Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 11
Basic tips for pairing beer and food

Nov. 16, 2000

It's time to "talk turkey" when discussing pairing food and beer. This week we'll offer a few guidelines and one timely example. Next week we'll send you Beer Break a day early, on Wednesday, and enough pairing tips to help you make it through the holiday season.


In his new book, The Premium Beer Drinker's Guide, Stephen Beaumont writes "for certain gastronomic needs, absolutely nothing beats a good premium beer." Beaumont then offers "four handy hints for general beer and food matching. They won't guarantee your results, but they will minimize the risk." Our thanks to him for allowing us to pass along his tips:

1. Think of Ale as Red Wine and Lager as White Wine
In other words, when red meat or any dish that you would normally pair with red wine is on the menu, select an ale to serve with it. Conversely, if the main course is fish or poultry, try a lager.

2. Hoppiness in Beer = Acidity in Wine
Anytime that you would seek a wine with high acidity -- such as with spicy or oily food -- choose a beer with significant hoppiness, or bitterness. The more acidic you would want the wine, the hoppier you will want the beer.

3. Complement or Contrast
Try to match foods to beer with complementary characters, such as a robust stew with a full-bodied ale. Or try a contrasting flavor, such as a crisp, refreshing lager with a heavy cream soup.

4. Keep the Beer Sweeter than the Dessert
Nothing kills the flavor of a beer like the overpowering sweetness of a dessert, so try to keep the sugar contents of both beer and dessert balanced. (Exceptions to this rule can be made for chocolate, which pairs well even with dry stout.)

For more about information about the book:

Now, about that turkey. You don't have to settle for a Riesling, Gewurztraminer, or Chenin Blanc -- white wines traditionally suggested to serve with fowl. There are beers that will suit you just fine. An Oktoberfest (also known as Marzen) or Vienna-style lager work very well. The malt-accented flavors pair well with the sweet white meat, while these beers have enough body to stand up to dark meat and moist nutty stuffing.

Tasting notes

Brewed by Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, Mo.

Submitted by reader Marc Gaspard:

"Here in Kansas City we have the excellent regional Boulevard brewery, and a few years ago they started making their annual Christmas beer "Nutcracker" (a wonderful name!). Nutcracker is usually released in early to mid-November and is approximately 6-7% alcohol. It's made with a wonderful hoppy mixture of English and American hops to give it all sorts of spicy notes, lots of caramel and roasted malts to give it a beautiful polished ruby cherry wood color, and brown sugar for added sweetness and fermentable complexity. Last year's edition was made with a Belgian yeast strain courtesy of their new Belgian brewer, but this year's will return to their proprietary yeast strain. It is bottle conditioned (as are all Boulevard bottled products) and can be laid down for future celebrations. A wonderful local Yuletide gift from our great local brewery!"

Brewed by Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins, Colo.

Dick Krek of the Denver Post writes:

"Odell Brewing Co., whose award-winning brews are among the state's best, is out with its latest entry -- Isolation Ale, featuring a label that looks more like a Christmas card than a beer bottle... Along with a slightly higher alcohol (6 percent by volume), Isolation Ale follows British tradition with a malty accent and a coppery color."

Additional notes from a Real Beer tasting: "Very nutty. Smells like Chinese food (peanut oil), pleasantly chewy. Crisp finish."