Beer is flavoursome, diverse and delicious. From Golden to dark, fruity to roasted, it can be just the thing to go with a delicious plate of food. Beer can match every dish on the menu because of its vast range of aromas, flavours and textures. So, fire up the BBQ and discover some wonderful beer and food pairings to wow your palate.
The key to beer and food pairing is the three C’s, cut, complement and contrast.
Cut – Beers that rip through the flavour or oiliness of the food, through their carbonation or bitterness. The carbonation cleanses the palate, ready for the next bite.
Complement – Beers with flavours that complement similar flavours of the food, delivering the perfect match.
Contrast – Beers with flavours that offer contrasting flavours to the food. For example, sweet and salty.
The simplest of the three and therefore a good place to start is to find flavours that ‘complement’ each other and marry together to form a balanced whole. When you do this, you can elevate the overall flavour of what you are eating and drinking to really heighten the flavours and texture of both the beer and the dish. Complimentary pairings include two parts that share a similar flavour or aroma. So, a sweet and fruity dessert would pair perfectly with a beer that had that same fruit flavour or a bowl of nuts would taste great alongside a brown ale with a nutty character. Think about when you sit down for your favourite Italian mean, you reach for the red wine which complements the rich meaty flavour of the bolognese so don’t be scared to reach for a beer instead!
Barbecue food is delicious and full of texture. The vegetables have a sweet, charred flavour, sausages are filled with herbs and spices, the rich flavour of lamb chops and steak, ribs are sticky and sweet and the lighter flavours of fish and chicken. With such a range of complex, deep, and varied flavours, what better drink to enjoy alongside it than a beer? Now, we know that we can’t find meaty flavoured beers or ones that taste of grilled courgette so here developing contrasting and pairings that ‘cut’ is key. They can be a little trickier but the rewards when you discover that pairing can be a very rewarding and tasty experience! One way that this can be achieved is by pairing food and beers of opposite weights. If you were sitting down to a filling dish, such as risotto, you may benefit from opting for a beer that is lighter in character and body so therefore it isn’t an overall struggle to stomach together. A lighter beer can be a quenching and refreshing palate cleanser between mouthfuls. You have to be more cautious the other way around, as bold darker, robust ales can overpower lighter dishes. For example, a porter would not sit well alongside a salad. The roasted flavours would overpower the delicate flavour of the leaves and grains, however, one of the worlds most long-standing and wonderful pairings is a porter served with oysters with the sweet and saltiness of the oyster being offset by the dry, roasted flavours in the beer.
The bitterness found from the hops can cut through the rich, juicy flavours in the meat. When you enjoy a burger, it may be spicy or covered in cheese or garnished with sweet gherkins. Here the sweet, roasted, toasted malt flavours in the beer will complement the meat and garnishes. The dark malts in beer have subtle, smoky notes that also work well with the chargrilled flavours. The carbonation cuts through the dense, rich textures and cleanses the palate after each bite. So whatever you choose to eat you’ll find a wonderful partnership with beer.
Not all your matches may be perfect, but a little effort goes a long way, so start exploring those different flavours and enjoy a world of discovery and sharing with family and friends.
Some combinations to try:
- Smoked fish and Beacon Hill - Smoked fish with accompaniments of pickles and dill can have many complex flavours, so a lighter beer would work well that doesn’t fight against these flavours.
- Burgers and Tiger - Tiger pairs well with the rich, meaty texture of burgers, the spiced hop character elevates the herbs and spices in the meat.
- Steak and Old Original - For bolder flavours, Old Original works well. Its rich winey character harmonizes with the rich flavour of the meat for an indulgent pairing
- Chargrilled vegetables or prawns and Subchaser - Sunchaser, which is light in character with subtle lemon and zesty flavours pairs wonderfully with prawns with it having contrasting flavours. The refreshing, citrus flavour is the perfect palate cleanser for charred vegetables, cutting through the flavour with a delicate sweetness.
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