How To Pair Beer With Food

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The craft beer boom has inspired millions of people to look at beer through a new lens. Once relegated to backyard barbecues and ballgames, beer is now served alongside gourmet meals. Much like the right wine can make a meal taste even better, beer can bring out the flavors of food, making it an ideal complement to anything from steak to seafood to salad.

The Brewers Association is an American trade group whose membership consists of more than 5,400 brewers, suppliers and retailers. The group recommends beer lovers follow a three-pronged approach to matching beer and food. It’s worth noting the BA does not view this approach as a 1-2-3 process, meaning beer lovers need not follow the steps in order to perfect their pairing skills.

1. Match strength with strength. The BA recommends pairing strongly flavored foods with assertive beers and delicate foods with delicate beers. For example, a relatively low alcohol witbier should pair well with light seafood like steamed mussels. Beer lovers who enjoy strong barley wines, which are typically 10 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) or higher, should find that a strong cheese or dessert matches up well with this overpowering style.

2. Find harmonies. The BA notes that beer-food combinations typically resonate most effectively when they share some common flavor or aroma element. The BA points to how the deep, roasted flavors of an imperial stout often pair nicely with chocolate truffles. 

3. Consider sweetness, bitterness, carbonation, heat (spice), and richness. The BA recommends that beer lovers look to take advantage of the specific and predictable ways that certain qualities of food and beer interact with each other. For example, malty sweetness can cool the heat, making a hoppy beer with plenty of malt a good choice to pair with spicy food.

Pairing the right beer with food can make any night out on the town that much better.

Want to pair your favorite craft beers like an old pro at home or at your local pub with an extensive tap list? Consider these pairing recommendations, courtesy of the Brewers Association.

• Witbier: Lighter seafood dishes like steamed mussels

• Blonde ale: Light food, including chicken, salads and salmon

• India Pale Ale: Strong spicy food and bold, sweet desserts like carrot cake

• Double/Imperial IPA: Smoked beef brisket, grilled lamb and southern chicken-fried steak

• Amber/red ale: Chicken, seafood, burgers, and spicy cuisine

• Porter: Barbecue, sausages, roasted meat, and blackened fish

• Sweet or Oatmeal stout: Rich, spicy food, including barbecued beef and Szechuan cuisine

• Classic pilsner: Light food such as chicken, salads and salmon

• American wheat ale: Very light food, including salads, sushi and vegetable dishes

• Abbey dubbel: Barbecue, meat stews, and a thick, hearty steak

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