A Beer Enthusiast’s Food Pairing Guide
And now for something a little bit different…
A few weeks ago I got an email from a beer fan in New York asking if he could write an article about beer and food pairing for the blog; I had no hesitation in saying yes. i rarely write about beer but I’m a big real ale fan (I’ve even got the beard!) so over to Blake and some very interesting and unusual combinations…
My wife refers to me as a beer snob but I prefer the term enthusiast. I love everything about beer and the culture associated with it. Over the past few years craft beer has been exploding all over the United States and I could not be happier. More people than ever are interested in trying new beer and I love being able to give them recommendations. Lately I have been very interested in pairing beer with food. Finding the right dish to complement a certain style of beer can be tricky. However when you discover the perfect pairing and all of the flavors marry well with each other, it makes for a truly memorable meal. Here are a couple of interesting pairings I have been playing with lately:
Peanut butter & Porter
I am a huge fan of dark beers, like stouts and porters. I love their chocolate and coffee-like aroma and full bodied mouthfeel. A porter that I cannot get enough of lately is Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald, especially this time of year. It’s a robust beer and is perfect for sipping while starting out the window on a snowy winter day. I actually stumbled onto my favorite porter pairing of the moment thanks to my kids. They left a package of peanut butter crackers in the kitchen one day and I happened to be drinking an Edmund Fitzgerald. While it may seem a bit unconventional, there’s just something about the combination of toasty crackers, rich peanut butter and roasty porter that works. Use it to break the ice at your next party, you’ll be sure to surprise your guests and introduce them to what could be their new favorite flavor combination.
Spicy Chicken Curry and IPA
It would probably shock most of my beer drinking friends to know this, but IPAs weren’t my first love when I started getting serious about beer. The hoppy bitterness they showcase was just too much for me early on, but now I’m a fully converted hop-head. I continue to be amazed by the seemingly endless variety of hop flavors and aromas out there. When it comes to the food side of things, something I love about IPAs is the fact that they pair well with hot and spicy dishes. Luckily my wife has a taste for spicy foods as well, and a go-to favorite in our house is Spicy Chicken Curry. Most IPAs have plenty of bitterness and enough alcohol to stand up to the heat that chili peppers bring to the curry. To me, there is nothing better than chasing down a spoonful of curry with a floral, citrusy India Pale Ale.
Chocolate Strawberry Cake and Imperial Stout
As I said before, I’m a fan of dark beers and it does not get any darker than Imperial Stout. This style of beer takes roasted, chocolate and coffee malt flavors and cranks them up to 11. These beers are big, boozy and can finish dry with notes of baker’s chocolate or sweet with hints of toffee. When I’m pairing this style with a dessert, I tend to go for those that finish dry so that I’m not overwhelmed by sweetness. The inspiration for this particular pairing was a bit unconventional, but I’m a big fan. My wife mentioned that someone she works with got a package of Shari’s Berries for Valentine’s Day, which got me thinking about the combination of chocolate and berries. I found an easy recipe for a Chocolate Strawberry Cake and once it was done, I poured myself a glass of what my wife calls “motor oil”. The chocolate in the stout amplifies the cake and before it becomes too much, the strawberries cut through all of those rich flavors for a great change of pace for your palate.
When it comes to pairing beer and food the options are truly endless. Allow your creativity to shine through and remember that no pairing is too strange. If you think it could work give it a shot and you may be pleasantly surprised. I can’t even count how many of my friends have turned into craft beer enthusiasts over the last two years. So go to your nearest beer store, pick out a few brews that you have never tried before and start experimenting!
Blake Daniels is a stay at home dad living with his wife and two sons in upstate New York. Blake is an amateur brewer and craft beer enthusiast. When Blake isn’t blogging or brewing you can find him taking care of his lawn, spending time with his sons, or working on various projects around the house. If anyone has any questions for Blake feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org