“Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt.”
—Ishmael; Moby Dick
Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione, being the literary nerd that he is, worked with a Delaware clam harvester to recreate the clam chowder found in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Calagione took some liberties with the recipe, and assumed that Melville left out IPA when writing up the recipe. Thus, Dogfish Head’s Hard Tack Chowder was born; made with 60 Minute IPA! I procured a can of said chowder (“chowdah” for those of you in the northeast) and went to work following the simple directions on label.
Despite already containing 60 Minute IPA in the ingredients, a few ounces of brown ale is to be added as well, along with quite a bit of half-and-half (the can is heavily condensed). For pairing recommendations, Dogfish Head suggested either Indian Brown Ale, or 90 Minute IPA. I grabbed a bottle of each and added some of the Indian Brown Ale to the chowder.
Once the chowder was complete, I tried it out with both 90 Minute IPA, and Indian Brown Ale to see which would pair better (I never read Moby Dick, so I can only assume that Ishmael had two beers in hand while eating this). It should be noted, that it is completely impossible to take a flattering photo of claim chowder.
The malty flavors of the Indian Brown Ale were present in the chowder, giving it a bit of contrast from the sweet pieces of pork and clam meat. The texture is thick and creamy, with a chunky consistency from the meat and potatoes within the ingredients. Given that the chowder was made with Indian Brown Ale, that beer was the clear winner in pairing option. The beer itself has a sweet roast aroma, filled with cocoa and coffee sweetness, along with some graininess. The beer matches in flavor with the roasted bitterness that it imparted in the chowder during the cooking process, and imparts a perfect counterbalance to the sweet, creamy flavors in the chowder. This is a very well rounded and balanced pairing.
I love 90 Minute IPA. It has a big citrusy aroma filled with grapefruit and lemon zest. It has a higher alcohol content than Indian Brown Ale, so the body is a little heavier and there’s additional residual sweetness. This added sweetness does match the sweetness in the chowder, however the citrusy hops clash quite a bit with the creamy fatty flavors. Perhaps if I didn’t have the Indian Brown Ale to provide such a perfect pairing, the 90 Minute IPA pairing wouldn’t have seemed as off.
All in all, a great meal. I think the last time that I had clam chowder was probably close to 20 years ago, so I can’t say that I really remember what normal clam chowder tastes like. I did really like the addition of a malty beer in preparation (though, I wouldn’t be able to tell that it also already had 60 Minute IPA in the ingredients). I really wish though that I would’ve had the chance to try this with whale meat added in the chowder though, which is what I can only assume what Ishmael was hoping to do once he caught that damn whale.
You can find Hard Tack Chowder at Dogfish Head’s website here.