The latest entry in the Brewer’s Blog series — where I let local brewers and beer experts guest blog – comes from Marshall Brewing’s Wes Alexander. Today’s topic is beer and food pairings. Note Wes’ great tip about using beer as a palate scrubber. Enjoy!
Certainly we are all aware that beer pairs well with pizza, sausages and hamburgers. But this is more of a pairing based on where than why. By this I mean, you are watching a football game, grilling hamburgers and this situation historically calls for beer. The purpose of this article will be to delve further into why beer actually pairs well with many foods based on flavor profile.
Match craft beer to food with similar intensity.
Considering craft beer provides numerous choices in style and flavor, you should search for a pairing that is not overpowering either beer or food. For instance, American, German and Belgian wheat beer styles all offer a lighter feel on the palate along with a good amount of carbonation and little to no bitterness. This makes wheat beer a perfect pairing for delicate seafoods, shell fish, salads, and my favorite, omelets. Further, Belgian wheat or wit beer are spiced with orange peel and coriander. You can think of pairing with any lighter fare that you would normally add citrus to. The Belgian wit will provide the same zest and brightness.
Look for similarities in flavor profile.
American amber ale and English brown ales get their color from the roasting of malted barley. In most cases, this roasting produces flavors that are caramel, nutty and bread-like. Choose foods that have some caramelization on the exterior for pairing.
Classically, roast chicken is a perfect pair for American amber ales. Further, India pale ales have a forward bitterness and spiciness that serve as perfect mates for spicy foods such as Indian curries and Mexican dishes offering a good bit of heat. Pairing IPAs and spicy foods is also an example of matching intensities. I know, most of us think of light lager for pairing with our Mexican meals, but try a more intensely flavored beer next time and see if the flavors are not complimentary.
Pair regional beers with regional dishes.
IPA and Indian food have already been mentioned. Other obvious choices would be English bitters and brown ales with fish & chips and meat pies, Belgian golden ales with mussels and frites, and German bocks and other malty lagers with bratwurst, latkes, and other German favorites. Looking for home-grown favorites? Try American amber ales with barbecue and hamburgers.
Tip: Carbonation in beer makes for a great palate scrubber. This is a distinctive advantage that beer has over wine in the world of pairing. Think of having a rich ribeye steak and how the fat coats the tongue. This can in fact mute your taste from bite to bite. Have a small drink of beer to reset the palate, scrubbing away the rich fat and making your next bite taste as good as the first.
Pairing food and beer is fun. Additionally, with the multitude of complex flavors in beer, and the number of craft breweries available, there are hundreds of choices and combinations. Be inventive and adventuresome. Cheers!