5 words: IPA beer and food pairing. Say what? I feel like even the suggestion is bold, and probably brings up a lot of questions. Can you really even do that? How does food pair with the hops and bitterness of IPAs? Which foods pair the best with which type of IPA? But as I recently found out at the California Craft Beer Weekend at the Resort at Squaw Creek, a destination hotel, in Lake Tahoe, not only is it safe and works, but it’s delicious.

Winner, winner, craft beer dinner! The Resort at Squaw Creek in North Lake Tahoe recently invited to host me at one of their beer pairing dinners, which they do one weekend per month during the summer, called the California Craft Beer Summer Series. It’s three of my favorite things at once: Lake Tahoe, food, and craft beer. While I could’ve ordered anywhere from one to three food/beer pairings a la carte, when in Rome Lake Tahoe you go straight for the three-course meal, right? But it wasn’t just any three-course beer and fooding pairing, as I quickly found out. But rather each course paired with a different style of IPA from Knee Deep Brewing Company: An IPA, double IPA, and triple IPA. This is one three-course meal that wasn’t for the faint of heart.

First Course

Pineapple Five Spice Chicken Wings with Breaking Bud IPA

This is a good time to talk about which foods that IPA beers pair well with. Well, you’re looking at it. IPA beers are traditionally considered as being intense beers, so they pair well with intense flavors, such as spicy foods (especially curries and other Indian food dishes). I planned on pacing myself and eating no more than about half the bucket of wings, while making this the one beer I definitely drank all of (since the citrusy, tropical, and not over-the-top Breaking Bud is considered a top-notch California IPA). A few bites and sips later, and before me lay an empty glass and a bucket full of bones. There were still two courses to go.

IPA beer and food pairing in Lake Tahoe

Second Course

Grilled Naan Sampler with American Double IPA

This was like halftime. I needed something lighter before the main course, and I got that with this Mediterranean sampler, which was a sampling of spicy hummus, eggplant relish, and garlic dip. I wasn’t expecting the naan sampler with the double IPA, but having downed a bucket of wings and with the main course still to come, I needed something lighter to enjoy while watching the sunset over the mountains. The beer, Knee Deep’s American Double IPA, was a pleasant citrusy IPA that packs a punch with hops, and also, has perhaps the best IPA beer name, Hoptologist. But you guys, look at the view I had while downing this course. Sunset to the backdrop of the Resort at Squaw Creek’s swimming pool, golf course, and just behind it, Squaw Valley’s High Camp.

North Lake Tahoe Food and Beer Pairing

Sunset with a beer in North Lake Tahoe

Third Course

Smoked Beef Brisket with Simtra Triple IPA

Not only does IPA beers go well with spicy food, but they also pair nicely with grilled and smoked meats. Those caramelized flavors you get from grilled meat goes nicely with the caramel maltiness of many IPAs. Generally speaking, the seasoning and saltiness of grilled meats helps pairs down some of the bitterness of IPA beers. Imagine my excitement then to see that the main course was beef brisket (look no further than this post to see my feelings on BBQ brisket) with crispy onions and seasoned fries. Is there anything better than BBQ and beer on a warm summer day?

BBQ and IPA beer pairing Lake Tahoe

By this point, I was getting some looks from those sitting around me at the amount of food I had consumed, but it was barbecue and beer, and I wasn’t holding back. I had planned on just having a few sips of the triple IPA. However, this is one of the best IPAs I’ve ever had. It was summery, tropical, balanced, and not overly boozy, even if it has 11.25% ABV. I drank the entire thing (and brought two bottles home with me), with the seasoning and saltiness of the brisket and fries playing well with the bitterness. I regret nothing, and luckily, didn’t have to be rolled out of the restaurant.

Need to Know

  • The California Craft Beer Summer Series occurs one weekend per month at the Resort at Squaw Creek in Lake Tahoe. This summer featured complimentary tastings in the hotel lobby on Friday evenings and the beer/food pairing on Saturday evenings at Sandy’s Pub. Check the Resort at Squaw Creek’s website in the spring for summer dates.
  • The Resort at Squaw Creek works with a different local brewery for each of their craft beer weekends in Lake Tahoe, of which Knee Deep Brewing in Auburn was the featured brewery for the weekend I was there.
  • The three-course meal was a lot of food. Honestly, I could have split it with someone else and we both would’ve left full. However, the meal would’ve been just as satisfying and filling by doing two of the items. But when in Lake Tahoe…
  • If doing the multi-course meal, don’t even think about getting behind the wheels of a car. That couldn’t have been any truer for my dinner, which was unique in that it also included a Double and Triple IPA, so that drinking three beers is like drinking five.
  • Serendipitously, it was also the weekend of the Brews, Jazz & Funk Fest at The Village at Squaw Valley, which featured more than 15 West Coast craft breweries.