Tacos and Cold Ones. I may be a little biased, but those four words make me smile.
For one, I love tacos and craft beer. And two, the acronym spells T.A.C.O. Need I say more? But what is it about the two together that make this pairing so unique? Although pairing is and has always been subjective, in my opinion, tacos and craft beer are the perfect pairing. Author Tom Robbins agrees as we explained in “About Us.” His famous quote is validating and timeless. Tacos can be enjoyed at any time and for any course and there isn’t a meal that beer doesn’t complete (except maybe breakfast, just saying).
The purpose of pairing is to create an experience where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts -- true transcendence. Parts can include flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, and even color. Tacos and craft beer are both artisanal, handcrafted, and culinary. Brewing beer is essentially cooking and as a result, malt flavors of cracker, toast, caramel, roast, coffee and even chocolate compliment the variation of flour and corn tortilla shells, fried or toasted. But taco shells just don’t end with tortillas, they’ve evolved to shells of lettuce, seaweed, egg rolls, graham cracker, sugar waffles, pie crust, glazed donuts and more. The taco shell is now limitless and compliments a variety of beer styles and malt flavors.
Let’s consider my favorite beer ingredient: humulus lupulus, aka hops. Hops provide bitterness and aroma to beer, which balances the sweetness of the malts (sugars). Hops produce aromas and flavors of citrus, tropical fruit, herbs, spices, floral, onion, garlic, earthy and woody notes. These notes complement the endless variation of taco sauces, salsas, and garnishes that adorn the tacos and enhance their character. These ingredients include chiles, herbs, spices, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, peppers, mango, pineapple, nuts, lettuce, cabbage and the list goes on.
What about dessert tacos? Dessert tacos have changed the taco game completely. Where the Choco Taco used to have a monopoly, that is no longer the case. I love scrolling through Instagram and stumbling upon the latest concoction of dessert tacos; they are seriously wild! My go-to Instagram account for this is @thejoshelkin. Josh has created some mind-blowing dessert taco recipes: Lemon Meringue Pie Tacos; Crème Brûlée with Glazed Donut Taco Shell; Banana Split Tacos with Waffle Cone Taco Shell and vanilla ice cream topped with strawberry sauce, caramel sauce, whipped cream with a cherry on top; and my recent favorite Fruity Pebbles Cheesecake Tacos with no-bake cheesecake and Fruity Pebble Taco Shells. These sweet and rich dessert tacos pair well with more complex and high-intensity beers such as Belgian Style Tripels, Barrell-Aged Imperial Stouts, American Barley Wines, and Double IPAs. Not only do the beers share complimentary flavor attributes but their high alcohol, carbonation, and bitterness cut through the sweetness and fat of the desserts and cleanses the pallet. The possibilities are endless!
We can’t forget the cheese! One of my favorite things about tacos is that many recipes, if not most, include cheese. As Gavin Harper, The Beer Maestro himself has said: “The world of cheese is insane, just like beer, it’s endlessly complex and wide.” Beer and cheese are very similar. What links them closely together is that beer is made with malted barley, which is in the grass family, and cows eat grass, which is then converted to milk used to make cheese. Additionally, they are both aged and fermented which produces hundreds of complex flavors, aromas, and textures. The longer both beer and cheese age, the more complex the flavors become. It’s wild, I know!
There is so much more I can write about: yeast flavors and aromas, proteins, seasonings, cooking methods, carbonation, mouthfeel, or colors that both beer and tacos produce. The list goes on.
Pairing is personal and if you’re not convinced that tacos and beers are the perfect pairing, then good! I’m not here to convince you but to challenge you to go out and begin pairing them yourself. The goal isn’t to just eat and drink, but to take part in an experience that only Tacos and Cold Ones can deliver.