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One of my Christmas gifts I received was a 4-pack of Old Rasputin Imperial Stout. What are the ideal food pairings for a stout like this?

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closed as off topic by Denny Conn Sep 14 '11 at 1:58

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Allow me to step in as the residential "semi" expert at food & beer pairings.

This is how I break down ideal pairings:

  1. BODY: Pair like with like -- as with food & wine. THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS, naturally. But for the most part, this is a solid rule. What does this mean? Lighter dishes (such as salads, fresh seafood, fruits & veggies, light broth soups, etc...) pair best with beers of lighter body, mouthfeel and ABV. Bolder, heavier and more viscous beers can overwhelm light foods. And then visa versa. Heavier malty beers with higher original gravity tend to hold up next to fatty dishes, fried foods & creamy sauces -- where lighter beers become weak in comparison.

THE MAJOR EXCEPTION with this rule is: HOT & HOT. AVOID pairing "hot" foods (aka spicy foods) with "hot" beers (aka high alcohol/wood aged beers) ... heat only intensifies heat.

  1. TASTE: This is where things get a bit tricky. Essentially, when it comes to beer, there are four "main" tastes: sweet, salt, sour, bitter. When it comes to food, researchers argue the existence of a 4th taste: umami -- aka savoriness. But for the sake of this posting, we will ignore umami.

Pair according taste AFTER you decide upon the body of either the food or beer on which you will make the pairing based. Then pair according to taste.

Pairing according to taste happens in one of two ways: 1. complementary pairing 2. contrasting pairing.

What does this mean? 1. Complimentary pairing = both the beer and the food have the same taste, which increases the experience of both tastes. Example: Raspberry lambic fruit beer paired with a berry dessert. Both are light in body and have sweet fruit flavors with hints of acidity and tartness. 2. Contrasting pairing = the beer and the food have posses different tastes, which increases the experience of both tastes -- one either "cuts" the other and helps balance it out OR one helps to heighten the flavor of the other.

Not all tastes can be contrasted against each other, mind you. Salty-sweet = good. Sweet-bitter = good. Sweet-sour = good. Salty-bitter = depends on pairing, but usually not ideal. Bitter-sour = not ideal.

Okay, let us elaborate a tad on contrasting flavors.

Sweet and bitter is a great example. Think about the use of coffee in desserts such as tiramasu. The bitterness of the coffee helps to "cut" the sweetness of the dessert. Without the coffee, the dessert would be extremely sweet. The espresso lightens the sweetness and gives the dessert more dimension by adding another layer of taste.


Now having said all this, let us take a look at your question: "One of my Christmas gifts I received was a 4-pack of Old Rasputin Imperial Stout. What are the ideal food pairings for a stout like this?"

Old Rasputin = Russian Imperial Stout -- High abv% (9), thick, rich, viscous body. Taste is bitter and sweet. (Flavors: roasted malt, dark malts, coffee, molasses)

  1. Body. The body of OR is intense and needs something of equal body to stand up to it. Bigger bodied beers pair nicely with a steak with a cream sauce, chicken marsala, creamy cheese dishes such as macaroni and cheese, cream based desserts, custards.
  2. Taste. In OR we get two major tastes: sweet & bitter. The question here is, do we contrast or compliment tastes? In my opinion, the easiest pairing is to compliment. Sweet & bitter with sweet & bitter.


*Tiramasu -- compliments the beer because it is a "heavier" dessert (creamy custard) and has a similar taste profile (bitter & sweet) *Coffee Ice Cream Float with Old Rasputin -- this is an excellent example of how to turn beer into a dessert. Both are creamy, sweet & bitter. Excellent match for eachother. *Cheesecake -- Cheesecake is a great example of a dessert worthy of an Imperial Stout. It is rich, thick and sweet.

Say you are not into pairing your beer with a dessert. You can to bring it to the dinner table?

Beer and cheese are a fantastic pairing -- across the board. Yet, making the perfect pairing takes a little practice and focus. Not every beer can pair with every cheese.

Imperial Stouts tend to pair very well with crumbly/blue-veined cheeses such as feta, stilton, gorgonzola.

Okay, now that we have that piece of information we can try to create a dish around this pairing.

Sorry to all the vegetarians, but I have to go straight to beef. We have two options here: 1. poor man's meal or 2. more "upscale" meal.

Let us start with the high-end option. I would cut straight to a steak -- whatever cut you prefer most, with nice marbling. I would grill or pan-sear the steak. Nothing more than med-rare. Top with a creamy blue cheese sauce -- or just blue cheese crumbles. NOW. I don't want to stop here. In order to really give POW to the dish and help bring out the sweetness of the beer -- I want to add a "sweet" component to the dish. In my head, I envision a port-cherry reduction sauce. Pair the dish with some rosemary roasted potatoes and sauteed spinach.

As for the "poor man's" version, I would go straight for a burger. Same idea, fatty meat grilled no more than med-rare. Top with either blue cheese crumbles or cream sauce. In this situation, I would incorporate sweetness into the dish by adding balsamic caramelized onions to the burger. As for a "sauce" -- I would steer far away from mustard & ketchup. A butter grilled bun would suffice, but if a sauce is needed -- I would make a 1/2 and BBQ- 1/2 mayo blend. Adds just a tinge of sweetness and creaminess without being to over-bearing.

Okay. That is all I have for now. More food & beer pairing lessons to come!


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Old Raspy goes great with chocolates. I have heard of brownie recipe's that use Imp Stouts

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I was gonna say something chocolate-related as well.

That, or a fine cut of steak (I'd go with filet, personally), if you're looking for an entree.

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