Beer and food pairings

Beer and food pairings is not an exact science, but some general guidelines can help to enhance the enjoyment of both the beer and your meal. Beer and food pairings are nothing new. There are hundreds of years’ worth of study behind these pairings. However, beer shouldn’t be left out of the meal planning. In fact, you’ll find that there are tons of different dishes that pair well with different brews. The secret lies in knowing what types of foods different beers pair best with.

The first thing to consider when pairing a cold brew with your dinner is that neither the beer nor the food should upstage the other. Instead, attempt to create a harmony between the two, with each complimenting the other’s flavors, textures, and heartiness.

Similar to the red wine with red meat and white wine with fish and chicken school of thought, many prefer to pair dark, heavier beers with meats and lighter beers with fish, chicken and salads. While this doesn’t hold true in all occasions, it’s a good start to your first foray into pairing beer and food.

Another consideration is to cut food’s flavor with an appropriately balanced beer; for example, the acidity of highly hopped ale cuts through the richness of fattier foods like cheese or fried fish, whereas sweeter, malty beers can cut through the spiciness of Asian or Mexican dishes.

Selecting beers and foods based on regional associations is also generally a good way to ensure a proper pairing. For instance, Mexican beers are often light and acidic, which naturally pairs well with spicy Mexican food, while Japanese lagers are a good compliment to sushi. Conveniently, most ethnic restaurants typically offer several traditional beers to make your pairings easy.

If you have any experience with pairing wine with food, think of the distinctions between dishes served best with red wine and those better served with white wine. Whether you are familiar with wine and food pairing or not, consider the different types of beer from lighter taste to the darkest varieties as the spectrum of types.

Starting from the lighter end of the spectrum are your pilsners and lagers. I find these work better with seafood, as the taste is lighter and won’t overpower the flavor of the food. In New Orleans, a boiled crawfish is best washed down with a light pilsner from any of the mega breweries.

Moving along on the beer styles, we come to your pale ales and ambers. As these are a little heartier, they can be paired with similar food. Try having Chicken and Pork dishes with ambers for a great match up.

Next we come to the so-called “dark side of the beer”. I refer to stouts and porters when I refer to dark beer. These are among the heaviest regarding taste and alcohol, so you can pair them up with the heartiest foods like steaks, ribs, and similar dishes.

These general guidelines will hopefully get you thinking the next time you’re out to dinner, but when it’s all said and done, beer and food are to be savored and enjoyed, whether together or separate. So if it tastes good to you, go for it.

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