Hops vs. Hot Wings

7 Apr

No wine can stand up to really hot food, but an IPA can. In my opinion, hot Thai and an IPA is one of the best alcohol/food pairings – period. Tonight, Miranda wanted wings from Fire on the Mountain. Now if she hadn’t been in computer hell all afternoon, my wife wanting wings is a sure sign of a stroke. Or maybe its a cicada-like craving for her: one every seven years. Anyway, I jumped at the chance to get wings and test out another IPA-hot food pairing. Of course, with this opportunity, I picked up some IPAs I had never had before.

The Matchups
Left Coast’s Hop Juice Double IPA vs. 9 Cilantro Lime Buffalo Wings
Eel River’s Earth Thirst Double IPA vs. 9 Extra-Hot Hot Wings

These two made the cut, as they were the only two Double IPAs at Bridgetown Beerhouse (our neighborhood bottle shop) that were new to me.

Left Coast’s Hop Juice Double IPA vs. 9 Cilantro Lime Buffalo Wings: this is a big beer at 9.7% and with “massive IBUs.” It poured without much head at all. The nose had a really strong hop resin aroma, thick and sweet, which was awesome. The carbonation was very low as well, but there was so much hop this wasn’t a problem. The flavor was of strong grapefruit hop upfront that faded to a very unique honeydew flavor. On first taste this struck me as odd, but that quickly faded to “damn, I like this beer.” There is a slight sweetness to this beer that would put off some, but in a beer this big, with this much alcohol and hop, it was just right to me.

Now, how does it pair with the wings? First, the cilantro buffalo wings are spicy, but I would not call them hot. The cilantro is a very nice touch. I think it is my favorite sauce at Fire on the Mountain. The pairing was nice, but this may be too much beer for this wing. The beer does obliterate any of the wing’s spiciness on my tongue. I think this is okay, but a more modest IPA may be better, like Blue Dot or C-Note, just to mention my favorites (funny how these once considered uber-hoppy IPAs are more of a “moderate” IPA these days). Overall, the wings were excellent, the beer was excellent, but the pairing was only okay. Not that I am complaining after a 50+ workweek. I am enjoying myself, but the random pairing of the Hop Juice and cilantro buffalo wing didn’t reach the level of “holy shit I gotta eat that again” that I was hoping for.

Eel River’s Earth Thirst  Double IPA vs. 9 Extra-Hot Hot Wings:  As I finish the first beer, I pull the extra hot wings close, and immediately the vinegar hotness slightly burns my nose. This is going to be good.  The beer for this pairing is Eel River’s Earth Thirst.  This is 8.2% ABV and the IBUs are not listed.  The beer has a nice long lasting head, and a straight bitterness.  I would guess they used more English hops than American.  Unlike the cloudy Hop Juice, this beer pours clear and bright.  The taste is also bright, and delicious, with a crisp dry finish.  Something I think is a bit rare among double IPAs.  I don’t perceive any unique standout flavors, just a re-imagined English IPA with a lot more heft.  Earth Thirst is a great IPA, especially for those of you who don’t like a big IPA with a heavy body and that residual, sweet hoppy resinousness.

Now, how does it pair with the wings? I am now thinking I may have paired these beers and wings backward, big as this beer is, will it hold up to the extra-hot hot wings?  First, the extra-hot wings are much hotter than the cilantro wings but not nearly as hot as Fire on the Mountain’s El Jefe.  But, let’s see…This is the exact pairing I was looking for tonight!  Either beer would have been excellent, but the alcohol and bitterness of Earth Thirst cools my tongue and pushes the hotness aside for a few minutes.  All that I tasted in the beer previously shines through the heat, without completely over powering the flavor of the wings.  This is definitely what I was hoping for when I decided to pair a double IPA with the wings. I am not sure if it is the endorphins kicking in from the capsaicin, or the quart of strong beer I just had (for now probably the endorphins as I am still writing), but this is hitting the spot and I am feeling good.  This is exactly what I meant when I said IPAs are the best pairings for hot food.

The Aftermath


Both of these beers I will drink again but if I were to pair them again, I would definitely choose the extra-hot wings.  Tonight the winner of Hops vs. Hot Wings was…without a doubt…………me!  The alcohol is starting to catch up with me, as I am slightly drunk, my belly has the wonderful warm sensation I always get after eating hot food, and I still have the rest of the weekend to look forward to.

Cheers!

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