You could be forgiven for having a chuckle at the idea of choosing a particular beer to go with your meal. After all, doesn’t a nice beer go with everything? But just as with wine, the subtle flavours of good food can be hugely enhanced by a harmonious beer accompaniment - and the food returns the favour. Choose your beer carefully and you’ll be in a whole new world of taste.
There are some basic principles that make sense when pairing beer and food to appeal to the tastebuds - how to put like with like, and how to bring out simple contrasts are good tricks to learn.
The simplest pairings can often be the most mind-blowing. Take Cheese and beer for instance. The two are almost family, given the similar process of fermentation that they both go through. Very light cheeses like ricotta go well with wheat beer or lager, while blue cheeses like Gorgonzola and Stilton are well paired with stouts and other dark beers. Semi-soft cheese like Gouda is great with amber ale and Belgian pale ale.
Lighter beers, like lager and pale ale, bring out the best in seafood and salads. A nice crisp lager will go nicely with calamari and crab, cleansing the palate between mouthfuls while also giving the food's flavours an extra zing.
As the name would suggest, a porter goes nicely with a porterhouse steak, as the rich flavours play off each other delightfully. Smoky, deep flavours benefit from a meeting with rich, heavy beers.
As for other meats - pulled pork and pale ale could almost be a concept restaurant on their own (in fact, we might start one). Pale ale also goes nicely with a good burger, and it's great at cutting through the hot sauce of chicken wings. Pizza seems like a cinch to hook up with beer, but try a nice pilsner with your simple margherita next time and see how much better they both taste.
Sweets and Desserts
We often talk about stout as being almost like a pudding on its own, and the chocolatey-coffee flavour certainly plays nice with delicious desserts. Stouts can be given extra punch with a nibble of good dark chocolate, the higher percentage the better. A side of fresh strawberries with a Belgian fruit beer probably isn't the best idea (strawberries are better with a chocolatey stout, as above), but white beers, brewed with orange peel, are great with fresh oranges. A lovely plain traditional treat would be apples with a brown ale - imagine you’ve just come in from a hard day’s toil in the fields.
It’s easy to learn how to pair beer with food once you’ve learned how to compare and contrast the flavours. You can set them up on dates or set them against each other for a friendly scrap: harmonise delicate beers with delicate foods, and give strong foods a run for their money with equally punchy tipples. A little research will pay off, but in the end trial and error can be the best way - imagine the flavoursome fun to be had that way!