How to Choose the Perfect Pairing (Part I)
Beer is a versatile beverage, offering a wide range of flavors and styles. Just as wine pairs beautifully with different dishes, beer can also be a delightful companion to various foods. Whether you’re sipping a crisp lager on a hot summer day or enjoying a rich stout by the fireplace in the winter, food and beer only makes the experience better. But the beer you choose does matter, as anyone who’s tried to down an IPA alongside a delicate meal will tell you. Read our handy guide to help you pick the best brew to enjoy alongside your victuals (yes, victuals. We saw it in books).
Diebolt’s Beginners Guide to Pairing Beer and Food
Let’s start with an amber ale, because it’s hard to go wrong here. Their carmel-y, malty flavors and manageable bitterness mean they lend themselves to virtually any dish, savory or sweet. They are particularly delicious alongside spicy dishes, like drunken noodles or curry. The mellow flavor and sheer drinkability of a sturdy amber ale tones down the spice while enhancing the dish’s earthy flavors. If you’re thinking of dessert, go fruit-based: cinnamon poached pears, banana pudding, or an apple tart are all delicious food pairings for an amber ale.
Pilsners are known for their clean and crisp taste with a hint of bitterness. They’re the perfect match for lighter fare such as:
- Fresh salads
- Seafood, especially salmon, sardines, and other oily fish
- Roast chicken
- Strawberries and cream
- Lemon cookies
IPA (India Pale Ale)
IPAs are floral, hoppy, and bitter. They like to be the center of attention, which means you’ll need to pair them with something that can hold its own. This is another great choice for something spicy, like a red curry or saucy chicken wings. Food and beer is an adventure-see if you can find a dish that is not overpowered by the bitterness, but that soothes it. For example, you might not think of an IPA as a good dessert beer; but it is actually one of the better ones for rich sweets, like carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Why? Balance. Bitter and sweet…bittersweet, see? It’s a thing.
Wheat beers are light, slightly sweet, and often have a citrusy or fruity note. Like pilsners, They pair nicely with lighter options. Matching pilsner beer with food should typically involve something fruity, like a salad with a raspberry vinaigrette or a scoop of sorbet. They are the go-to for shellfish, especially steamed mussels and shrimp, which are often accompanied with a twist of lemon.
Food and Beer Pairing with a Stout
Pairing food and beer is all about harmony. Stouts are dark, rich, and often feature roasted coffee and chocolate notes. Despite their inherent richness, they pair beautifully with hearty, comforting dishes. Barbecue, like brisket or pulled pork, is delightful with a frothy stout. And, of course, chocolate is only better with more chocolate. Pair a stout beer with chocolate mousse, a fudge brownie, or a slice of devil’s food cake for a near-religious experience.
Food and Beer Pairing with a Saison
Saisons are fruity, spicy, and bubbly. They’re like the friend that shows up to brunch after a long night out all chatty and fully dressed. Like, seriously, are you really this peppy all the time? Yes, yes they are. Saisons bring summertime vibes all year long. They are great with a charcuterie board or a cookout with grilled chicken and veggies. We also like them with a lighter pasta, like pomodoro.
Like amber ales, pale ales are pretty flexible. They’re a classic with pub food, like a burger or fish and chips. They have that caramel-like flavor and aroma that suggests something syrupy for dessert, like pecan pie or a creamy flan.
Pair Food and Beer in 3 Easy Steps
When in doubt, you can keep the following principles in mind when you want to pair your beer with something to eat:
- Strength: choose food that matches a beer’s strength. Stronger beers are better with stronger flavors, like an IPA with curry or a stout with roast beef. Delicate beers are for lighter options, like salads and fish.
- Notes: the best food and beer pairings share an underlying element. The fruity saison goes naturally with dishes that have a twist of lemon or a berry-infused sauce. Likewise, the chocolatey flavors of a stout only get better with truffles or a piece of chocolate cake.
- Balance: while you want your beer to share some elements with your food, it is also ideal to strike a balance. For example, the intense carbonation of a saison can help cut greasier foods, while the malty flavors of an IPA counteract the heat of spicy food. Ultimately, the beer should complement the food you are eating, not overwhelm it. And trust us, your guests will be highly complimentary about your complementary food and beer pairings. That’s a quick grammar lesson for you.
Want Help Choosing Food and Beer?
We love talking about beer. We’ll talk about beer all day long. That includes what foods taste great with our beers. Stop by our brewery on Mariposa in Denver for a can of our monthly Beer Drop or a cold glass of something on tap.