GUEST POST: A QUICK BEER/FOOD PAIRING PRIMER

When it comes to beer aficionados, there’s no question that the true fanatic will know multitudes of facts – both mainstream and obscure – about the brewing, distributions, and consumption of their favorite beverage. They’ll know where to find the best microbrews in the U.S., they’ll have a strong understanding of hop content, and they’ll invariably have an opinion about every brand in the local grocery store. In short, they can be expected to be just as knowledgeable about beer as any single man with money can be expected to know about hot sugar daddy models in his area. But in my recent talks with big beer drinkers, I’ve realized that many of us can be found surprisingly lacking when it comes to one crucial talent: pairing the right beer with the right dinner foods.

In light of this, I’ve decided to offer a primer and a refresher for anyone who enjoys good beer – but also enjoys pairing that good beer with a delicious, complementary, and symbiotic meal of food. Here, then, are some major types of beer and the foods with which they naturally pair:

Type 1: Beers with low alcohol content, light colors, and less bitterness

Beers in this category: Blonde Ale, Kolsch, Cream Ale

Complementary foods: These beers should definitely be paired with light foods. Salmon, salad, and light cheeses all fit the bill.

Type 2: Beers with high alcohol content, light colors, and less bitterness

Beers in this category: Golden Ale, Abbey Tripel

Complementary foods: Foods that are spicy or tart are probably best here. Pheasant, turkey, and creamy cheeses are also good options.

Type 3: Beers with low alcohol content, dark colors, and less bitterness

Beers in this category: Porter, Dry Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Brown Ale

Complementary foods: While this type covers a greater variety of options, your best bet is to go with foods that can best be described as “hearty.” These foods include smoked meats and fish, barbeque, and sausage. Cheese should be on the creamier side.

Type 4: Beers with low alcohol content, dark colors, and more bitterness

Beers in this category: Amber Lager

Complementary foods: Spicy meat meals are always a good option in this category. Stick with hamburgers, chili, and barbeque. Fruit dishes work well for those looking to stay on the lighter side.

Type 5: Beers with low alcohol content, light colors, and more bitterness

Beers in this category: Pale Ale, British-Style Bitter, India Pale Ale

Complementary foods: A lot of more “basic” foods are your best options: try roast chicken, fish and chips, mild cheeses, oatmeal cookies, pork, and burgers.

Type 6: Beers with high alcohol content, dark colors, and less bitterness

Beers in this category: Abbey Dubbel, Scotch Ale, Weizenbock

Complementary foods: This category is great for aged cheeses and roasted foods. Specifically, roasted beef, lamb, salmon, and pork are all good choices.

Type 7: Beers with high alcohol content, light colors, and more bitterness

Beers in this category: Imperial IPA

Complementary foods: You’re looking for foods here that are sweet, sharp, or rich. Southern-style foods, blue cheese, and cheesecake stand as worthy examples.

Type 8: Beers with high alcohol content, dark colors, and more bitterness

Beers in this category: Imperial Stout, Barley Wine

Complementary foods: These beers are rich enough to overpower most foods. You’re going to need something like smoked goose, truffles, or long-aged cheeses.

While these types and beers represent a list that is far from exhaustive, this hopefully can give you an idea of the appropriate pairings for most beer variations. So next time you’re sitting down in the evening and pouring yourself a glass of your favorite beer (or simply making yourself some food), don’t forget to take it to the next step by consulting a pairing list and finding that perfect complement.

Guest post submitted by Alex Summers.

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4 comments

  1. Nice. I like this and hate it at the same time. I like being able to make your meal and beer taste yummy, and I want beer to be considered every bit as useful as wine; but I hate the idea of beer rising to the wine level of pretension and rules. Maybe I just need to get over it. I had a beer and wine throwdown with our Easter rack of lamb…but I haven’t gotten off my ass to write about it yet.

  2. Agreed with beerbecue on this one. I like having the guide, but it’s really a place to start and not a hard rule. There’s a lot of range in beer and what you can pair it with. For instance, you can try for complementary flavors – a roasty stout with grilled steak, imperial stout with dark chocolate. But sometimes a contrasting flavor also works.

    One thing I never thought would work, but which is an absolute dream is Flanders sour beers and dark chocolate. Absolutely amazing combination (seriously, get yourself a Flanders Oud Bruin and a decent grade dark chocolate, it’s awesome) that I stumbled on totally by accident. Not to say that dark chocolate doesn’t go well with a rich Belgian Quadrupel or Imperial Stout, but I simply cannot get over how putting those two flavors together works.

    But it is great to have a fallback as to what generally works. I think there’s a website somewhere that will match various foods to beer styles, but it’s not coming to me at the moment. It’s a neat little interface, though the number of choices can get a bit cumbersome. Still, they group together families of food, then a decent number of specific dishes under each one, and then the beers that go along with those dishes. Cool stuff.

  3. beer-miester · ·

    real nice blog…thanks..enjoyed it but now I am hungry..

  4. Resie Rae · ·

    Uh, oatmeal cookies & IPA? LOL There’s a pair I never would have considered.

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