Many people place considerable emphasis on pairing food with wine, but beer doesn’t always get the same consideration.
And that’s a shame because the modern trend – we say trend, but it’s here to stay – of craft beers and larger means there are more ways to team great food and brews than ever before.
Which beer should you be drinking with your meal?
Beer can pair with a vast range of foods, from the spicy to the mild so there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a glass of golden hops in place of a glass of wine. With the sheer variety of beers out there though, it’s often tough to know what the best option is for your meal. But worry not! We’re here to help you with our in-depth guide to food and beer pairing. If this whets your appetite to get in the kitchen, our cooking courses will give you all the inspiration you need to step outside of your comfort zone and add new dishes to your repertoire.
Today, IPAs (Indian Pale Ale) is hugely popular, and as a drink, IPA offers a hop-centric taste and fruity flavours. IPA offerings are usually a little stronger than a larger, and the character of IPA lends itself to spicy, exotic dishes like curry and Mexican. The robust flavour of an IPA makes it the ideal accompaniment to any dish with strong levels of flavour and spice, as it works with the characteristics of the food to enhance taste and enjoyment.
IPAs also go well with very sweet deserts as they provide a bitterness which offsets the sugar content. This can make for a fantastic contrast and brings the different layers of flavour to life.
In terms of flavour, blonde ales are usually quite light and unobtrusive. The pale, golden colour of blonde ale reflects its taste, which is generally airy and smooth.
This makes it the perfect accompaniment to dishes that don’t feature strong levels of flavour, so think along the lines of light bites like grilled chicken, salad and smoky, grilled or barbequed sausages. The idea when pairing blonde ale with food is that the beer doesn’t have the flavour or impact to overwhelm dishes. It acts more as a refreshing drink that washes over the palette, rather than dominating like some other beers can.
As we move into darker ales, you’ll find the flavours a little more robust and richer. Brown ales are still a good choice alongside certain foods, but you will notice that brown ales often carry a caramel or chocolate undertone – the result of brewing with malt.
These flavours make brown ale the ideal drink to pair with rich, smoked meats and roasted options like beef or pork. Brown ale also works well with side dishes like roast potatoes and vegetables.
While not boasting as much of a hoppy taste as IPA, pale ale still has subtle hop notes and goes very well with a range of foods. You will find that pale ale still carries slightly fruity undertones, with a crisper finish than an IPA and, as such, it’s not quite as filling as its popular counterpart.
The ideal foods to pair with a good pale ale are things like burgers, hot dogs and cheese. Pale ale meshes well with grilled meats because it refreshes the palette and enhances the rich, deep flavours. As for cheese, the light and fruity flavours of pale ale will bring the creaminess of options like cheddar to the fore.
Guinness may be the most famous of all stouts, but there is a vast array of options out there to sample. Stout has become one of the more popular beers of the craft beer world, and it’s easy to see why. Stout offers a broad, malty flavour, often carrying notes of coffee and chocolate.
Stout is traditionally drunk with oysters. This works well because the salty, intense flavour of oysters plays off the rich taste of stout, resulting in a flavour explosion. Stout is equally as enjoyable when teamed with roasted meats like steak. The inherent, roasted flavours of stout combine with the meat to enhance flavours – especially if you have blackened vegetables as a side dish.
Stout can also be paired with sweet options and will work best alongside fruity deserts. It’s best to choose a dessert that carries its own robust flavours because these can better handle the intense addition stout brings. Think along the lines of t figs, spiced fruit and seasonal fruit desserts.