I don’t know what my obsession has been with waffles, as of late. Barleywine obsessions are understandable, well, any beer obsession really. I was struck with an idea while drinking another barleywine one night. The dark fruit and caramel notes got me thinking; why not pair it with something similar?
I began by tossing butter, brown sugar, bourbon, maple syrup, cinnamon, and a heap of dried fruits (apples, pears, dates, figs, and apricots) together and let simmer until the fruits were nice and plump again and the sauce had thickened considerably. This combination was a bit too cloyingly sweet, so to cut through that, I added some balsamic vinegar.
While that was simmering and doing it’s delicious reconstitution, I set up to make the waffles. Just usual waffle batter, but with a bit of almond extract, salt and cinnamon added, and the final touch, crushed up chocolate almond biscotti. Nothing too special here.
Now, there are a few reasons I decided to pair this with a 2012 Bigfoot. One, it has those classic barleywine style features; deep, sweet caramel malts, toffee and sugar cane. However, if this was all it had to offer, the pairing would become, once again, far too cloying in terms of sweetness. Which brings me to my second reason; the hop profile. This is a fantastic beer simply because of how balanced they’ve made it. There is a hop bitterness to it that helps cut through the sweetness and lightens the palate, where as typical barleywines sit a bit heavy on the tongue. Thirdly, once again involving the hops, the citrus flavor given off by the hops would go very well with the underlying citrus flavors of the fruits.
Now finally, onto the tasting….
The waffles themselves had a very nice crunch from the biscotti. It gave the dish some texture that would have been lacking without. This is something else sommeliers should take into consideration with food and beer pairings; it gives the taste and the effect on the palate a different twist and makes it much more enjoyable. The fruit topping was very sticky sweet. All of the ingredients were present, but they all melded nicely together. The bourbon and maple syrups seemed to be intertwined, the balsamic vinegar, though placed to break up the sweetness, played very well and seemed to be very helpful. The fruits themselves seemed to take on the essence of the sauce, while still keeping their citrusy, fruity flavor. A sip of the Bigfoot along with the waffles brought out some unexpected, but very pleasant notes. The nutty, almondy taste that had been subdued by the topping was brought out and sat well on the middle of the tongue. The bittering hops helped clear the palate so that the next bite would be a different experience. The chocolate, which was also subdued, came out nicely, but only for a brief moment. The sweetness and caramel malt of the Bigfoot really played well with the waffles; both had the same sweet profiles. All in all, a very successful pairing. Though this was a VERY heavy meal, the pairing of the two kept me wanting to try it again and again, as it was an ever-changing, and delicious, marriage.