complement the achiote, such as cinnamon, allspice, or clove, and various types of citrus can be used for the marinade. Traditionally, bitter Seville oranges are used. Often, pibil is served with pickled red onion.

The resulting flavor, as you can expect, is complex. The pork has been roasted long enough to be shreddable, and the balance of pungent, deep spices with the brighter citrus and pickled onion engage the whole palate. Now what beer would you enjoy it with?

I think one could go in two directions with pairing. At SanTan, we often recommend the pibil to go along with the HefeWeizen. Banana and clove, two major flavors which are produced by our particular hefeweizen yeast strain, are also present in the pibil. The delightful flavors of HefeWeizen are analagous to the delightful contrast of bright fruitiness with warming spice described in pibil. Additionally, the light wheatiness of HefeWeizen refreshes the palate and keeps the pibil from becoming too heavy.

I believe HopShock I.P.A. would also be a good pairing with the pibil, for a few reasons. The principal flavor in HopShock, provided by the hops, is a bitter citrus note, followed by subtle earthiness. While IPA may not contrast as well with the heaviness of the pibil, since in itself it is a heavier beer, the combination of earthiness with bitter citrus is also detected in the food.

The appropriateness of these two combinations underlies a basic and fascinating principle in beer and food pairing—the beer affects the flavor of the food as much as the food affects the flavor of the beer. In this way, trying the same dish with two different beers might show you different sides of the dish than you had previously imagined.

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