Going to a restaurant and considering something to drink with your meal generally invokes thoughts of snooty people telling you what expensive wine you must taste with some delicacy or another. But why can you not just do the same with beer? There has been a shift, a campaign by enlightened beer drinkers, in recent years to bring this unique and frothy beverage into the fold. Beer is not just for drinking anymore, and not every beer pairs well with everything you eat.
Beer, for whatever reason, has been given a stigma that a person who drinks beer is some sort of sports crazed roughneck. But, for those who drink beer, not to be social or get drunk, but for the flavour, they know that there is more to beer than a buzz. Yes you can pair beer with food much like many would with wine. You may even find yourself having more success with these pairings due to the innumerable flavourings that beer can have.
Those who wish to have the experience of tasting and combining food with beverage, especially those unfamiliar with doing so, have nightmares of snooty sommelier telling them what wine they “simply must try” (I type in my best Thurston Howell voice. He was the millionaire from Gilligan’s Island for those readers that are not nerds) But that is just not the case nowadays. In fact every ingredient that goes into a beer adds to the flavour. That includes the barley, hops, the spices, and even the water!
There are no hard and fast rules to pairing beer with your meals. More like polite suggestions. And keep in mind that this is not about cracking a bottle of Bud, but tasting what creative brewers have known for years.
First of all. Beer has weight. You have all heard that a good Guinness is akin to replacing a meal, and it is heavy work lifting more than one case at a time. But no, what I mean is, much like wine, beer can be light, medium and heavy bodied, and will effect how you feel, taste and experience what you’re eating.
Light bodied beers consist of;
Also known as Hefeweizen
Medium bodied beers consist of;
|Ale: Kentucky Bourbon Barel Ale||Pale Ale: Duvel, known also as IPA||Bock|
Heavy bodied beers consist of;
Complimentary vs. contrast. Something every beer drinker, considering pairing a beer with food needs to think of. What is your personal taste? Do you like contrasting flavours that bring to mind the combinations of sweet and sour or sweet and salty? Or conversely, you could do something that has a commonality with what you’re eating. Bring out a beer that has similar notes and flavouring to what you’re eating. So from bite to sip and back the complimentary flavours work together to enhance what you’re eating.
Generally you should start light and move your way to dark beers when planning to taste your beer with food. This works because, as you move through the courses of a meal, you begin with the lighter fare, salads and soups, into the more heavier foods like beef. Now that is not to say, this is always the case. But that strategy is always a good starting point.
The temperature of the beer you are serving is also something that you should be mindful of. Beer is best served at 45°F but you have about 5°F of play in either direction. Tasting food with warm beer just sucks, so does trying to taste food and beer with the beer being so cold you get brain freeze.
Last and certainly not least. Just because you’re eating Japanese food, does not mean that Sapporo will taste the best with everything you’re eating with that meal. Venture out of your comfort zone and go on a taste safari, a beer’s country or province, or state of origin does not mean that eating food from the same place will naturally go together. The LCBO has a wide range of single beers that come from all over the earth. Mix and match your beer with the food you’re eating and you may discover taste combinations that you never thought possible. Who knows, Mexican beer could go great with Belgian waffles!
So now I challenge you. Plan a meal with several courses based on the selections of beers that you have decided on. Know the beers that you will be using that day. You need to taste them and know what the dominant flavour characteristics are there and plan the meal accordingly. The Better Beer Blog has an article with several menus that may be of help. Also, read this article from the Star about pairing beer and food that gives some helpful insights into flavour combinations. Another helpful article from The Beer Travelers.com talks about Beer first, Food second, and the flavours of beer and other elements in a meal will work together.
And for Dessert you can serve…Grilled Date Cake with Beer Caramel Sauce
Pairing your beer with this, a complimentary beer will be an pale ale, and have citrus, clove and heather notes with a warm finish. A contrasting beer will be something like a vanilla porter, while heavy, has the sweet and nutty flavours that contrast with the citrus of the fruit and the caramel sauce.
This recipe is very similar to something known as Sticky Toffee Pudding, a recipe with origins in Scotland. It also happens to top my list of Top 10 Desserts EVER.
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