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Why IPA Beers Are A Mistake If You're Eating Spicy Food

IPA in glass
IPA in glass - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Knowing how to pair food with drinks is an important skill if you want to get the most out of a meal. While you can match any dish with any drink you want (the beverage police aren't going to show up at your house if you do the "wrong" thing), your goal should be finding a drink that balances the qualities of the food for a well-rounded flavor profile. This is especially true with beer, with its distinct, bitter, hoppy flavors requiring careful consideration in food pairings. Although there are all sorts of explainers out there about which type of beer you should match with which type of dish, one of the common recommendations is that particularly hoppy, bold IPAs (India Pale Ales) go great with spicy food.

However, science claims otherwise. Though a lot of people claim that they are great with Buffalo wings, for example, IPAs (or at least particularly strong ones) tend to bring out the bitter flavors in spicy food, creating a one-note flavor profile in which bitterness rules above all. Maybe that's your thing (and that's fine), but for anyone who wants a well-rounded flavor, it's not the best choice you can make.

Read more: 10 Of The Healthiest Beers You Can Drink

Capsaicin And Hops Amplify Each Other – Not In A Good Way

plate of buffalo wings
plate of buffalo wings - Smith Collection/gado/Getty Images

The thing to understand is that the perceived heat in spicy foods (capsaicin from peppers is the most common source) isn't technically a flavor; It's a pain response. The sensation from spicy food is quite literally your brain telling your mouth it currently contains something dangerous. Likewise, alcohol is an irritant, and when the two combine, they amplify the pain reaction, making spicy food taste spicier. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it's what a lot of people who love spicy food are looking for. However, it becomes a problem with IPAs, specifically.

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The issue here is that the high alpha acid content in hops (the element that gives hops their signature bitter flavor) and high levels of capsaicin found in spicy food amplify each other in more than one way. They don't just make food spicier: They also make bitterness more bitter, creating a feedback loop that turns your dinner into a one-note song.

Pairing Spicy Food With Beer Is All About Complementary Flavors

rice beer in mug
rice beer in mug - Kaiskynet Studio/Shutterstock

This isn't to say beer shouldn't be paired with spicy food at all, but rather that attempts to do so have to carefully consider the food in question. You want to pair like with like in most cases. Lighter beers, like pilsners and rice beers, have a fresh, crisp component that tends to pair extremely well with vibrant, light dishes featuring a lot of citrus, like tacos. However, heavier spicy foods call for heavier beers like amber ales or even porters because lighter beers likely won't stand up to the rich flavors involved.  Cream-based ales are a great choice for the same reason, as cream is often used to cut spice in many types of curry dishes such as butter chicken or saag. The two flavors serve to balance each other out.

You can even pair spicy food with IPAs — as long as you're careful about which ones you choose. Obviously, you'll want to stick to less hoppy varieties, but another good guideline is to look for fruit-based IPAs. The sugars in these will help counterbalance the bitterness the combo of hops and spice brings to the table.

Read the original article on Daily Meal