Randomly, my friend showed up at my desk with a package. She was visiting family in Nova Scotia, stumbled upon a craft brewery, and decided not only to bring me a full 1 litre growler of “You Spin Me White Round” Wheat IPA, but also a perdy shaker glass and a jar of Black IPA jelly (yes, apparently this exists!). My friends are entirely too good to me. The brewery is called Big Spruce Brewing, and I had never heard of them before today. Located on Cape Breton Island, they are a family run, 100% certified organic farm who actually produce most of the hops used in their beer (ummm, amazing!).
So now that I had the beer and the jelly, I needed to combine the two in some way, or else I just wouldn’t feel good about myself. Like most of my beer/food pairing articles, planning is usually thrown out the window – it basically comes down to what I have around the house. So… what do I have around the house? Beef! Burgers it is! Every time I make burgers, they are never the same; I still don’t feel like I’ve perfected my recipe, so I’m always trying something new. This time, I threw in Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, A1 sauce, spicy Dijon, smoked paprika, smoked salt, onion powder, fresh garlic, and dried oregano. I stopped doing the whole egg and breadcrumbs thing, as I don’t feel like it really adds anything, but that’s just me. The beef I used is lean ground, which is not ideal. Medium ground beef is MUCH better for burgers, but unfortunately, it’s getting harder to find around here; it’s all lean and extra lean these days. However, if you have the choice, get the medium – if you want to eat low fat foods, then why are you making burgers? Anyway, once I had these guys all flattened out, I stepped outside to crack open this sexy growler.
It pours out a murky, orange/red color with some maroon highlights. This confused me a bit, given that I was under the impression that this was a “White” IPA. This style classification can mean different things to different people/breweries. It can be a Belgian style Witbier with a higher hop concentration, or it can be a way to describe the dryer, unfiltered IPAs that are starting to surface more often. However, in this case it simply means that it is brewed with wheat, which adds body and head retention to the beer. After the first sip, a particular description entered my head: “This is one potently dank, big hoppy mess of deliciousness.” I think that sums it up pretty well. The nose is full of fruit, with candied cherries, peaches, and apricots leading the way, followed by some earthy, grassy, and zesty hop aromas. On the taste-front, it’s super fruit forward, with strawberries and peaches at the front, followed by some earthy and grassy hop funk, and it finishes with a resinous, potent, and powerful bitterness that cuts through the whole thing. It is extremely well balanced and just plain delicious. Kudos!
So while sipping away on this awesome concoction, I had to decide the best way to top these burgers, and more importantly, what toppings would showcase this Black IPA Jelly that I was going to smother all over the place. If I had goat cheese, I would have done that for sure, but I didn’t – what I DID have was some cream cheese, and that would have to do the trick. I sliced up some old cheddar to throw on as well. I always love the combination of hops and aged cheddar, it’s just so tasty. I grabbed some uber garlicky kosher pickles that I have fallen in love with, and gave them a slice as well.
Once the burgers were grilled and the buns were toasted to perfection, I assembled these bad boys and got to eatin’. One of the first things I noticed was the jelly; it was sweet, bitter, and had a molasses like quality. It matched the sharp cheddar and char broiled beef perfectly, and created a sweet bitter creamy combination alongside the cream cheese. The beer’s fruitiness carried well with the other flavors, and the bitterness from both ends (the jelly & the beer) cut everything nicely. There was bitterness coming from all angles – I was in flavor heaven. The Worcestershire’s dark malt vinegar base helped enhance and bring out the more roasty and sweet properties in the jelly, which in turn brought out the apricot fruitiness of the beer. In the end, the cheeses, the general fruitiness, the dark roasted malty properties of the jelly, and the pickles were all a perfect marriage, each one helping enhance the others distinct flavour.
This burger was delicious, and largely due to the Black IPA jelly (made in-house at Big Spruce Brewing) that I smothered all over it. The Wheat IPA was also exceptional, with an uncanny hop freshness and potency that balanced the hefty malt backbone wonderfully. If you are ever in Cape Breton, you should stop in, I don’t see how you could be disappointed. I’ll certainly be begging my friend to bring me more growlers the next time she visits!
An article by Noah Forrest