Beer and Food
Like wine, beer can be used to compliment food and bring out the flavors and complexities of both the meal and the brew. One of the most delightful aspects of beer in all its complex glory is pairing it with food. When deciding what style of beer to pair with which foods, beware of sweeping rules. While wine experts have established strict pairing rules, beer aficionados have stopped short of setting hard and fast rules. Every palate is different, so let your palate be your guide.
Here are a few simple guidelines to help in pairing beer with food.
1. Think of Ale as Red Wine and Lager as White Wine
In other words, when red meat or any dish that you would normally pair with red wine is on the menu, select an ale to serve with it. Conversely, if the main course is fish or poultry, try a lager. Now you will have to experiment around with different types of Ales and Lagers and soon enough you will find one that suits your taste.
2. Hoppiness in Beer = Acidity in Wine
Anytime that you would seek a wine with high acidity -- such as with spicy or oily food -- choose a beer with significant hoppiness, or bitterness. The more acidic you would want the wine, the hoppier you will want the beer. Usually a nice pale ale or a brown ale will do the trick.
3. Complement or Contrast
Try to match foods to beer with complementary characters, such as a robust stew with a full-bodied ale. Or try a contrasting flavor, such as a crisp, refreshing lager with a heavy cream soup. This one will take a lot of experimenting. Whoever said experimenting was a bad thing?
4. Keep the Beer Sweeter than the Dessert
Nothing kills the flavor of a beer like the overpowering sweetness of a dessert, so try to keep the sugar contents of both beer and dessert balanced. (Exceptions to this rule can be made for chocolate, which pairs well even with dry stout.) Fruit lambics can have explosively tart flavors — surprisingly good with game and fantastic with chocolate. But in the end Strong dark stouts “are the clear winner for pairing with desserts
When serving beer, especially to a group, here are some tips you can follow to promote the best flavor and experience for your guests:
- Buy beer fresh. Beer is brewed, not fermented, so bottle age does it no good. Fresher is better. Older beers lose their flavor and go flat. Buying locally produced beers will ensure you purchase a product that has traveled the least amount of distance.
- Buy large bottles. Many craft brewers offer beers in 22 ounce or 750 milliliter bottles that offer a shape and size perfect for sharing at the dinner table.
- Use a carafe. If the beers you want aren’t available in larger bottles, you’ll still want to present the beer in a way that encourages sharing. A perfect way to do this is to pour smaller bottles into a carafe or clear plastic pitcher that can be passed around the table. Just don’t put out too much beer at one time: One to one-and-a-half beers per person should be enough beer on the table at the beginning of the meal.
- Options are nice. Just as some people like dark meat and some like white meat, you’ll find that some guests may prefer one style of beer to another. Offering at least two different choices can help to keep everyone happy.
- Don’t forget glassware. Just like wine, certain glass shapes affect the aroma and flavor of beer. The most basic rule is that glass serving size usually correlates with beer strength (inverse relationship). Conical-shaped Pilsner glasses help wedge in or support the head. Curved glasses at the top (like a wine glass) help concentrate aromas.