A Brewmaster’s Guide to Beer Pairing in Great Restaurants
Pairing Beer with Food
When it comes to pairing food with a beer style, try to match the flavors of your dish with the flavors of the beer. Beer is complex but yet very easy to understand when it comes to pairing it with a variety of cuisine to bring out the best of both. You can introduce your guests to the concept of pairing food and beer by beginning your meal with a cheese flight and a variety of lagers or ales. When marrying beer and cheese or something like that, here are some easy tips to keep in mind:
- Contrast – light beers contrast the richness of soft, bloomyrind cheeses such as a triple cream Brie.
- Complement – full-flavored lagers complement more flavorful and complex cheeses like aged cheddar.
- Balance – ales and darker lagers balance out big, smoky cheeses like a semi soft smoked Roquefort-style blue.
As you begin planning the remainder of the meal, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is the lighter-bodied the beer, the more narrow the glass and the lighter the meal.
For example, light lagers pair well with the subtle flavors of less substantial meals, like the delicate flavors in seafood or vegetarian appetizers, fresh fruit and simple salads. Try a light lager such as Michelob ULTRA or Bud Light with a prosciutto and melon appetizer or cayenne pepper cheese sticks. The light, crisp finish also helps reduce the heat found in spicier dishes, such as Mexican, Thai or Indian cuisine.
The clean, creamy finish of a mid-bodied lager works well when paired with more traditional American fare, because the beer doesn’t compete with its generous flavors. The refreshing finish of Budweiser helps to cut through the heaviness of cream-based dishes, such as egg hollandaise, vichyssoise or cream of tomato soup.
The hearty and malty flavors found in bock beers result in an extremely substantial body that can stand up to the bold flavors of more opulent meals. Beers like Goose Island Honker’s Ale or lighter beers like Michelob ULTRA Amber pair well with grilled meats and barbecued foods, as well as a variety of cheeses, from cheddar to Gouda to smoked mozzarella.
At the end of your meal, the smooth character of stouts and other dark brews are the perfect complement to the sweet subtleties found in a variety of desserts. These beers offer coffee-caramel aromas and flavors that pair well with rich chocolate-based desserts, or they can even be enjoyed alone as an after-dinner drink. Pair Bare Knuckle Stout or Michelob AmberBock with moist chocolate cake, chocolate, coffee or caramel ice cream for a delicious harmony of flavors.
Because taste preferences are subjective and there are no exact rules for pairing beer with food, the above recommendations are simply the beginning of the limitless possibilities that beer offers.
Another great way to pair food and beer is to use beer as an ingredient when cooking. This gives culinary enthusiasts a fun, creative twist as they prepare dishes. Whether it’s by marinating, infusing the beer into the food or using it as an ingredient in a reduction, simply add the beer and let the flavors do the work. I’d recommend trying a few basic recipes to get started and you can find additional recipes at Here'sToBeer.com.
An excellent complement to a variety of culinary delights, beer is the perfect beverage choice for pairing with food and entertaining family and friends.
An important step in capturing the distinct flavors of each beer style is selecting the appropriate glassware. The style of glass you serve beer in also sets the tone when you’re entertaining. But most importantly, beer should always be served in a glass because it releases the carbon dioxide, gives it an opportunity to breathe and pronounces the flavor of the beer. There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a glass for your beer. First, consider the opening — is it wide or narrow? Next, look at the rim angle — is it gently slanted or steeply pitched? And finally consider the thickness of the glass — is it delicate or sturdy? All these elements play a vital role in your experience.
I suggest four basic types of glassware that most culinary aficionados would already have in their collection — a tall, fluted glass for light lagers; a pilsner glass for mid-bodied American lagers; a tulip glass for full-bodied beers and a pubstyle glass for stout beers.
Glassware not only enhances the tasting experience, but also creates a lovely table setting. No matter if you’re hosting a dinner party or entertaining for the family at the holidays, the unique look and sophistication of glassware can turn an ordinary table into extraordinary. By keeping these simple tips in mind, beer can easily be integrated into any entertaining occasion.
Pouring & Tasting
With brewing in my family’s roots, beer has always been integral to holiday gatherings and summer barbecues. In order to make a truly lasting impression on guests during these special occasions, it is vital to know how to pour, pair and serve beer properly.
The pleasing, brewery-fresh aroma and taste of a delicious glass of beer can only be fully enjoyed when it is properly poured to release its aroma, flavor and carbon dioxide through a beautiful head of foam.
Pouring beer is actually an art. The best and most proper way to serve beer is to pour it in a clean, clear glass. A good "beer-ready" glass should be rinsed well to eliminate soap residue that may affect the essence of the beer.
For a proper pour, place the neck of the bottle, or the tip of the can, over the edge of the glass. Quickly raise the bottom to a high 45-degree angle and pour right down the center of the glass. This will cause the beer to gurgle and create a fine head. Then, lower the bottom of the bottle or can to reduce the flow of beer into the glass until the foam rises to the rim. A substantial head of foam will release aroma, flavor and carbon dioxide which carries the elegant aromas of the beer to your nose and helps prevent a feeling of fullness.
You should avoid pouring beer down the side of a glass. This technique minimizes the foam and traps the natural carbonation of the beer, resulting in a flat, gassy-tasting beer.
All of the above tips — from food pairings to glassware to the perfect pour — will help you learn to truly appreciate beer by embracing its subtle elements and wonderful flavor profiles.
Using beer to entertain family and friends can certainly add a new level of enjoyment and sophistication to any occasion, so I encourage you to incorporate some of these unique elements into your next gathering.