I’m typically not a fan of red ales. I find them filled with too much caramel and far too sweet. If it isn’t obvious yet, I prefer my beers to be either on the bitter or sour side of the taste spectrum. But something about this beer stood out to me. I think it was the big red crab. It reminded me of the fish market back home in Seattle.
In deciding what to make for dinner to pair with this beer, I was suddenly in the mood for fish. Anticipating the sweetness of the beer, I opted for an intensely salty fish, anchovies. Pizza is, of course, the best delivery method for anchovies, and I decided to add some mushrooms to try to tone down the saltiness a bit, and add some earthiness to the pizza. If you’ve never had anchovies before, it basically just tastes like concentrated ocean water.
What I found in the beer, was something incredible, unlike any red ale I have had before. The aroma was indeed filled with caramel, but only lightly sweet. There was an earthy hop aroma accompanying the sweetness, but this beer has a mostly clean aroma. This medium bodied beer was intensely malty, but not cloyingly sweet like most red ales. In fact, it wasn’t sweet at all. The bready malts were paired with a moderate hop bitterness. The bitterness is piney and resinous, and the beer finishes with a light alcoholic warmth.
The pizza smelled like seafood. Or like walking down the pier, past the Ivar’s in Seattle. The pizza was richly salty, but lightly balanced by the sweet tomato sauce. I say only “lightly balanced” because this pizza really is incredibly salty. Thankfully, the clean bitterness in this beer contrasts the salty pizza and cleanses the palate so well, that all that’s left is the bready crust, and sweet tomato sauce, with a little salty finish. The interplay between salty, and bitter was delicious. With each salty bite, you’re searching for something to wash it away. With every bitter, malty drink, your reaching for more of the lingering sweetness from the pizza.
This food pairing isn’t for everyone. Anchovies are not for the faint of heart. I would, however, recommend this beer for everyone. All the great things about red ales, namely the rich, bready malts, without the sweetness. If you’re not planning on eating anchovy pizza, this beer would be right at home with something bready and cheesy.