Pocket Guide to Beer Pairing
Submitted by Jennie O'Malley

In the food world, pairing meals with wine is almost second nature — a crisp Chardonnay
with wild salmon, a deep red Cabernet with a filet mignon. But increasingly, chefs are
tossing the vino and grabbing for a brewski.  Beer is fuel for food, a companion made to
pair and flatter flavors, not detract from them. Certain beer and food combinations work
just as innately as benchmark wine pairings, such as Champagne and caviar or Zinfandel
and short ribs.

The rules of beer pairing are much more relaxed than wine pairings. Note that there’s no
real science behind beer pairings.  It’s just trial and error,.  Everyone has their own flavor
profiles. There is no real wrong way to go about it. You don’t have to have a Cicerone
degree or formal training. It’s just making sure you know how to focus and concentrate on
the different flavors that are brought out by the food and beer pairing.

Beer’s carbonation and bittering agents cleanse the palate in a different way than the
tannins and acidity from wine which is why so many beers pair better than wine with many

Folks looking to pair beer with food should start with both a beer and a dish that they
love.  Don’t use a style of beer you aren’t familiar with or don’t like. If you are not into
hoppy beers, don’t grab an IPA. Don’t like sours? Stay away from those mouth-puckering
beers. Also, pairing is easier when you can describe what you taste. But don’t get hung
up on the lingo; use language you are familiar with..

Here are some basic flavor building blocks that can make your pairing experience a

Crisp and clean.
Beer styles: Blonde ale, helles, pilsner, amber lager. These are lighter-colored beers with
more carbonation, and they pair well with lightly toasted foods. Things like biscuits, or
sushi or summer vegetables — tomatoes, peas, radishes.

Hoppy and bitter
Beer styles: Amber, IPA, pale ale, imperial IPA, hazy IPA or fresh-hopped beer. These
can be challenging because there are so many versions of hoppy, which can be piney or
citrusy, bitter or floral, subtle or overwhelming. We recommenddishes that are more
contradictory to the palate — spicy, fatty, acidic. If you have a classic American IPA, it is
great to combine that with heat, like Colorado green chile. The IPA will counteract heat on
the palate. A hazy IPA is the opposite. Pair that with a good pâté dish or with something
like ice cream.

Malty and sweet.
Beer styles: American brown ale, dunkel, American amber lager, Scotch ale, Belgian-style
dubbel. These beers, made with roasted malts, develop caramel flavors and toffee notes.
They can complement foods with a savory aroma or taste especially roasted, glazed and
braised, rich foods that need a little sweet touch to balance them out.

Rich and roasty.
Beer styles: Brown ale, imperial stout, milk stout, oatmeal stout, porter, schwarzbier.
These dark beers have flavors of bourbon, vanilla and chocolate. A robust meat dish is
always a good idea. A classic stout with a stew is always good. But you can enjoy these
beers year-round. Have something light with them, roasted beets, a fennel dish.

Sour and tart.
Beer styles: American brett, American sour, Flanders ale, gose, lambic. These beers are
tart, funky, acidic and jammy. Aged meats, assertive fruit flavored-meals and strong dairy
dishes work here. . Also, stone fruits are good — peaches, nectarines.

Fruity and spicy.
Beer Styles: Belgian blond ale, hefeweizen, saison, tripel are great
because they have the high carbonation levels and they have some really good flavors
going on. They can be approached in a lot of ways, like rosé in a wine. They can go well
with some meat dishes. Or you can drink them to awaken the palate.

Just follow those few basic concepts and you will be amply rewarded with a elevated
dining experience.  It's the magic of beer!  
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Concise and Easy Beer Pairing Guide
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