What To Serve With Beer: Our Guide

Last Updated on May 10, 2022 by HodgePodgeDays

The pairing of foods with certain drinks has been a practice for a long time, with one of the most common being cheese and wine. The aim of pairing is to combine the flavours from both the food and drink to complement both of them, although this isn’t always the main goal. Wines remain one of the more common considerations when pairing food and drink, but not everyone likes wine at the end of the day. And those that do might instead prefer a nice cold beer instead. If you’re having guests over and nobody is necessarily the biggest fan of wine, but you’re looking to stock up on some beers, you can still take steps to wow your party with some great food and drink combinations. Here’s what you need to know about finding a food pairing for your chosen type of beer.

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Choosing A Complementary Flavour
One of the most common goals when pairing food and drink is to find flavours that bolster the other in the pairing. This can get complicated if you really want it to, as there are so many different concepts when it comes to taste pairings. However, you must remember that when finding a beer to complement certain foods, your best starting point, especially if you’re in a hurry, is to choose them based on the richness of the food. If you’re serving a strong and rich meat stew, for example, with thick gravy and powerful umami (savoury) flavours, then it makes sense to serve it with an old or strong ale.

Picking A Contrasting Flavour
On the flip side of that, you could also look into pairing a beer in an attempt to contrast the flavours. This is slightly riskier as you might end up overpowering one or the other if you’re not careful. However, if you find to right opposing notes in both your beer and food choice, then you may find a phenomenal combination that sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it really does. The strangest yet most common example that you’ll find online is actually combining oysters with a chocolatey stout beer. Sounds strange, right? The reason that it works, however, is because the saltiness in the oysters enhances the flavour of the stout, as do the other condiments you’re likely to have alongside your plate of oysters. This combination works so well, in fact, that some breweries actually brew their beer with oysters.

Using Beer As A Palate Cleanser
As well as finding great foods to pair with your beer, these beers can actually be used to eradicate certain flavours and sensations that may be left over from a meal. Most notably, extremely rich foods or overtly spicy ones. Even those that love hot and spicy curry or spicy chicken wings will prefer to have something cooling to wash it down with. After spicy food, a cold and light beer is a great way to reduce the leftover heat from chillies. At the same time, you can use snacks to diminish any strong aftertastes of beer too. For example, putting some nuts or salty chips on the table for your guests is a great way to offset the bitterness of certain beers like pale ales.

Pairing Ideas
A lot of this can be done via your own experimentation, but there are countless pairing ideas available online that can really help you to concoct a fantastic dinner party for your friends and family. We’ve listed a selection of different types of beers below, along with some good pairing ideas for you. Hopefully, this should give you some good inspiration about what sorts of things you could serve with your chosen alcohol of the evening.

  • Blonde Ale
    These are a very popular choice of beer and work very well with spicy, hot, and even sweet dishes. Thai chicken curry, for example, may work very well with a choice like this, as will certain sweet salad sides or cheeses infused with chilli peppers. Sweet chilli dishes are also great for this, such as a homemade sweet chilli chicken or tofu, for those that prefer a plant-based option.
  • Pale Ale
    This style of beer is popular across the globe and is often referred to as bitter here in the UK. Being a staple of the British pub scene for countless years, a pint of bitter is the perfect accompaniment to some really wholesome comfort foods. Pie and chips, sharp English cheeses, and even a classic burger work wonders with a beer like this. Interestingly, it’s not just food that can complement a pale ale either. Today, many pale ales are brewed with slight citrusy notes, which works very well when paired with other citrusy flavours. In fact, there are many beers that can be paired with e-liquids For example, opting for a citrus flavour e-liquid can complement a pale ale very well. While you might not be supplying your guests with their own vape liquids, it may be worth suggesting that they choose a citrusy e-liquid before they arrive to maximise the experience.
  • Red Ale
    A beer like this is perfect for many different foods and can be a great option if you’re a bit unsure of what to pair with a dish. The slightly milder yet still prominent flavour is perfect so as not to overpower a dish, yet also not to be easily diminished either. Seafood and chicken dishes are great with a red or amber ale and some spicier curries. It’s still wise to avoid your mind-blowing vindaloos where possible, though, as you’re unlikely going to be able to taste these beers afterwards.
  • Stout
    There are quite a few different types of stout beer, but your more common sweet and oatmeal stouts are a much better option than, say, an imperial stout. Sweet stouts are perfect for dessert pairings, whether it’s a chocolate brownie or a sweet and sour berry tart. Then you have the traditional Irish stout beers like the world-famous Guinness. This actually goes well with just about anything. You can just as easily enjoy this in place of a sweet milk stout with your dessert or with a hearty meat pie. Or, of course, oysters on the half shell if you are curious to try that exciting contrasting pairing.
  • Classic Pilsner
    These beers are generally much weaker than any of their counterparts, yet this doesn’t mean they don’t have a place when choosing a food pairing. In fact, these are fantastic with more subtle dishes like a delicious summer salad alongside a mouth-watering grilled salmon fillet. Season these foods with some sharp lemon and some flaked sea salt, then add a bowl of olives and some fresh bread, oil and balsamic vinegar to the table, and you’ve got yourself a light meal that’s perfect for the summertime.
  • IPA
    The Indian pale ale, or IPA, has somewhat of an obvious pairing due to its creation. It was first made by the British, who needed a beer that could survive the 6-month or so journey to the Indian colonies. It then became synonymous with Indian food like curries and has, over the years, been perfected with these dishes in mind. The way in which these beers were preserved was through the addition of hops, adding a citrusy, earthy, and sometimes floral flavour to the beer. These perfectly complement mild or spicy curries and can be a very refreshing yet flavoursome pairing.
  • Strong Ale
    These more powerful beers are perfect choices for strong foods. A strong ale is a great accompaniment to things like a roast dinner with rich meat such as beef or venison and a rich gravy. This is also a great choice for game meats, too and is also great to be enjoyed with a cheese board afterwards, too, if you prefer. A double Gloucester cheese or other significantly aged option goes well with the flavours of strong ale or one that has been fermented for quite some time.
  • Wheat Beer
    Known as witbier in Belgium, these are brewed with wheat or barley and are often brewed in Belgium and the Netherlands. The colour of this beer is quite light with a fairly obvious hazy, often opaque appearance. They are perfect for seafood dishes like crab and mussels or even sushi. The salty taste of the edible seaweed known as nori in Japan, which is wrapped around many types of sushi, provides a wonderful contrast to the citrusy yet malty flavour of a Belgian witbier. Making your own sushi might sound like a complicated endeavour, but it’s actually surprisingly easy and is a great way to impress your guests. Don’t forget to grab a quality wheat beer to accompany this tasty treat.
  • Dark Lager
    The richness of a dark lager is a wonderful thing to pair with something hearty and warming like a goulash. This Hungarian dish is filled with incredibly rich and delicious flavours but is predominantly seasoned with vibrant paprika to make a thick and punchy gravy. It’s also great with other tasty and simple dishes like sausage and mashed potato or even to enjoy with a nice pepperoni pizza. As well as this, it can also be a good barbeque beer, working well alongside a traditional beef burger with some sticky barbeque sauce and crunchy pickled cucumbers.

This is a contributed post.

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