Pair Your Beer
Good Beer Doesn't Always Stand Alone
If you're looking for a good meal to wash down your beer, a world of tasty pairing awaits. With the abundance of diverse and flavorful craft beer offerings, the possibilities are endless. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Before meals, the best bet is a beer that arouses your appetite. A style that is dry in character and relatively low in alcohol, but not in flavor, it is particularly refreshing.
This is where beer is truly the perfect beverage. Triple crème cheeses are particularly great with wheat beer. Aged cheddar with a pale ale, blue veined cheese loves the rich roasted malt in a porter or stout. Soft and aged goat cheese work very well with American amber ales and IPA’s.
Simply-prepared shellfish such as fresh-cracked crab and steamed clams are great with aromatic, lighter brews. Mussels and wheat beer are a classic combination, often served with the beer they are steamed in. An historic pairing for oysters is found in porters and stouts - the salty richness of the oyster finds a counterpart in the deep, roasty taste of either brew. Stouts even can balance (believe it or not) the fuller flavors of a spicy crab-boil or a boiled lobster.
The soft, clean flavors of American wheat beers - particularly unfiltered versions - go especially well with almost all kinds of fish, perhaps even better with something as simple as sushi. Hop-tangy golden ales provide a pleasantly zesty, but light, contrast to grilled fish. For the richer fish like salmon or swordfish, ambers are excellent to pair with grill flavors.
For a fresh green salad, wheats can't be beat! The crispness of a wheat beer is great with salty meats, cheeses and rich dressings in a salad, like a chef’s salad or cobb salad. If there's a hint of fruit in the salad, adventurous eaters may want to try a fruit beer.
For a heartier pairing, consider a porter or stout. (Don't forget that the famous "porterhouse" steak gets its name from being served at taverns which poured porter). If a rich, thick stew is at hand, again consider a malty brown ale or porter: although sweeter than a pale ale, it retains the latter's quaffability and pairs nicely with caramelized flavors. Most "game" meats like venison and rabbit, because of their stronger flavors, demand a more richly-flavored brew.
You almost always will be able to find a match for chicken amongst lager beers. The best brews for the bird depend on how it is prepared: spicy chicken wings demand a more quenching brew, or to beat the heat try an IPA. Richer-tasting birds such as turkey, goose, or duck, on the other hand, support moderately bitter (and fruity) flavor such as an amber ale.
Pizza and Pasta
These "Alpine" foods find the best complement in the top beers of their homeland: the spicy-sweet amber lagers today considered to be in the "Vienna" style. This match is particularly sacrosanct when tomatoes enter the picture, as the red fruit's sweet acidity can make most other brews taste too one-dimensional. Equally malty American amber ales will pair well with a pizza, offering the hops to balance the richness in the cheese. Wheat beers are superb with rich cream sauces and cheese in pasta dishes.
Barbecue is nearly at its best, we think, when served with hoppy pale ales or IPAs. The tangy, zesty character of these brews makes them ideal for washing down whatever comes off the grill. Of course, the top beer for the job really depends on the item being barbecued. Once you've decided that, consider the other suggested pairings above.
Hot 'n' Spicy
There are two basic schools of thought: extinguish the fire or fan the flames. For the former, almost any kind of cold brew fills the basic function. Clean-tasting golden ales or American wheat beers can do this job well. More adventurous eaters should look to balance their spice with an equal dose of hop. An extra-hoppy IPA, can match a dish's heat while also providing satisfying flavors of their own. IPA with its crisp bitterness and citrus flavors from the American hops, make it perfect for the spice and heat of Indian curry and Thai dishes. Overall, remember this: any beer will quench a chili's fire quicker than plain water because Capsaicin (the substance that gives peppers their heat) is more soluble in alcohol.
As a general rule, look to sweeter brews when serving dessert. Fruit beers provide fun complements to pies and pastries with similar flavors. But for the most interesting way to end a meal, try pairing rich chocolaty desserts with beers that echo this flavor - darkly-malty brews. Mellow chocolate-malt flavors complement the dessert, while the beer’s natural heft insures that the meal closes on an enjoyably relaxed note!