Welcome to a week in beer. This week, I’ll have Q&A interviews and articles about some beer events happening this week and next. I’ll also write about a few stores with impressive beer selections you may not know about. In unrelated beer news, I’ll have an update for readers on what’s happening with The Cliff House.
Today’s offering: cake and beer.
It sounds so wrong at first – eating cake with your beer. But for Tiffany Adamowski of 99 Bottles beer store in Federal Way, pairing cake with beer tastes just right. Or at least it makes culinary sense to a beer connoisseur like Adamowski. It takes an educated palate to appreciate pastries with beer.
Adamowski, who owns 99 Bottles with husband Craig, loves cake and beer together so much, she makes pairing the two together an annual event to celebrate the anniversary of 99 Bottles. This year, she’ll host the beer-cake pairing at the 99 Bottles Beerthday Bash, from 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Federal Way store.
In past years, the bash has paired vanilla cake with chocolate beers, and chocolate cake with coffee beer. This year, the carrot cake – made by Corina Bakery in Tacoma – will be paired with a wheat beer, porter and IPA. Here is a Q&A with Adamowski about cake and beer:
Q: Why carrot cake this year?
A: I love a good carrot cake. And by “good” I mean “a traditional cake with delicate fine grated carrots, pecans, and cream cheese frosting.” It can’t have fillers like raisins or pineapple, turning it into a “fruit cake.” No fruit cakes here!! Having met the needs of the masses the last two years by serving vanilla cake in 2007 and chocolate cake in 2008, I decided this year would be my year for carrot cake!
As for pairing beer with carrot cake, there’s one obvious choice: the India pale ale (IPA). However, not everyone is into those hoppy beers so I had to search out additional styles that would pair well with both the carrot cake and its rich creamy frosting. This was a bit of a challenge, but a challenge I was happy to take on. After all, tasting beer and cake isn’t such a rough job.
Q: What beers will you pair with the carrot cake, and can you give TNT Diner readers tasting notes for each beer?
Witbier: The witbier style seemed an obvious choice for pairing with carrot cake. After all, my mom always used to make picnic salads using shredded carrots and mandarin oranges … and witbiers are naturally citrus on the palate due to their ingredients of wheat, coriander, and the peels of sweet and bitter oranges. After sampling several wits with carrot cake, I settled on White Rascal Belgian Wheat from Avery Brewing of Colorado. When drank alone, this wit is slightly tart, but when paired with cake, the tartness disappears and the light malt sweetness and dry-ish yeasty finish pairs well with the carrot cake. It’s also carbonated just enough to cleanse the palate between bites.
Porter: I knew I wanted something malty, but didn’t want to go easy by choosing a coffee beer. For the second beer, we sampled both porters and stouts (tasting is such a hard job!) and ended up selecting a local beer: Snoqualmie Steam Train Porter. Though the beer comes on a bit robust when cold, if allowed to warm up to about 48-50°F the flavors start shining through: Bittersweet goodness of coffee and cocoa. The rich flavors of the beer stand on their own against the rich flavors of the cake, giving a nice contrast.
IPA: The gold standard dessert for the India pale ale (IPA) style of beer is carrot cake. I actually had the opportunity to test this out in Dish’n Beer sessions last year using grocery store purchased carrot cake and a local IPA called Wildcat. However, for our third anniversary, I wanted to go a bit more citrus on the palate so chose a beer that’s new to our state and is deserving of attention: Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA. This beer is a total citrus bomb! The brewer’s abundant hopping gives it flavors of tangerine, grapefruit, orange, and pineapple. Its malts are delicate like honey-drizzled brown sugar, but those hops give a pleasant lingering bitterness on the tongue. Union Jack also scores “Excellent” on BeerAdvocate.com
Q: What are the best cakes to eat with beer, in your opinion. Are there any cake-beer pairings that simply would NOT work?
A: For me, the easiest cakes to pair with beer are white or chocolate cakes. Their flavors are straightforward, which makes it easy to select beers that have complementary flavors. Obvious choices are coffee stouts or porters, hazelnut brown ale, and cherry or raspberry lambics.
Other cakes on my list to try pairings with are:
** Lemon cake with witbiers, American hefeweizens, American pale wheat ales, or Berliner weisse
** Flourless chocolate cake with imperial stouts
** Banana cake with nut brown ales, German hefeweizens, or chocolate stouts
** Pumpkin spice cake with pumpkin ales (fall seasonal)
As for any cake-beer combos that won’t work, I’m convinced there’s a beer out there for every cake. Though some may require extensive sampling. (Did I mention I love baked goods and beer?)
The main rule to remember when pairing beer with food is: “Pair lighter beers with delicate foods, and heavier beers with heartier foods.” The color of beer has nothing to do with pairing. When pairing beer with food, a good approach is to use the 3-Cs: “cut, complement, and contrast.”
For an overview of the 3-Cs, check out: http://www.sallybernstein.com/beverages/beer/beer_with_food.htm
Third annual Beer and Cake Pairing at 99 Bottles
Where: 99 Bottles, 35002 Pacific Hwy S.; Federal Way
When: 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Jan. 20
Cost: $1 to sample beer and cake. 21 years and older only. ID Required.
Info: 253-838-2558; www.99bottles.net
Read more: The second annual beer-cake pairing at 99 Bottles here.