The art of pairing beer and food, or ‘beer gastronomy’ has been well and truly discovered by those within the growing craft beer bubble.
It’s great to see it now making its into way to the mainstream! Whilst most of us can recite the “red wine – red meat, white wine – white meat” mantra, the idea of pairing a fine brew together with a main meal, or even dessert can be baffling.
Wine is so elegant, beer so bloating… it’s these misconceptions that have held beer back for so long. Thankfully, beer is shedding its blokey overcoat and revealing its more delicate and sophisticated demeanor. What is fast becoming the catchphrase for beer gastronomy… the beergustation experience, is infiltrating its way into bars and restaurants far and wide.
Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Lion. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.
Beer is incredibly complex, yes… far more than wine (I’m sure there are some of you choking on your coffee right now!), and with over 100 different styles of beer to choose from, there simply is no food that beer cannot wonderfully enhance.
For the uninitiated, there are some fairly simple beer & food pairing guidelines which, when put into practice, will ensure avoiding any potential pairing disasters.
The basic rules follow the same principles as matching wine to food, and that is firstly ensuring the flavours in the pairing are balanced.
In wine speak, a sommelier would never consider the pairing of a delicately seared scallop with a hearty Shiraz, the Shiraz would simply dominate. The same goes for beer and food; a light Belgian Witbier would definitely lose the battle against a chargrilled steak.
So, where to start? There are many C’s discussed in beer speak, ‘colour, clarity, carbonation’ but the three C’s relating to beer & food pairing relate to:
- Complement – does the beer complement the food, are their similar flavour characteristics, which will work in delicious harmony together?
- Cleanse (or cut) – is the beer acting as a palate cleanser… those wonderful bubbles from the carbonated foam are a perfect broom for sweeping through any richness on the palate.
- Contrast – the most rewarding when done well, does the beer act as a glorious contrast to its food partner?
Keeping these fundamentals in mind when entering this adventurous journey of beer and food will guarantee the creation of magical moments, full of surprise and sumptuous delight.
An indulgent example of how beer can enhance complementary flavours in food would be the pairing of an English style Amber Ale alongside a heavenly slow-cooked pork belly. The malty caramel tones found in the beer will certainly enhance the to die for caramalised skin of a good pork belly. This combination also ticks our cleanse ‘C’, with the beer expertly cutting through the richness of the pork.
Alternatively, beer battered fish & chips paired with a crisp, clean Pilsner is a fabulous example of how well beer can cleanse the palate.
For the really adventurous, a rich, decadant stout contrasts perfectly to the sweetness found in a gooey chocolate pudding… this is truly a magical combination and one that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime (pour the stout into a champagne glass for a touch of elegance).
Beer is also an incredibly fine partner to cheese, even though we have been taught that the more romantic pairing of wine and cheese is the only way to go.
The classic ploughman’s lunch consists of a chunk of an aged, sharp and crumbly English cheddar with a pint of English Bitter; the Belgian monks have not only been brewing for centuries, but are also dab hands at cheesemaking, think a pungent washed rind with a rich Belgian Tripel, or we can go back to the ever-versatile stout and smooth out the tangy, salty corners of a blue cheese such as Roquefort… simply sublime!
And now that you’re thinking about food, here are some screen-lick worthy meals to look at:
What is your favourite food and beer pairing?
Supported by Lion.