Perfect pairing: Mole + imperial stout

Pairing food and wine has become quite popular over the past few decades. A truly fantastic pairing brings out distinct flavors and notes of the wine and the dish it is paired with.

More recently, pairing food with a complementary beer has started to emerge. This can perhaps be most often observed at microbreweries that also run their own restaurants. If you haven't tried beer outside of those mass produced at large commercial breweries, then this may not make much sense to you. In your mind, perhaps, beer is beer, stout is Guinness... The truth is a vast, wonderfully complex spectrum of flavors, rivaling that of your wine list, can be found with beer. And just as pairing food and wine brings out unexpected notes in both, so does pairing food and beer.

OK. Now that I have extolled the virtue of pairing beer with food, let me share the one I discovered last night at a local pub/restaurant. I decided to try their pork mole. If you're not familiar with it as it is found in the US, mole is a sauce made with dried chiles, nuts/seeds (ground), and chocolate. In the Americanized version, bittersweet chocolate is often used, but traditionally 'Mexican chocolate' goes into the dish. (Mexican chocolate is essentially ground cacao beans mixed with spices and a bit of sugar. It has a distinct texture and flavor when compared to European chocolate and seems to be the 'new' thing in specialty chocolates.) The ingredients in mole give it a rich, strong, spicy flavor. The restaurant I was at uses chipotle (a smoked, dried jalapeno) in its mole, which adds a nice smokey flavor. The beans served with the mole had that smokey, chipotle flavor, as well.

I paired the mole with Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout. This is classified as a Russian Imperial Stout, so it has little carbonation and a big flavor. The Brooklyn Chocolate Stout has a subtle chocolate flavor. I will confess that I'm not great at defining how 'hoppy' a beer is. Several reviews refer to the 'hoppy bitterness' in this beer, but it's a completely different flavor than hoppy bitterness in an ale. Pairing this rich, powerful beer with the rich mole actually created a nice balance that kept either from being overwhelming. Funny how that works...

* I couldn't resist putting up a picture of a mole chemist, especially with it being so close to Mole Day, because I am that much of a geek.

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