Most people know that you carefully choose your wine to compliment a meal, but did you know that properly pairing beer with your food of choice can be just as important? Get the most out of your next dining experience by carefully choosing your favorite beer to compliment your dish. Below, we explore six flavor profiles of beer and their perfect meal-time pairings along with four quick tips to keep in mind.
Crisp and Clean
Crisp and clean beers, such as wheat ales and pale lagers, are refreshing to the palate. These beers are typically light in color, ranging from straw to amber. Crisp and clean beers also have a light to medium body and light to medium Alcohol By Volume, or ABV. Beers in the crisp and clean category will fall under one of three subcategories based on their flavor profile. Delicate fruit, brisk hop, and malt-accented are all subcategories of the crisp and clean beers you may enjoy. They do best paired with spicy foods, salads, burgers, and even sushi.
Malty and Sweet
Malty and sweet beers have a dominate malt flavor and nutty notes or mild fruit aromas with caramelized/toffee flavors. These copper to dark brown colored beers range from light to full bodied with ABVs from low to high. English-style brown ales, Irish Red ales, and Dunkel lager are all notable beers within the malty and sweet category. These beers do best when paired with foods that help highlight the malt flavorings such as pizza, cured meats, and game.
Dark and Roasty
Dark roasted malt flavoring present from aroma to finish helps highlight coffee and cocoa notes in these deep copper to black colored beers. Having a medium-light to full body, dark and roasty beers can have a low to high ABV. American stouts, Imperial porters, and Schwarzbier are all part of the dark and roasty flavor profile. With such a rich flavor, these beers will be best enjoyed with briny seafood, raw shellfish, and barbeque.
Hoppy and Bitter
Beers with a solid malt base but a dominant hop flavor such as IPAs, American Amber Ale, and English Pale Ale will have a bitter flavor and delicious aromas. Yellow to brown in color with low to high ABVs, these beers range from medium to full bodied. Hoppy and bitter beers are noted as being earthy and dry, bold hops with herbal and citrus, or malt-forward depending on their exact flavor notes and finish. Fried foods, deli sandwiches, and burgers all pair well with these distinctly bitter but delicious brews.
Fruity and Spicy
Bold fruit flavors like apple, pear, fig, and strawberry, and spices such as clove, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg bring out the best in these golden to dark brown brews. Ranging from low to high in both body and ABV, fruity and spicy beers can be considered sweet, semi-dry, or dry. They are never very bitter and fall into the subcategory of dark or bright depending on the fruits and spices used to amp up their flavor. Belgian Blond Ale, Dubbel, Quadruple, and Gruit Ale all fall within the range of fruity and spicy beers. Shellfish, spicy meals, pork, poultry, light fishes, and cured meats and sausages all pair well with these bold brews.
Tart and Funky
Sour brews run the gamut in flavor from dark, winey notes to light with mild acidity to very sour, funky notes that range from leathery to earthy. Gose beers, Saison, and Wild Ale are some of the more popular brews you will find of the tart and funky variety. These beers range in color from straw to dark brown, light to medium-full bodied, and low to high in ABVs. Best paired with game meats and richer meats like lamb, they can also compliment fruit desserts and funky cheeses.
Four Quick Tips to Consider
When choosing a beer to pair with your next meal, decide if you would rather compliment or contrast the dish. Pairing a light meal with a light beer, such as salmon paired with a pale lager, or a porter with a rich meal, can help compliment your dining experience. On the other hand, contrasting a beer or dish that has a dominant flavor, like a rich stout with briny seafood, can help bring balance to a meal without sacrificing flavor.
A beer can also be used as a palate cleanser. Fried foods or spicy curry may be best served with a light, crisp beer. IPAs can also go well with fried foods as they help to cut down the bitterness of the brew. Lastly, do not overpower flavors when making your choices. There are many types of food that can be easily overpowered by the rich and powerful flavors found in medium and dark beers.
Keep these handy tips and flavor profiles in mind the next time you head to your favorite local restaurant and make it the best paired beer and meal you have had! Do you have a favorite beer and food pairing? Let us know what it is below in the comments section.