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Beer and Food: An Introduction

Most commonly, when you think of pairing a beverage with food you think of wine. Zinfandel goes with spicy food and bbq, chardonnay or merlot go well with chicken, cabernet sauvignon compliments beef dishes, sauvignon blanc goes with fish and so on. Of course, all this depends on how they are served and most importantly what your individual tastes are. Tonight you may wish to enjoy the contrast between the wine selection and the food, yet still complement the flavors. For example, a dry, crisp sauvignon blanc with a richer fish entrée. Yet tomorrow you may want to complement the food with the wine - say an cabernet sauvignon with a chocolate dessert. The same can go for beer as well. Below I will suggest some pairings that I have found to work quite well. I invite you to do your own pairing as well. Have fun!

It is widely theorized that if you have red meat, you should have red wine. With beer, it may be said heavy food, heavy beer - light food, a lighter beer. In some ways it is a good rule of thumb, especially if you are new to the pairing idea. If you do cook with beer, some suggest you serve the same beer as used in the recipe. Others like to use an "opposite" beer that will let you appreciate the taste of the one used in the dish. One of my mottos: Never cook with something you would not drink.

Light ales, light lagers, blond or gold ale, lighter wheat beers. These go well with spicy food. Once you torch your palate, you probably will not be able to taste the nuances and subtleties of the more complex brews.

Wheat, weiss, witbier. With these beers, it is best to stick with lighter more subtle fare. There is a reason there are yeast remnants in the beer - so you can taste them. These can also go well with dessert. A german hefeweizen with a banana custard or a belgian white with an orange dessert would be good matches. Citrus style desserts bring out the lemon/orange and spice from these beers.

Brown ale. Brown ale goes quite well with a brown mushroom gravy over chicken. If your particular brown is somewhat hoppy, then it will make a nice pair with a more gamey dish. Brown ale and nut brown ale tend to go well with beef entrées.

Amber. You can partake of this with pizza, medium spicy foods or even as a substitute for brown ale. Amber can be quite malty and somewhat hoppy, so stay away from sweet items with this beer.

Dry Stouts and porter. These are excellent with a good hearty soup/stew or a meat dish with brown gravy. Try making pancakes with stout - just replace some or all of the water with beer.

Imperial stout and sweet stout. Try these for an interesting dessert combination. Pair these with chocolate to bring out the flavors in the beer. I would suggest a chocolate raspberry dish or a chocolate fondue. Recommended for heavier desserts.

Marzen, Bock. This can be another substitute for brown ale or ambers. These can also cut through some of the spicier dishes such as sausages, pretzels, sauerbraten, and so on. Some of the sweeter bocks can go well with a heavier dessert that has some spice to it.

Pilsner. A hoppy pilsner can enhance the flavor of a firm fish or shellfish. A pilsner can be good with fried or spicy food. Pilsners also serve well as an aperitif.

Pale, IPA. Beef dishes fare well with the more full bodied ales such as the IPA or pale. Buffalo wings or blackened chicken would be nicely complimented with and IPA, though they can enhance the spicy heat. The pales can compliment shrimp, crab, and other light fish.

Belgian dubbel, tripel. The strong Belgian ales can be served as an after dinner digestif or with a dessert. Due to the potency of these beers they go with a number of cheeses.

Fruit beers. Fruit beers can go nicely with a green salad with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing or a fruit salad. They can also pair well with a light fruit dessert.

Lambic. These are usually tart and pretty flavorful. Kriek would be nice with a cherry pie. Frambois goes well with pound cake alamode drizzled with raspberries in syrup. To make this more interesting, use fresh raspberries soaked in frambois lambic. If the meal contains fruit as part of the entrée (raspberry chicken or pork with peach sauce), a lambic can work well.

Barleywine. These will probably overpower most foods. It is recommended to serve these alone, as you would a brandy or cognac, possibly with a cigar. Strong cheeses can be a good match as well.


Dish Beer


Fried foods

Pilsner, Pale, IPA, ESB


French Onion Soup

Strong red or Brown ale, Scotch ale

Cream soups


Beef Stew or hearty soup Brown ale or Porter


Leafy green salad (cream dressing)


Leafy green salad (vinegar & oil)

Brown ale

Fruit salad

Fruit beer or Wheat beer




Grilled asparagus


Potatoes and onions with garlic


Grilled portabella mushrooms with guacamole

Brown ale

Garlic mashed potatoes

Brown ale or Porter


Chicken with a brown mushroom gravy

Nut brown ale, or Porter

Fried chicken with white gravy

Marzen, Oktoberfest, Pale, Porter

Chicken Cordon bleu



Bock, Oktoberfest

Beef and Lamb:

Beef Wellington

Brown ale

Porterhouse steak


Prime Rib

Brown ale

Herbed lamb


Roast leg of lamb

Scottish ale, Marzen


Pork ribs

Vienna style lager

Roast pork

German Wheat or Marzen

Pork tenderloin



Crab or lobster

Pilsner or Stout


Wheat, Wit, Pilsner

Spicy shrimp

ESB, Pale


Wheat, Pilsner

Spicy fish


Fried seafood

Pale, ESB, IPA




American lightly flavored lager

Breakfast: Yes, with breakfast foods - as breakfast food can be eaten anytime of the day.


Oatmeal stout







Chocolate Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Raspberry Stout


Belgian or Pilsner


Porter or Chocolate Stout

Ice cream

Frambois, Sweet or Chocolate Stout, Fruit beer





Amber or ESB





Cajun or spicy

Mexican lager style, Pilsner, Bock


Japanese lager


Amber, Bock, Dunkel, Rauchbier

By: Chris Love

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