It’s not often that a craft beer is released with hype. Hype tends to be reserved for title fights and big-budget action films. But when Dogfish Head Brewery and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company got together and created Life & Limb, the brewing world got the closest thing possible to James Cameron directing Ali/Frazier IV.

Lucked into the last Life & Limb at Gilly's.

Photo by izik

From bitter to sweet

Food Thinkers previously featured a beer pairing with Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale and Lemon & Honey Chicken Skewers. That brought bitter beer together with a sour app.

This is not that.

Life & Limb is an American Strong Ale, deep mahogany in color, and begins life as two different syrups: a maple syrup from Massachusetts and a birch syrup from Alaska.

One will be plenty

If you are indeed lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle of Life & Limb, one should be enough. They only come in the 24-ounce variety, and the brew packs a wallop at 10.2% ABV — the result of being made with so much sugar.

A spicy interplay

A beer this bold can be filling on its own. The initial thought was to pair it with a prime rib or London broil to cut the natural saltiness with the maple overtones of the beer. However, spicy seems to be the more electric pairing, and a slow cooked black bean soup came to mind.

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Soup 6of6

This black bean and sweet potato soup mixes a bevy of common spices and cooks them into the porous potatoes during its low and slow eight-hour soak in a slow cooker. The result isn’t necessarily “heat,” but it hits the nose with cumin and coriander undertones, mellowed a bit by the potatoes.

However, if you’re into that sort of thing, go for the heat. Finish it with some sliced jalepeños — keep the seeds for the highest heat — and spice it up to suit each eater. The strong, creamy sweetness of the Life & Limb is perfect for cooling your mouth down afterwards.

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Soup

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Soup 3of6


  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • sour cream (optional)
  • lime wedge (optional)
  • 1 jalapeño (optional)

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Soup 1of6


  1. If your slow cooker has a sear pan, use it on your stove top to heat oil and sauté onion and garlic until soft. Otherwise, do this step in a skillet and transfer to your slow cooker.
  2. Black Bean & Sweet Potato Soup 2of6

  3. Add all ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours or until sweet potatoes are tender.
  4. Serve hot with sour cream, jalapeño, and lime if desired.

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Soup 4of6


Life & Limb is being brewed in very limited quantities and isn’t available just anywhere. And, while it’s a one-of-a-kind brew, here are some other American Strong Ales that pair well with the black bean and sweet potato soup:

Sam Adams Utopias Series

Green Monsta Ale — Wachusett Brewing

Spruce Goose — Steamworks Brewing Co.