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Cupcakes and beer: An unlikely Valentine’s duo
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Mirva Datta, taproom manager at Left Nut Brewing Co., pours a beer on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Left Nut is hosting a cupcake and beer pairing this weekend. - photo by Austin Steele

If you’re looking for something sweet to do this week for Valentine’s Day, look no further than Left Nut Brewing Co. For its second year, the brewery is hosting a beer and cupcake pairing event 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 at the brewery.

It might not be on the holiday itself, but for $15 guests can get a flight of four 5-ounce beers and four miniature cupcakes made by Jennifer Watts of Zell’s Cottage Bakery in Gainesville.

“People loved it,” Carolyn Foote, spokeswoman for Left Nut, said of last year’s event that drew more than 60 guests. “We had a lot of ladies, but we also had guys and it was just a fun way to celebrate Valentine's Day with sweets. It was just kind of a novel idea and people were just interested in it.”

Foote’s favorite pairing last year was the orange creamsicle cupcake with the American Obsession pale ale.

Cupcakes and Beer with Left Nut Brewing
What: A vaguely Valentine’s Day food-and-drink pairing at Gainesville’s brewery
When: 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16
Where: Left Nut Brewing Co., 2100 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville

How much: $15 for samples

This year’s pairings include a Rainbow Nerds cupcake with the Sweet Magnolia blonde ale, a lemon blueberry cupcake with the Hooch Shootin' New England-style India pale ale, a maple bacon cupcake with the Mighty Banyan double IPA and a s'mores cupcake with the Leaping Lena imperial red ale.

“It’s a lot of fun because I do some sort of out-of-the-box flavors,” said Watts, owner of Zell’s Cottage Bakery. “I taste the beer and it’s whatever comes to mind when I taste it. Anything I can think of that’s a little out-of-the-box that people wouldn’t normally get when they’re going to a regular bakery or whatever, that’s kind of where we lean toward. So we have some fun flavors this year.”

Foote said she’s most excited for the maple bacon pairing this year. She and the rest of the Left Nut Brewing Co. team don’t get to try the pairings ahead of time. They leave it up to Watts and are surprised when the event rolls around.

“Jennifer is a craft beer person, too, so she gets it and just kind of goes with it,” Foote said.

Last year, they sold out of cupcakes paired with flights in about 30 minutes. Watts brings other normal-sized cupcakes from her bakery to sell, too, and those were gone in about an hour and a half. This year, she plans on bringing a lot more. She said there will be hundreds of cupcakes at the brewery this weekend.

“It’s really mostly a trial and error,” Watts said. “I’ve been baking for long enough that I’ll make it work and it’s going to be great.”

She’s still working on the Rainbow Nerds flavor. After first tasting the Sweet Magnolia blonde, she picked up some fruity notes on her palate. She couldn’t think of the candy it reminded her of immediately, but after a while she finally settled on it: Nerds.

“We’re going to do a cupcake that actually has Nerds baked into the batter,” Watts said. “And then, I’m going to do a Kool-Aid-infused frosting. Then it’s going to be topped with Rainbow Nerds as well.”

Watts said that’s just one of the fun parts of the event for her. She enjoys coming up with recipes and testing out different flavors. She compared it to a wine tasting, but for her, instead of pairing with different meats or pastas, she said she thinks “of it in cupcake terms.”

Apart from coming up with the recipes, Watts said the other fun part is when it comes time for guests at the pairing to devour her miniature treats.

“I also love being able to see people when they’re tasting their beer and they’re taking a bite of their cupcake and they get a look on their face,” Watts said. “It’s really exciting because they’re kind of like, ‘Oh wow, this really does go together.’”

This story has been updated from its original version.

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