Matching Beer with Food

Beer is often matched with food but does this change when you are drinking an alcohol-free beer?

We asked the team at Binary to give us their expert opinion and top tips on how to match beer with food. 

With such a diversity of beer styles there is no reason not to see more food and beer pairings on offer.  Beer and food pairings follow the same logic as wine pairings.  Think about the intensity of the food and the flavours and aromas in both the food and the beer.  For example, if you have a light and delicate dish it is unlikely that you would pair it with a stout.   That said, beer is a bit more ‘universal’ than wine and can go with a broader range of food

Here are our 5 tips for matching beer with food.

1. In the simplest form trust your senses and profile the beer:

When you are thinking about beer and food pairing, throw away the style guide and think simply about how it triggers your senses the aroma, taste, body and colour of the beer.

• Aromatic but not very bitter beers like wheat beers or some botanical beers are a great accompaniment for seafood in the same way one would think of a white wine.  Depending on which actual flavour notes you pick up you can pair it in more detail.

• Richer, more intensely flavoured beers designed to be sipped and savoured you would think of the same way you would a red wine

When you taste the beer, make a note of which flavours are most dominant.  For example, does the choice of hops give a strong lemon or tropical fruit flavour or does the fermentation process give notes of apple or banana.

2. Beyond this – decide if you want to complement or contrast:

Once you have your beer tasting profile think through with the chef around what the sensory experience is that you want to convey

• Do you want the flavours to work synergistically to elevate a particular flavour experience e.g., if you were having a rich chocolate desert you might want to pair it with a porter or ale which also has notes of vanilla and caramel to complement it

• OR do you want to look at having contrasting flavours which are known to go well together (like chilli and chocolate).  So you could pair a very tart and astringent beer like a blueberry sour beer with duck as an example.

3. With the food pairing agreed, don’t forget the perfect serve

Glassware, serving size and serving temperature can have a big impact on our overall perception of flavour.  This gives an opportunity to experiment with serving temperatures and choice of glassware to maximise the experience.   Glasses from other drinks categories are a great place to start e.g.  wine glass for a wheat beer.

4. Grab the opportunity for vegan and vegetarian food pairing with beer

The explosion in vegan and vegetarian menu options represents a real opportunity for beer.  Most beer would be vegan or vegetarian and using the principles above, outlets could develop some very interesting pairing combinations.   For example pair some avocado, broccoli and green beans with an aromatic beer or creamy mushroom risotto with a brown ale.

5. And then lastly, there is no right or wrong – it all boils down to personal preference and make-up.

We all have different flavour thresholds for different flavours and aromas and then different emotional reactions to flavours based on our experiences.   There will be some flavours that you might find you cannot detect at all e.g. butterscotch or violet (anosmia).  So, when you drink a beer- think of your own experience, what flavours you pick up and what you like and then what foods you would enjoy it with and it will be different for each of us.  Having a few people taste the beer and the recommended food pairing is a good way to make sure that there are no blind spots!

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