Food and Beer Pairing Tips

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Food and Beer Pairing TipsThe pairing of food and drink has become increasingly popular as more and more people discover the wonderful flavours resulting from proper pairing. Here are some ground rules for matching beer with a range of foods.

In recent years, the pairing of food and drink has become increasingly popular as more and more people discover the wonderful flavours resulting from proper pairing.

While beer has long been an inherent part of our culture, wine has traditionally been considered the perfect partner to a meal. We’d like to turn this common misconception on its head by giving you some ground rules for matching the golden brew with a range of foods.

Before pairing beer with food, it is important to know that the processes that go into the making of each are in fact, very similar. There is thus a natural tendency for certain types of beer to complement food that has been through similar processes. Much of beer’s flavour is derived from the cooking process during the malting phase when barley is converted to malt.

These flavours tend to be quite similar to the myriad of food cooking flavours commonly enjoyed and so some would argue that food actually pairs better with beer than it does with wine.

So here’s what you should keep in mind:

    • Seek compatibility. Beer and food combinations often work best when they have some flavour or aroma elements in common. The herby bitterness of hop sin beer goes well with food that is lightly spiced, like cooked meat or fish. A steak goes better with a stronger ale.
    • Match beer strength with food strength. Delicate dishes work best with delicate beers, while strongly flavoured foods demand assertive beers. Intensity of flavour may involve many aspects: alcoholic strength, malt character, hop bitterness, sweetness, etc.
    • Using the wine pairing school of thought, think of ale as red wine and lager as white wine. Hoppy beers can also be used in place of a pairing that calls for an acidic wine.
    • Consider sweetness, bitterness, carbonation, heat and richness. Specific characteristics of food and beer interact with each other in predictable ways. Taking advantage of these interactions ensures that the food and beer will balance each other, each giving you a desire for a taste of the other.
    • Lighter bodied beers tend to cool the heat of spicy South East Asian, Indian and Mexican foods.
    • The more hop bitterness the beer has, the heartier or livelier the meal needs to be to hold its own
    • If you like mixing it up, then go with the opposites attract approach and experiment with both contrasting and complimentary pairings.
    • Foods that are full of flavour can be paired with beers that have a slightly higher alcohol content.

Remember that beer and food pairing is mostly about balancing flavours and mouth feel. Often dishes with a higher fat content work best, because the cleansing characteristics of the beer become more evident.

Well crafted beers have sophisticated, layered flavours. The combination of sweetness and bitterness work not only with spicy food, but also with subtler and more complex dishes.

In the end, it really boils down to personal taste – so be open to suggestions and don’t be afraid to make suggestions yourself. And consider this: if you tell your mates that a specific beer pairs well with a specific food because the beer’s flavour profile compliments the spices in the food, the lesser educated among them are hardly going to argue. They’ll just think you’re a beer nerd, and that’s not a bad thing to be, is it?

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