One of the benefits of having a Swedish friend is that I get spoiled with delicious, authentic Swedish Meatballs. Being of Swedish descent myself, I am naturally a big fan of this dish, and, after this experience, I know that I should be eating it a lot more.
Pairing Date: January 26, 2015
Media Pairing: Self-titled album by Hozier (if you have only heard “Take me to Church,” do yourself a favor and check this album out)
Beer Primers: Alpine Ale is an American pale ale (I would argue amber ale) from the notorious and elusive Alpine Brewery set in the mountains of East County, San Diego. While this is not one of the West Coast hop bombs that put them on the craft beer map, it is nothing to overlook. On the maltier side, this one sports notes of toast, a bit of citrus, and a hint of caramel.
Duvel, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, is a classic among Belgian beers. Light in body but strong in alcohol, this one is very approachable for an 8.5 percenter. Notes of bread and banana shine through, with a touch of mixed spices – predominantly clove.
We will start with the Alpine Ale pairing. There was just something missing here. The beer did not clash with the dish as much as it just lacked the bold flavor that the dish calls for. While this is a good beer, it fell flat with the Swedish Meatballs I think because of the sauce. With so much flavor and a good deal of sweetness, this sauce, along with the meatballs, call for something equally as bold. I wanted to try an IPA with the meatballs, but there were none available (wasn’t at my house, otherwise this would not have been an issue).
Onto the Duvel, we have a much more suitable pairing here. With its flavors of fruit and spice and a healthy dose of sweetness, this one stood up to the flavor of the Swedish meatballs much better. While the meatballs dried out the flavor of the Duvel with their sweetish (haha) sauce, it still has enough flavor and sweetness of its own to hang. The best melding of flavors I observed comes from the banana of the beer with both the sauce on the meatballs and the jam.
My Swedish friend Natasha (really, she’s Polish, but grew up in Sweden) really made an authentic dish here, as she served it with cloudberry jam, which is a delicious and fairly common accompaniment to this dish in Sweden. We ended up mixing the jam and the mashed potatoes, then dipping the meatballs in the mixture. Wow, what a blend of flavor. Then, when you pair this with the Duvel, it is a beautiful confluence of several different types of flavor. Now go and try it for yourself. Skål!
The Verdict: 4/5
Other Suggested Pairing: American IPA (make it a maltier one, such as a Dogfish Head 90 Minute or Sierra Nevada Celebration)
You can find more of Mitch’s beer and food pairing adventures on his blog When Beer Met Food and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram