Beer and food matching is an area only now starting to get the attention it has long deserved. For many there is still an expectation of wine with food and beer is seen as a stand alone drink, I think this is not just a waste but truly sad that people are not finding the areas where beer can even exceed wine in matching with food.
I’m often asked how I go about putting beer and food together, something there is no right or wrong way to do. At times you look for an historic or geographical story to support the pair and other times it is purely for how well the flavours work together.
Below is a brief overview of the process and considerations that I have when doing a match.
Strength with strength
This is the most essential rule that I always start with. No matter what the interaction is, if either the beer or the food is significantly stronger in flavour than there will not be a great interaction between flavours as one of the pair will be over powered.
Cut, Compliment or Contrast
This is the most fun section of the pairing; cutting is often done with acid (sour beers) or bitterness, contrasting and complimenting is done by thinking of the specifics of the flavours within the beer. This can be a mango aroma on an IPA, coffee and and chocolate in a porter, clove in a wit beer etc.
A good starting point is to identify a key flavour in the beer and to think about classic matches eg, citrus is often served with white fish and cherry often served with chocolate deserts.
Decide if the beer is heavy or thin and how with will interact with the textures of the food.
Example: A rich, meat heavy stew might seem off if paired with a low strength, highly attenuated beer (eg light lager) that has a very light mouthfeel but will fair better with a heavy beer (eg stout) where the textures won’t clash.
The carbonation is a very useful to scrub the palette and leave you ready to enjoy each bite of the food without them becoming cloying. This is the key reason that in my mind beer surpasses wine for pairing with cheese.
Balancing all of these elements is the reason that finding a good match requires such an extensive knowledge of work beer styles.
I hope this was useful, I’ll be sharing the specifics of a few pairings over the next few months to make the interactions a little clearer.