Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 12
Good pairings: Start with the beer

Nov. 22, 2000


Last week we provided some basic tips on pairing food and beer. This week we'll get more specific about pairings. However, let's keep our priorities in order. Instead of picking a dish and then the appropriate beer, we'll start with the beer and go from there:

Golden or blonde ale, American wheat ale, lightly hopped lagers: Since these beers lack both maltiness and hoppiness, they work best as thirst-quenchers. Try them with super-hot food, such as blackened redfish. Once your tongue has been assaulted with hot spices, it will no longer be able to appreciate an intricately flavored beer, anyway.


Weissbier, dunkelweiss: You want to be able to enjoy the flavors of the yeast, so stick with delicate foods, such as soup or pasta or light cheeses. These beers also work well with lightly flavored vegetarian dishes, such as grilled vegetables, or light chicken dishes.

Amber ale: A good all-around beer for any food that isn't sweet -- something sweet will detract from the maltiness in the beer. It complements sandwiches, hearty soups and pizzas. Also a good thirst-quencher for barbecue or Mexican food.

Bitter, pale ale, India pale ale, German/Bohemian pilsners: Although hops can kill your tastebuds when paired with many foods, they do make for some particularly good matches -- fried seafood, for example, because hoppiness cuts through grease, or anything with vinegar as a main ingredient. They also complement smoked, boiled, steamed or broiled seafood. And they can enhance the spiciness of highly spiced cuisine. The fruitier pale ales also will complement lamb, beef and game, or try them with liver pate.

English or American brown ale: Hamburgers and sausages are hearty enough for either kind of ale. The English brown may match nicely with smoked fish, while game dishes can stand up to the hoppiness of the American brown.

Porter, dry or oatmeal stout: Think hearty foods -- meat dishes with gravy, barbecue, shepherd's pie, stew. Oysters are also ideal. Both these beers and brown ales will stand up to stronger cheeses such as sharp cheddar and blue.

Cream or sweet stout, imperial stout: These are made for chocolate, and imperial stout pairs especially well with dark chocolate. Also try chocolate-and-fruit desserts, such as stout cheesecake with raspberry sauce, or something with caramel or pecans.

Vienna lager/Oktoberfest/Maerzen, dark lager, bock: Like amber ale, these are good all-around food beers, and they're not as filling as ales. The lagers will cut some of the heaviness in sauce-based meat dishes -- chicken paprikash, goulash or pork rouladen, for example -- and will stand up to their strong flavors. The perfect beers to serve with pretzels and mustard. Sweeter bocks, such as doppelbocks, can complement heartier, spicier desserts, such as pumpkin pie or spice cake.

Fruit beers, lambics: Sweeter fruit beers and fruit lambics can be paired with light fruit desserts, such as souffles or chiffon cake, but sour ones will probably overwhelm fruit flavors. Some people like to drink lambics with dark chocolate. Entrees that are prepared with fruit - for example, raspberry-glazed duck breast -- can pair nicely with fruit beers. Consider enjoying these alone at the end of the meal.

Tasting notes

Brewed by Crannog Ales in Sorrento, B.C.

Stephen Beaumont writes:

The Partition Bitter, which may have its name changed to Beyond the Pale Ale, impressed me the most of the three Crannog brands. A rich copper colour and lightly fruity, leafy aroma precedes a peachy start, dryish, nutty and slightly tannic body and a very dry, toasty finish. The progress of the flavour from start to finish was admirable and makes the ale highly quaffable. I was certainly left wanting more.

Brewed by Harvey & Son in England

Adrian Tierney-Jones writes:

The family-run brewery in Lewes have been established since the late 18th century and were pioneers in the current trend for seasonal beers. Their Christmas Ale is a reddish brown colour with a malty, fruit-cake nose. There's also a subtle hoppiness which stops this delicious ale from being too sweet. It's rich, warming and malty on the palate at first with a hint of bitterness in the fruit finish. A very well-balanced and well-rounded dessert beer which would accompany fruit cake and Christmas pudding. Available in bottle only. 8.1% abv.