You can get started pairing beer with food right now if you want. There’s nothing to it, in fact I bet you have been doing it quite successfully for years whether you
realize it or not. Have you ever had beer with pizza? Bingo! How about beer with
burger and fries? That’s a good match, too. These are classic examples of beer and food pairings for a good reason. They taste great together. So you really don’t need to wait for some beer geek to write an article before you start because your beer intuition is working just fine. I am here to help out with the more challenging pairings like spicy Thai, savory stews or even dessert. Beer isn’t just for pizza and burgers anymore.
Pairing beer and food isn’t rocket science and it is important to remember that is there is no one right way to pair beer with food. If it tastes good then it is
a good pairing. If it doesn’t work out quite the way you had hoped keep in mind that you just gave yourself good reason to have another beer. That sounds like a win-win situation to me. However, if you are looking for a little extra guidance then read on and by the time you are done with this article you will have enough information to get started with your first beer and food pairings.
Rule of Thumb.
You have probably heard something similar to “red wines with red sauces and white wines with white sauces”. There is a similar rule of thumb for beer and it is light dishes should be paired with light (as in delicate or light bodied not diet) beers. Heavier dishes should be paired with heavier or full bodied beers that have big flavors and big aromas. This is a great place to start when you are learning to pair
beer with foods. Let’s say you are having a lightly grilled and lightly seasoned
fish. A good beer pairing for this meal would be a beer that doesn’t overwhelm
your palate like a wheat beer. If you decided to quaff a mighty double IPA with
this meal chances are you wouldn’t taste much of your fish because the beer will
have fatigued your taste buds. Conversely, if you were enjoying a heavy flavorful meal like smoked or barbecued meat you would want to pair that with a heavier more flavorful beer just so you could taste what you are drinking. Otherwise you may just as well drink water.
Beer and food pairings will likely fall into two different categories: complementary flavor pairings and contrasting flavor pairings. Complementary flavor pairings occur when the beer and food share a similar taste profile and build upon each other to create a more intense flavor. An example of a complimentary food pairing would be pairing an American wheat ale with buffalo Buratta. The subtle hops, fruity esters and creamy texture of the beer enhance the cream filled Buratta’s texture and flavors. Contrasting flavor parings occur when the beer and food flavors work against each other and keep any one flavor profile from dominating. A good example of a contrasting flavor paring is an amber ale paired with a spicy chili. The malty amber ale will tamp back the spices while the carbonation will cut through the chili oils and lift them off your tongue.
It’s your turn.
Now it is time to put all this “theory” to the test. When you plan your next meal start with a light salad and pair it with a beer from the “Lighter Beer Styles” found on the side bar. Take your time to enjoy this course and maybe even take some notes.
Jot down your initial impressions and be sure to record how the tastes changed throughout the salad all the way to the finish. Move on to the main course and be sure to rinse out your glass or get a new one before you start another beer. Plan a heavier dish like one I explained earlier and pair that with one of the heavier beers. Keep notes like you did with your salad and plan any changes for your
Remember to have fun.
If you use the rule of thumb from above and reference the side bar information you can get started right away pairing your favorite beer styles with some tasty dishes. Remember you are just eating and drinking beer so don’t forget to have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously. The last thing the world needs is a pretentious beer prick.