When it comes to pairing beer with food, there is only one rule. There is no rule.
Yeah, okay, cheesy and kind of a lie. There are basic guidelines—like keeping light beers with light foods, full-bodied beers with rich meals, etc.—but sticking to generic rules make for bored taste buds. Taste is subjective, which is why I love goat cheese and my roommate thinks it smells like his dad’s retired boots.
In order to determine what foods you should eat with your beverage, sip the latter slowly to pick apart its flavor. Is it sweet or dry? Are the hops tangy or floral? Can you really taste the yeast or not? You get the picture. You can “cut” a rich dish like home-style biscuits with a light beer (like a pilsner) or “contrast” a barbecue with a pale ale. You can also “complement” a chocolate birthday cake with a cream stout. Don’t try to overpower a dish with your beer, though (unless your grandma’s potato salad is really that bad), or you’ll lose the flavors your chef is serving up. A good rule to remember: the bitterer your beer, the heartier your meal should be.
To make it easier for you, take a look at the basic pairing examples below.
Golden or blond ales, American wheat ale: There’s not a whole lot to these beers, so use them to wash down spicy meals. Don’t waste a quality, complex flavor by pairing it with a dish that sets your tongue on fire.
Pale ales and German pilsners: Most varieties of seafood (not sushi, though) will come through the intense hops of these beers.
Amber ale: Barbecue and stereotypical Mexican food will compliment the malt.
Dark lagers: These will compliment most foods, especially European-inspired varieties.
Fruit beers: These can get tricky, since sweet varieties go well with light desserts like soufflés but sour ones don’t do much for the meal’s flavor. Try drinking with an entrée that uses a fruit glaze.
Cream and imperial stouts: Stick with chocolate and chocolate-fruit desserts like chocolate and fruit fondues, cheesecake, and the like.
Here’s a healthy bottom line: try to respect the history of the beer and the food you’re eating. If you’re bent on a German dark lager, pair it with bratwurst or something with strong flavors coming from that region of the world. Trying an Asahi? Have some gyoza or pork dumplings. Beers often taste best when paired with their ethnic pals.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she’s been researching both the highest paying jobs and the lowest paying jobs on the market. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.