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Pair your beer with a bacon burger at Hard Rock Cafe

Pair your beer with a bacon burger at Hard Rock Cafe
The Goose Island Tropical Bacon Burger is the summer edition in a series of beer-inspired burgers served at Hard Rock Cafes across the U.S. (John Verive)

Hard Rock Cafe, the international chain of rock-themed restaurants, is upping their craft beer game with a specialty burger to pair with an IPA. If you need further incentive, the Universal City outpost is offering a beer pairing dinner featuring Santa Clarita's Wolf Creek Brewery.

The Goose Island Tropical Bacon Burger is the summer edition in a series of beer-inspired burgers served at Hard Rock Cafes across the U.S. Built to pair with the brewery's Goose IPA, it's a big half-pound patty that's glazed with a barbecue sauce made with the Goose IPA, and then piled high with Cajun-spiced bacon, cheddar cheese, a spice-dusted grilled pineapple slice and some mango salsa. There's also some chipotle pepper spread and baby arugula under that stacked patty — it's a mouthful.

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But is it more than a marketing gimmick to get tourists off the boulevard and into the absurdly loud confines of the cafe?

The Hard Rock Cafe invited us to sample the burger and beer pairing at the Hollywood Boulevard location, and we discovered an earnest attempt to bring a well-matched beer and burger to the masses.

Executive chef Alex Masrouga has executed the match well. While the burger isn't going to land on any best-in-L.A. lists, the layers of spicy, savory, and fruity ingredients each find an aspect of the Goose IPA to play with.

The beer by itself is largely forgettable. It’s a dialed-back IPA designed as a cross-over option that fits into the AB InBev (who now own the Goose Island brand) portfolio. Though the brewery calls it an “English IPA,” at just under 6% alcohol and bitterness on the low-end for the IPA style, Goose IPA is really more of an American Pale Ale. However, the high-volume ingredients on the burger elevated the brew, and the arugula in particular helped perk up the hoppy flavors in the finish.

The Goose Island Tropical IPA Burger is available at all the Hard Rock locations though the end of the month, and it was the second in an ongoing series of burger and craft beer meals that the chain has introduced.

The first — based on Samuel Adams Rebel IPA — debuted earlier this year, and the next in the series should launch in the fall. It's a progressive program that brings a level of beer-nerd spirit to the casual restaurants. It's an obvious effort by the chain to capitalize as craft beer continues to surge in popularity and woo drinkers away from the standard taps that have been the go-to brews for decades.

Craft brews have slowly gained space alongside the Bud and Stella taps, and during our visit a third of the 16 brews on draught were craft, including local options Golden Road Brewing's brown ale, a pair of IPAs from Angel City, and Wolf Creek Brewery's blonde ale.

On Thursday, there's a beer dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal Citywalk. Wolf Creek brewmaster Rob McFerren worked with Masrouga on the five-course meal, and the chef said the process of menu design was as much fun as it was work. If this dinner goes well, Masrouga hopes to expand the program and continue pairing with local breweries.

The Wolf Creek beer dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe at Citywalk is capped at 40 diners, and you can reserve your $60 seat by calling (818) 622-7660.

Hard Rock Cafe: Universal CityWalk, 1000 Universal Studios Blvd., Universal City, (818) 622-7625, hardrock.com/cafes/hollywood-at-universal-citywalk.

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