Published April 7, 2024

Celebrate National Beer Day with perfect pairings!

International Beer Day - Food and Beer Pairings

National Beer Day is upon us, and what better way to celebrate than with delicious food and beer pairings?

Beer offers a fantastic range of flavors and characteristics, making it a perfect partner to many foods. From refreshing lagers to robust stouts, there's a beer style to complement every dish.

Before we dive into specific combinations you can try, let's take a quick look at the art of pairings. That way you can explore your own combos with your favourite beer (or dish)!

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Two ways to pair

There are two main approaches to creating perfect beer and food pairings: complementing flavors or creating a contrast.

Complementary pairings look for similar taste profiles. For example, a light and citrusy wheat beer complements the delicate flavors of grilled fish.

Conversely, contrasting pairings use the beer to cut through or balance strong flavors in the food. For example, a sweet beer can soothe the heat of a spicy dish, while a hoppy IPA can cut through the richness of fatty cuts of meat.

Texture matters

When it comes to beer and food pairing, texture also plays a crucial role. Imagine a light and refreshing salad paired with a thick, syrupy stout. The richness of the beer would overpower the delicate flavors of the salad, leaving your palate feeling unbalanced.

This is where the concept of "beer body" comes in.

Body refers to the perceived weight and mouthfeel of the beer. It's influenced by factors like malt content, alcohol level, and carbonation. Here's a breakdown of common beer body types ...

Light: Think of lagers and pilsners. These beers are crisp, clean, and refreshing, with a low alcohol content and minimal malt character. Their light body makes them ideal companions for lighter dishes like salads, steamed fish, or grilled chicken.

Medium: This category encompasses a wide range of styles like pale ales, amber ales, and some wheat beers. They have a more substantial mouthfeel compared to lighter beers, often due to higher malt content or moderate alcohol levels. These beers pair well with a broader spectrum of dishes, including sandwiches, pastas, or grilled meats.

Full: This is where we find stouts, porters, and some strong ales. These beers are rich, thick, and often have a higher alcohol content. Their full body makes them perfect matches for heavier dishes like stews, braised meats, or creamy cheeses.

The weight and texture of your beer should complement your food. A light and refreshing beer goes well with lighter dishes, while a richer beer can stand up to heavier textures.

More on carbonation

Highly carbonated beers, like lagers and pilsners, are bursting with tiny CO2 bubbles. These bubbles are great as a palate cleanser.

Imagine taking a bite of a juicy cheeseburger. The fat can coat your tongue, leaving a lingering richness. But a sip of a highly carbonated beer clears away the fat and refreshed your taste buds, allowing you to fully appreciate the next bite.

This makes these beers fantastic companions for rich dishes like burgers, fried foods, or fatty cuts of meat.

Classic food and beer pairings

To key to beer pairings is balancing flavour and texture. Here are some classic combinations to get started with ...

Fish and chips with pale ale

The light and refreshing taste of a pale ale cuts through the richness of the fried fish and chips. The bitterness of the hops also helps to balance the maltiness of the beer and the greasiness of the fried food.

Steak with porter

Porters are a dark beer with a rich, malty flavor that can stand up to the bold taste of a steak. The hops in a porter can also help to cut through the fat of the steak.

Bratwurst with German pilsner

Pilsners are a crisp, clean beer that is a perfect match for the savory flavors of bratwurst. The carbonation in a pilsner also helps to cleanse the palate between bites.

Barbecue ribs with amber ale

Amber ales are a medium-bodied beer with a caramel sweetness that complements the smoky and savory flavors of barbecue ribs. The hops in an amber ale can also help to cut through the richness of the barbecue sauce

Caesar salad with witbier

Witbiers are a light and refreshing beer with a hint of citrus flavor. The citrus flavor in a witbier can help to brighten up the flavors of a Caesar salad while the carbonation helps to cleanse the palate between bites.

Chocolate cake with stout

Stouts are a dark beer with a rich, roasted flavor that is a perfect match for the chocolatey flavors of a chocolate cake. The sweetness of a stout can also help to balance the bitterness of the chocolate.

Spicy food with wheat Beer

The light and refreshing nature of wheat beers provides a cool counterpoint to the heat of spicy dishes.

Pizza with Pilsner

Similar to the fish and chips pairing, a pilsner's lightness and bitterness is a great match for greasy pizza. It helps cleanse the palate between bites and complements the various toppings.

Burgers with American Pale Ale (APA)

APAs are known for their citrusy hop character, which cuts through the fattiness of a burger and complements the savory flavors of beef.

Chicken curry with IPA (India Pale Ale)

IPAs, with their pronounced bitterness and citrusy hop character, can stand up to the rich and flavorful curries. The hops cut through the creaminess and help balance the spices, creating a refreshing contrast.

Seafood paella with lager

Lagers, known for their clean and crisp taste, complement the delicate flavors of seafood in paella without overpowering them. Their lightness allows the subtle notes of saffron and other spices to shine through.

Aged cheddar with brown ale

Brown ales, with their nutty and caramel notes, pair beautifully with aged cheddar. The malty sweetness complements the cheese's sharpness, creating a well-rounded flavor profile.

Unique pairings you may not have considered

If you've tried all the classic pairings and are looking for something a bit more surprising, here are some more unique options ...

Thai Curry with Fruit Beer

A fruity Lambic or Berliner Weisse with flavors like raspberry, peach, or passionfruit can tame the heat of a Thai curry while enhancing its sweet and savory notes. The carbonation in the beer also helps cleanse the palate between bites.

Kimchi and Gose

Kimchi's spicy and funky flavors get a refreshing counterpoint from the tartness and salinity of a Gose. This German-style sour wheat beer with a hint of coriander seed cuts through the heat and complements the umami richness of kimchi.

Chocolate and Chili Beer

Rich chocolate desserts pair well with the heat and smokiness of a chili beer. The sweetness of the dessert complements the spice, creating a complex and satisfying combination.

Salty Blue Cheese with IPA

Don't shy away from contrasting flavors! The intense bitterness and citrusy hops of an IPA stand up to the strong, pungent taste of blue cheese. The beer cuts through the richness of the cheese, creating a delightful balance.

Grilled Cheese with Brown Ale

Brown ales often have nutty and caramel notes that complement the richness of melted cheese and butter in a grilled cheese.

Oysters with Saison

Saisons are known for their peppery and earthy flavors. These characteristics can surprisingly enhance the briny taste of oysters, creating a unique and interesting pairing.

Caprese Salad with Lambic

A light and refreshing caprese salad with mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil gets a delightful twist when paired with a Lambic beer. The tartness of the Lambic cuts through the richness of the cheese and complements the acidity of the tomatoes.

Charcuterie Board with Sour Beer

Sour beers can surprisingly complement a charcuterie board with a variety of meats and cheeses. The acidity in the beer cuts through the richness of the meats and cheeses, creating a refreshing and palate-cleansing experience.

Chocolate Mousse with Coffee Stout

Take your dessert game to a new level by pairing a rich chocolate mousse with a coffee stout. The coffee notes in the stout complement the chocolate flavor, while the sweetness of the mousse balances the bitterness of the beer.

Embrace the adventure

These are just suggestions. The beauty of pairings is experimentation! So don't be afraid to try new combinations and see what works for your palate.

The world of beer and food pairings is full of exciting discoveries waiting to be made. So, grab your favorite beer and get creative! With a little know-how, you can transform your next meal into a something truly spectacular.


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