Beer > Not Beer
Beer & Spirits
Pairing beverages with food tends to feel formal. The truth is that we all do beverage pairing almost every day. When you feast on your favorite burger and fries and it doesn’t taste right without a Diet Coke, you’re food-pairing. I’m here to argue that for every meal or snack out there, you should be reaching for the superior libation, a beer.
Beer has many qualities that make it the ideal pairing beverage. The variety of flavors available in beer far exceeds that of wine, spirits or soda and may include acidity, bitterness, sweetness, as well as roasted, creamy, spicy or fruit flavors and more in nearly infinite combinations. This diversity makes it suitable for pairing with a wider array of foods than other beverages. Beer is also most often carbonated, which helps cleanse your palate between bites of flavorful or rich foods.
“For every meal or snack out there, you should be reaching for the superior libation, a beer.”
To start, consider “impact,” or the intensity of a given flavor. BBQ ribs are a high-impact food while a low-impact food could be a delicate filet of white fish. Squatters’ Hop Rising Double IPA is a high-impact beer while a light lager like Fisher Brewing Company’s Fisher Beer is a low-impact beer. Generally, you want to pair food with a beverage of similar impact level, or one will overpower the other. Also, when doing several courses, it’s best to progress from lower- to higher-impact courses.
Next, successful pairings often complement or contrast to create winning combinations. You either want to reinforce flavors found in both food and beverage or use the pairing to add something different from one to the other. This could include accenting the bitter darkness of a flourless chocolate cake with a roasty beer like Big Bad Baptist from Epic Brewing or contrasting the bright, lemony acidity of (my brewery) Proper Brewing Co.’s Lake Effect Gose with rich and fatty cold cuts such as mortadella. The best pairings elevate each half, bringing out the best qualities of both and creating something greater.
Everyone’s tongues are different, and your perfect pairings may be someone else’s gag reel. Don’t stress; do what you like! With these easy guidelines, you can turn a backyard BBQ to a dinner party or your lunch-break sandwich into a sublime beer-pairing opportunity.