India Pale Ale (IPA) is currently and has been for several years now, my favorite style of fermented malt and hop beverage.  I love the bitterness of the hops.  We have some hop plants in one of our gardens and it is fun to use the hop flowers occasionally as a garnish, sprinkling a light pinch of the delicate bitter leaves to soften the sweetness of a dish, such as in my Venison and Sweet Potato Stew.

Luckily for me, I live in a place where not only do lots of other folks love IPA’s, but also lots of really wonderful, creative brewers love to create them.  If you love IPA’s too and have never tried Madison’s own “Fantasy Factory” from Karben4 Brewery – featuring a bandana-wearing, gun-toting cat riding a flame-snorting unicorn on the label – you really need to get ahold of some.  (If you’re in Wisconsin, you can use Karben4’s BeerFinder to locate an establishment serving FF nearby!)  I also recommend Ale Asylum’s Hopalicious.  And my current favorite: Hop Whoopin’ from O’so Brewing Company in Plover, WI.

The origins of IPA’s go back to England, notably the Bow Brewery on the Middlesex-Essex border (according to Wikipedia).  I always thought that the beer was brewed specifically to withstand the shipping from England to India.  It turns out that IPA’s did travel exceptionally well, as hops have an antibacterial effect that makes hoppy beers less prone to spoilage.  But the real reason for its gain in popularity was the liberal 18-month line-of-credit the brewery gave to its customers.  Give them beer and they will drink it.  Give them time to pay for it, they will figure out a way to pay so they can buy more.

I always include an IPA when I do a Beer Dinner Adult Cooking Class.  IPA’s go well with Mexican food, Indian food and fried foods, as well as sweet desserts.  A nice bitter IPA pairs well with a sweet carrot cake for dessert for obvious reasons, especially with Grilled Rabbit as a main course (Hops – Carrots – Rabbit; get it?)  I’ve included one of my favorite recipes featuring IPA here.  But as far as I am concerned, the best accompaniment to an ice cold IPA is:  another one.

Indian-style Grilled Beef Short Rib with IPA

1 tablespoon oil

4 pounds beef short ribs

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, pasted

1 cup chicken, vegetable, beef stock or water

1 cup IPA

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cardamom

Zest of one lemon

Juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:  Place the ribs in a pan.  Add the onion, garlic, stock, IPA, thyme and bay leaves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, turmeric, Lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin and cayenne.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 1-1 ½ hours until just tender, not falling off the bone.  Preheat the grill.  Remove the meat from the sauce if you can, take some of the fat off the top of the sauce.  Put the sauce in a pot and reduce until it is as thick as BBQ sauce.  Grill the meat over medium high heat, browning thoroughly, and brushing with the reduced sauce.  I like to cook the meat until it is so tender, it falls off the bone.  Serve with an IPA.

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