I’ve received welcomed feedback from loyal readers asking for information on pairing food and beer.
Years ago, as a rookie in the beer drinking game I wouldn’t even consider buying food to pair along with the vast quantities of beer I’d purchased for a party we were throwing, though I would buy boxed Chianti to impress the ladies.
Fast forward to my becoming a “live to eat” adult, which made me realize I didn’t know what I was missing.
Pairing Beer with Food
Generally, there are no hard and fast “rules” like there may be with wine and, actually, I dare say that leads to more food-beer pairing options than wine.
A few guidelines can be captured with the three Cs: Complement, Contrast, and Cut. You can complement, contrast, or cut the food’s taste with the beer or vice versa.
With the three Cs, you’ll want to use the dominant flavors of the beer and food in your pairing decisions (Note: I got this catchy acronym from a craftbeer.com beer and food course I took).
An example of a complement, not to be confused with a compliment (e.g. “You look lovely tonight, dear”), would be pairing a malty beer with a meat that’s been grilled. Try a malty beer that provides bready, caramel, roasty flavors like a brown ale (e.g. Newcastle Brown Ale) with some chicken barbecued in a sauce that has some sweetness to it and taste complements will abound.
Opposites attract: When you contrast beer and food you want to find flavors that may be quite different but can actually enhance each other. A great example is pairing my favorite buffalo chicken wings made with a pepper sauce like Frank’s Hot Sauce with a citrusy hoppy IPA like Sloop Juice Bomb. Everyone’s a winner here as both sides of the equation benefit. Or, if you’d rather, 1+1=3.
Cutting equates to toning down the dominant flavor of the food with the beer, or vice versa. A good example is that you can essentially refresh your palate with well-carbonated Belgium beer when eating rich/fatty food.
Here are some of the beers I’ve recommended in past columns and some suggestions for food pairings:
• IPAs and Double IPAs: Hops provide degrees of bitterness that will go well with pork or sausage.
• Pilsners: Light and crisp characteristics will match nicely with lighter fishes like tuna, salmon, anchovies (just kidding on the anchovies).
• Stouts and Porters: Roasty flavors will complement grilled vegetables.
• Winter Beers: Malty full flavors sometimes with spices are terrific with creamy desserts and especially with chocolate (strong hint here for next Valentine’s Day).
• Belgium, Farmhouse and Saison: Lighter in color, fruity, lightly spiced, low bitterness and effervescence of Belgium ales go fantastic with fattier cheeses like bleu, provolone, or Swiss.
There are plenty of resources only a few clicks away that can give you the finer details at the molecular level of beer and food pairing if that floats your boat. I recommend experimenting on your own. Perhaps do your normal grocery shopping for the meals you’re planning and purchase a few beers you think would complement, contrast, or cut in a delicious way to achieve FBN (Food Beer Nirvana). Let me know how it goes!
We took a short took a short train ride recently with a lively group of friends down to Mission Taqueria in Pleasantville. Steps from the train, you’ll find a funky, lively environment with delicious Mexican fare, a decent beer tap list and a spectacular tequila and mezcal menu that will make you say olé!
Try the lobster taco with a thirst quenching Lagunitas Little Sumpin, pale wheat ale at 7.5 percent with citrus notes as a nice complement. Another terrific choice is the pork belly taco with dark roasty Negra Modello lager at 5.4 percent and/or some mezcal on the rocks from their extensive collection that has a fine complementary smokiness not at all reminiscent of that Spring Break tequila we thought was a good idea many years ago.
We covered some beer-food paring info today but remember: There are practically no rules; only a few guidelines. So, explore on your own and let me know what you’ve found that works.
Through the wonders of the internet, I can be reached at TheKatonahBeerMan@gmail.com.