Beer and Food Pairing
For centuries beer and food have been enjoyed together as part of the good life. The grain-based nature of beer makes it a food in itself, and the huge range of flavors, aromas and textures makes it a perfect match for nearly any kind of food, from backyard barbeques to the most luxurious gourmet dishes. Choosing beers and foods that enhance one another means paying attention to the gustatory qualities of both. While there are no absolute rules, the following suggestions may enhance your beer and dining experience based on creativity and experimentation. We hope you embrace that spirit on your beer and food journey.
For great beer and food pairings, a number of things must be considered. Here are the most important concepts:
Match strength with strength. It is simply common sense that delicate dishes work best with delicate beers and it is equally true that strongly flavored foods demand assertive beers. Intensity of flavor may involve many aspects: alcoholic strength, malt character, hop bitterness, sweetness, richness, roastiness and so on.
Find harmonies. Combinations often work best when they share some common flavor or aroma elements. The nutty flavor of an English-style brown ale and a homemade cheddar cheese, the deep roasted flavors of an imperial stout and chocolate truffles, and the rich, caramelly flavors of an Oktoberfest lager and roasted pork are all examples of this.
Consider sweetness, bitterness, carbonation, heat (spice) and richness. This may seem a little complicated, but it really is quite straightforward. 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.
Look to classic cuisines. The cuisines of beer-drinking countries offer many great beer and food combinations. Schnitzel with Pilsner Urquell, a pale lager, may be obvious, but who would have thought to put Guinness Stout together with oysters.
Practice makes perfect. Not every pairing works as expected – this can be fun if you learn to appreciate the unexpected. Build on the things that work, such as pairing native beers with their local cuisine, such as Tsingtao from China with oriental foods, Peroni Nastro Azzuro from Italy with Italian cuisine or a classic Mexican lager, Bohemia with any spicy Mexican dish.
Consider Seasonality. Like light food, and beer in the warm summer months or heavier beer in the winter, the beers and foods of a given season pair very naturally and suit the mood as well. Contrast and compliment. All beer and food combinations should involve both of these principles. Soma pairings will be more dependent on the contrast, others on complimentary flavors, but all should strive for some kind of balance.