Yesterday I tasted Bell’s Expedition Stout, a strong beer with mighty complex flavor, which, I found frustratingly this week, is difficult to pair.
On the simple end, I recommend drinking small portions of it with nutty cheeses as an apertif or for dessert. It’s a great beer to drink in concentrated quantities where you can focus on the flavors. I also recommend it, somewhat improbably, as an accompaniment to Mexican mole. Many of the flavors in the stout echo the flavors in mole. Only problem is, you probably won’t be able to finish a whole bottle with dinner. But I did this with Great Divide Hibernation Ale last year, and I wanted to come up with something new for this Friday Forks.
After much dessert experimentation (much of it failed, this is a finicky beer), I came up with a very simple, very elegant solution to a dessert pairing: A deconstructed White Russian.
A White Russian is the classic cocktail made with Kahlua, vodka and cream, served over ice. Often served as a nightcap, it is perfect to prepare you for bed. This version is better for a dinner party finish than a treat before brushing your teeth. Coffee is served hot, the beer room temperature and the ice cream cold; it’s an interesting variation on the iced classic, and one likely to keep you awake a few more hours while you do dishes.
Deconstructed White Russian
Ingredients (for 1)
1 oz Bell’s Expedition Stout
1 oz espresso
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
Dark chocolate shavings
Place 3 espresso cups on a serving platter with a demitasse spoon. Brew a single serving of espresso. Fill one espresso cup with Expedition Stout, and another with one scoop of ice cream. Chop or shave bits of dark chocolate and sprinkle over the ice cream. When espresso is ready, pour into third espresso cup. Serve immediately while coffee is hot.
The Expedition Stout is an extremely bitter beer, and the espresso acts as a fluid counterpoint to it. In fact, depending on how dark you brew your espresso, if you brew it a bit lighter, it softens the stout. If you brew it darker, it steals the stout’s bitter thunder. Either way, a sip of the beer and then a sip of the coffee will prepare your tongue to savor the creamy vanilla ice cream. It’s like jumping into a pool after baking in the sun for half an hour. Never have you been so grateful for vanilla. The chocolate shavings add just a touch of bitterness to the ice cream (to remind you of the sips yet to come).You may be wondering exactly where the vodka comes into this cocktail deconstruction. The way I pulled it apart, I confined the entire syrupy (from the Kahlua) and alcoholic (Kahlua and vodka) element in the beer. Nevertheless, a finger of vodka on the side would make an excellent addition.