How-To Guide: Beer and Food Pairing 101

Have you ever had a beer that paired with your meal perfectly? There is something so satisfying about your food and drink working together to bring out each other’s flavours, creating the perfect food experience. While we are big beer fans, we hadn’t fully grasped the idea of beer/meal pairings and would often default to grabbing our favourite beer no matter what we were eating. We decided to take it up a notch and do our research to learn how to best match our beer with our meal, here is what we now know:

Complementing

The first kind of pairing is complementing. You’re going to want to match the strength of the meal with the strength of the beer. As the brewers association explained, strength in beer “may involve alcoholic strength, malt character, hop bitterness, sweetness, richness, roastiness and more. In food, richness (okay, let’s just say it—fat), sweetness, cooking methods, spicing, texture and complexity all play a role”. When keeping this in mind, it’s easy to determine that a light meal like a salad would pair best with a light beer such as a blond ale, whereas a strong ale would pair better with an intense meal such as a roast beef.

Next, try matching the flavours or aromas of beers and those of the meal. For example, a stout with chocolatey undertones will pair well with chocolate truffles. If you aren’t able to determine the flavours just by tasting it, the beer company will often list them on the back of the bottle, on the box or on their website.

Contrasting

Another way to pair a beer is by contrasting. Do you believe that opposites attract? Well, in the case of beer and food, this is sometimes true! What is important to note is that you are looking to find flavours that will not overpower the other. For an example, you would never pair a rich stout beer with a light salmon, the stout will be too overpowering to the flavours of the salmon. However, perhaps the most popular contrasting pairing is that of Guinness, a Dark Irish Dry Stout, and oysters. The brininess of the oysters will shine through the rich chocolatey flavour of the stout, and will also reduce the bitterness of the beer, creating the perfect combination. If you haven’t tried this combination yet, it should be on the top of your try list.

Cleansing

Lastly, beer pairings can be used as a palate cleanser.If you are eating overpowering food, a good beer pairing can cleanse your palate, and vice versa. A popular pairing where cleansing is involved is drinking a light lager with spicy food. Light lagers diminish the spice without overpowering the food’s flavours. If you’re daring and want more heat than what’s in your meal, pair your spicy dish with an IPA (Indian Pale Ale) – the hop bitterness will accentuate the heat of the meal. You can also use food to cut certain overpowering features of a beer – the fattiness of mozzarella sticks will cut through the bitterness of an IPA.

Summary

For a concise explanation of the interaction between beer flavours and food qualities, check out this graphic from the Brewers Association:

Beer and Food: Specific Interations

Now that you are beer pairing experts, you can feel more confident when you recommend beers. You’re going to want to make sure that your restaurant/bar/venue has the right equipment to best serve your customers. If you offer a keg beer service, we would recommend using New Air’s Solid Two Door Beer Dispenser. This black coated steel design has a spacious interior cabinet with two solid doors. It also comes with two beer taps and serves three half kegs! A great addition to this beer dispenser is New Air’s Three Solid Door Back Bar. Not only does this back bar offer tons of storage space accessible through 3 doors, making it easy to reach your products, it also has a lock system for the cabinets, keeping your merchandise secure. We also offer a Three Glass Door Back Bar, with all of the same great features as the solid door equipment, but it allows you to see into the unit while it’s closed!

Test it out!

To put your taste buds to the test, try out these 5 beer with their suggested pairing and let us know what you think, cheers!

  • Blonde Ale – This light beer will pair best with a light beer, such as a fresh salad or salmon with a hint of lemon.
  • Indian Pale Ale – works well with salty/fried foods such as fried fish and chips
  • Amber/Red Ale – The caramel flavours of an Amber ale will complement the sweet and smoky flavours of BBQ meat, try it with barbecued pulled pork.
  • Brown Ale – Roast Pork or steak – light sweetness and caramel undertones of the brown ale complements the savory flavours of the meat well
  • Stout – contrast with oysters, complement with dark chocolate truffles

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This post is also available in: French