Learning how to match food with beer can bring the best out in a dish while also showcasing the complex flavours of a really great brew. However, with so many styles to choose from, it can be difficult for beginners to figure out which beers go best with certain foods. Our guide tells you everything you need to know about how to effectively pair beer with food
What is a Craft Beer?
The past decade has seen a huge boom in the production and popularity of craft beers. But what distinguishes a craft beer from its more mainstream counterpart? According to the Brewers Association, the producing brewery must meet three key criteria in order for the brew to qualify as a “craft” beer:
The brewery must produce a maximum of six million barrels of beer or less per year.
No more than 25% of the brewery should be controlled by another beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
The majority of the drink’s total beverage volume must be made through conventional brewing methods.
Basic Beer Tasting Terminology
Before learning how to pair beer with food, it is essential to get familiar with some basic beer tasting terminology. This will help you to better identify the flavours you taste, allowing you to find better food partners.
• HOPS: When added early in the brewing process, the acids and oils of hops help to give a bitter flavour. When hops are added towards the end, they can help enhance the fruitiness and floweriness of the beer’s aroma. Very hoppy beers usually have a high IBU (International Bitterness Units) number. Types of beers that tend to be quite hoppy include Double IPAs and Imperial Stouts.
• MALT: While many types of malted grains can be used in beer production, the most common is barley malt. The amount of heating that barley malt receives affects the colour, taste and mouthfeel of the beer. During the heating process, the sugars in the barley caramelize to bring out a slightly sweet, caramel taste. Beers that tend to be quite malty include Brown Ales and Dark Lagers.
• LIGHT: A lightly-roasted malt will result in a pale-coloured light beer. They are known for having a refreshingly clean and crisp taste. Usually, light beers don’t have a particularly strong flavour and aren’t very bitter or hoppy. Typical examples of light beers include light lagers, wheat beers and blond ales.
• DARK: This term is used to describe both taste and colour. Dark beers are made with a malt grain that is roasted until it reaches a dark colour and a rich, heavy taste. Some common types of dark beers include porters and stouts.
The 3 C’s of Pairing Food with Beer
“Anywhere you can use wine, you can use beer, often to better effect. Beer has that bread-like base flavour that works so well with so many different kinds of foods and its carbonation and wide variety of flavours also helps. It’s fairly hard to find food that won’t pair with most beer.” – Chester Carey, Beer Sommelier
• CUT: The carbonation and acidity of beer make it a perfect palate cleanser. Use beer to cut through spicy, creamy and fatty dishes with strong or overpowering flavours.
• COMPLEMENT: Pair like with like. Compare the flavours and richness of both and be sure to find a pair that balances each other out evenly. For example, light-tasting food (e.g. salads, seafood) goes well with light beers, whereas heavy dishes (e.g. stews) pair well with heavy, dark beers like porters. If you are new to beer pairing, then this is the simplest approach to take.
• CONTRAST: Contrast means matching opposing flavours in such a way as to enhance the unique flavours of both the beer and the food. Either the beer or the dish should provide a strong, dominant flavour and then set this against something with a distinct taste that will shine through without being overpowered.
What to Eat with Beer: Food Pairing Examples
|Beer Type:||Food Pairing:|
|Lagers||Shellfish, seafood, pork, chicken, spicy food|
|Wheat Beers||Spicy food, vegetarian dishes, sushi, citrus-flavoured dishes|
|India Pale Ales (IPAs)||Steak, barbecue, burgers, pizza|
|Amber Ales||Pizza, fried food, smoked pork|
|Porters||Seafood, barbecue, rich stews, chilli, venison, duck|
|Pilsner||Cheese, salad, seafood, Asian food, salty snacks|
|Stouts||Chocolate, roasts, smoked foods, oysters, rich stews|
Serving Beer: Our Top 5 Tips
1. Beer can taste syrupy if it’s too warm, so try to keep the serving temperature between 40 – 50°F (4 – 10°C). To maintain the right temperature, store beer in the refrigerator, away from the freezer section. Try to serve the beer as soon as possible after removing it from the refrigerator, so it doesn’t get a chance to warm up. Another pro tip is to dip the clean glass into cold rinse water before serving.
2. Make sure your glassware has been properly cleaned as this is essential to acquire the right foam and flavour.
3. Mastering the art of pouring beer will allow you to get the head height of your choosing. Everyone has a preference when it comes to the height of the head. If you want to achieve a fine creamy head, let the beer splash into the glass. Alternatively, tilt the glass at an angle and adjust as you go to get the head you want.
4. Beers are generally best enjoyed fresh, so always check the best before date before you buy.
5. Be gentle when you open bottles. Try not to agitate the bottle too much as shaking the bottle can have a negative effect on the beer’s quality.