Thursday, October 31, 2013

Of Imperial Stouts and Cupcakes

Victory Storm King getting cozy with *ndulge's "Chocoholic"
The weather has turned decidedly colder in this neck of the woods, and that means one thing to dedicated beer geeks – time to bring out the big beers! With their higher alcohol content, and rich complex flavors, they are the prefect companions for long winter nights in front of the fireplace, or as an accompaniment for the opulence of a holiday meal. Barley wines, winter warmers, Belgian dubbels and tripels, are examples of big beers, as well as almost anything with the word imperial stuck to the front of it, and that includes our beer du jour, Victory Storm King, an imperial stout.

Storm King’s flavor profile includes characteristics typical of an imperial stout, including a complex roasted maltiness, along with dark chocolate and coffee.  Look for a suggestion of  licorice in both aroma and taste. Unlike most other versions of the style, however, Storm King is generously hopped. If you are hops-averse, take heart; the hops in Storm King do not present themselves like the hops in those American IPAs you’re always avoiding. Rather, they appear as a subtle floral component to the aroma, and more assertively in the flavor where they add a dryer finish to this typically sweet beer. My wife will tell you that she does not like hoppy beers, but she is a big fan of Storm King.< I think of imperial stout as dessert in a glass. With its deep chocolate-colored body and luscious tan head, the style resembles a dark chocolate cupcake with milk chocolate frosting poured into a glass. What more could one ask for?

The Chocoholic. Be sure to use a spoon.
And yet, there is always room for decadence. With that in mind, a few days ago my wife Donna, and I visited Manayunk’s *ndulge cupcake boutique, where decadence abounds in lavishly frosted Matterhorn-shaped concoctions such as Snickerdoodledoo, Lemonardo Da Vinci, and Coconut Scream. We would have happily given any of them a good home, but we were on a mission that day to find the perfect cupcake to pair with Storm King, and we were definitely thinking chocolate. *ndulge provided us with quite a few options, but we finally settled on The Chocoholic, which is comprised of chocolate cake, chocolate cream cheese frosting, whipped chocolate ganache filling, and a garnish of chocolate cake crumb. We figured that one would probably have enough chocolate in it.

That night we poured ourselves a glass of Storm King, broke out a couple of spoons, and attacked The Chocoholic. This was a perfect pairing. The slight bitterness of the cake was matched nicely by the coffee bite of the stout. The assertive sweetness of the ganache and frosting were balanced pleasantly by the beer’s dry finish. In turn, the complexity of flavors in the cupcake smoothed out the texture of the beer. Finding just the right combination when attempting to pair beer with food is always a fun challenge, but rarely as rewarding as this one.

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