If you drink beer with pizza, tacos or fried chicken, or have your own favourite beer and food combination, you know you’re onto something. Most people do enjoy their beer with a certain type of food, and the best beer and food pairing can significantly enhance the entire beer drinking experience.
Of course, there’s always what we call beer food that seems to go well with beer in general no matter the alcohol content. This includes burgers, steaks, pizza, fried, Asian and Mexican food, and so on – you know what we’re talking about!
But if you’re running a pub or serving different kegs of craft beer in your venue, it’s usually helpful to provide patrons with a beer pairing guide. It’ll not only provide them with more information about beer but can also encourage them to try other beer pairing snacks and ultimately amplify their experience.
Whether you’re a restaurateur or consider yourself a true blue beer lover, these delicious beer and food pairings are sure to expand your knowledge of and appreciation for beer pairings.
Flavor and Intensity – Considerations for Food Pairings
The taste of beer is usually defined by its level of bitterness, which has something to do with the hops, the main bittering agent used in beer-making. The earlier the hops are added during brewing, the more bitter the beer.
Another beer ingredient that affects its taste is the malt sourced from barley.
The malting process involves soaking the barley in water and then stopping the germination process by drying the barley with hot air.
The malted barley is roasted to give the beer a touch of nuttiness and a pleasant aroma. During the roasting process, the natural sugars in barley are allowed to caramelise, adding a lightly sweet caramel flavor.
The colour intensity of a craft beer is also an indicator of flavor.
From the darkness of a beer, you can infer how long the malt was roasted. The longer the roasting process, the darker the malt would be. This is also what gives dark beers a richer, more intense flavor, with notes of coffee and chocolate.
Conversely, light beers have a fresh and clean taste and less bitterness.
Taste Guide for the Best Food and Beer Pairings
When it comes to selecting the best beer and food pairings, there are some simple guidelines to consider:
- Play with contrasting flavors. If the dish has strong or rich flavors (sweet, tasty or fatty), it should ideally be partnered with darker beers that also has a full-bodied flavor. A typical example of this would be oysters and stout.
- Consider complementary flavors. This rule is easy: just match light food pairings with light beers (such as lagers) and rich foods with intensely flavored beers (such as brown ales). A good example of delicious beer and food pairings would be to pair an American wheat beer with fresh summer salads or light lagers with fish like poached sole or halibut filet.
- Use beer as a palate cleanser. Craft beer works great when paired with food that’s spicy or that has a strong, overpowering flavor, the way light beer is drunk with dakgangjeong or Korean fried chicken. You can also cut through the flavor intensity of bitter beers by eating rich, oily foods like nuts or potato wedges.
- Avoid pairing mild with intense or strong flavors. For the best food and beer pairing experience, try to avoid matching light foods, like salmon or salad, with medium and dark craft beers that are full-flavored.
With this taste guide in mind, we can now move on to the following recommended options when pairing beer and food.
Lighter, crisp, and refreshing, pale lagers or a lighter lager is mildly flavored and high carbonation. It is a food pairing that works well with most food varieties as pale lagers work well to cleanse the palate.
- French fries or taters
- Buffalo wings or chicken in general
- Fried fish and other seafood
- Noodles and pasta
As an easy-drinking beer, blonde or golden ales present rounded and smooth flavors and tend to be clear, crisp, and dry. It has a touch of low to medium bitterness and a hint of malt sweetness. Blonde Ale beers are best paired with sweet or spicy foods.
- Spaghetti with meatballs
- Pepper Jack cheese and brie
- Sugar cookies
- Spicy Food
Hefeweizen originated in Germany and is considered the original wheat beer. It has a mild bitterness to it, yeast flavors and a cloudy appearance. It can also have the smell and taste of vanilla, wheat bread and sometimes even bubblegum. Hefeweizen has a hint of creaminess to it and is usually medium-light to medium and high carbonation.
It pairs well with food that has acidic and spicy flavors.
- Smoked pork
- Apple strudel
- Smoked meats
Pale ales are considered hop-forward because of its strong hop aroma and flavors. It also has a strong malt flavor, golden to amber hue and moderate intensity. Pale ales are flavorful without being overpowering. It combines really well with aromatic, spicy, smoky, and barbecued or grilled foods.
- Stilton and blue cheese
- Cajun burger
- Steaks and barbecues
- Fish and chips
India Pale Ale (IPA)
Described as having a hoppy (bitter) flavor, IPA has a strong hop bitterness profile. IPA is best paired with spicy, salty, and fried foods and burgers. India Pale Ales are becoming a more readily available craft beer in recent years, so give it a try with the following foods:
- BBQ Burger
- Spicy sausage calzone
- BBQ ribs
Described as having a malty flavor with a hint of sweet caramel and a balanced hop bitterness, amber ales have a dry and crisp finish. You can enjoy amber ales with a wide variety of foods.
- Barbeque pulled pork
- Jerk chicken
- Candied nuts
Irish Red Ale
Known for its unique malty taste and intense colour, Irish red ale can have a medium candy-like caramel malt sweetness and is on the lower side of the bitterness scale. Rich, spicy, and smoked foods tend to pair well with Irish red ale. Complement Irish Red Ales with:
- Bangers and mash
- Shepherd’s pie
- Grilled chicken
- Pecan cookies
- Caramel cheesecake
- Potato and cheese soup
Not as bitter as other medium-hued beers, brown ale is dry and has a distinct malty, nutty flavor and hints of coffee and chocolate. It pairs fabulously with almost anything but tastes best with cheese, meats, and seafood.
- Roast pork
- Grilled fish
Traditionally dark and strong, porter originated in England and was highly popular with the working class. But the porters of today are milder, with the same dark colour, a toasty aroma with notes of chocolate, caramel, and coffee, and a crisp, roasted finish. Porter tastes best when complemented with foods that are richly flavored. Complement your porter with:
- Mexican mole
- Rabbit, venison, and game meats
Intensely dark to black in colour, stouts have a strong heavily roasted flavor, with notes of coffee and chocolate, and a pleasant, silky smooth consistency. This relatively low-alcohol stout beer works perfectly well with desserts (especially chocolate), salty foods, barbecues, roasted, and smoked foods. Try stouts and complement them with:
- Chocolate truffles
- Chocolate mousse
- BBQ baked beans
- Baked mac and cheese
- Beef and Guinness pie
Ready To Organise Your Next Event?
Whether looking for a hoppy beer with high carbonation, or a lighter beer with low sweetness, get in touch with the Kombi Keg team for expert advice.
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