The skill of food pairing is no longer just the reserve of wine-lovers. More and more people are discovering the joys of enjoying great beer with the right dish. Once you move beyond thin lagers and overpowering stouts - beer offers a wide variety of flavours, from caramel to coffee, lemongrass to biscuit.
When pairing beer and food, you can go for a complementary or contrasting approach. Some people prefer to marry similar flavours together. Strong, flavourful foods can work well with beer that can hold its own, while more delicately-flavoured brews should be matched with milder dishes. It’s all about finding beautiful harmonies and playing subtle differences in flavour off each other.
Combining contrasting flavours can also create some great mixtures. Beer can be used to temper the character of a certain dish, and vice-versa. Bitterness from hops, carbonation or high alcohol content helps balance out sweet, rich or fatty food. Similarly, sweeter brews help to balance out more spicy or acidic food. A bitter, hoppy beer, however, will emphasise the spiciness in a given dish.
If you’re looking for inspiration, there are some classic combinations in different culinary traditions. Irish stout and oysters are a perfect match, for example. Or you can enjoy bratwurst with traditional German beer. But you don’t have to match food and beer from the same country - brews and dishes from opposite sides of the world can match each other.
When it comes to meat dishes, a carefully selected beer can work to enhance flavours. For meat that’s braised, roasted, grilled or fried, you need something to bring out the caramel flavours: amber lagers, amber ales and pale ales add an appropriate maltiness to do this. For spicy food such as Tex-Mex or Thai, it’s hard to beat the India pale ale, a robustly bitter beer developed in colonial times.
Beer makes the perfect companion to cheese, sharing many of its flavors - like nuttiness, richness, and caramel and toffee notes.The recommended approach when pairing beer and cheese is match mild with mild, and intense with intense. You can play on similarities in flavour (like a rich, buttery triple cream with a full-bodied stout) or contrasts (a creamy, mild goat’s cheese with a sweet, high-acid wheat beer).
The beauty of pairing beer with food is that there’s no right or wrong. Why not experiment, try out new combinations and have some fun. We’d encourage you to let us know if you’ve come up with a particularly good match, and we may feature it on the blog!
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