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Beer 104: To Pair or not to Pair

There was a time when pairing alcohol with a meal immediately conjured thoughts of wine: red wine for red meats and white wine for white meats. One person may have a red wine with their filet mignon while the other would have a white wine with their salmon. This is a fine policy to live by but the world has changed. The craft beer universe has exploded over the past years. Everyone loves craft beer. We find it everywhere, and often hear the question posed, “what if I want to drink a beer with my meal, what should I drink?” This is a simple question with a complicated answer: it all depends.

The first way to answer the question, “what should I drink?” depends on what you like. If there is a type of beer you really enjoy then drink that beer. The beer may not pair well with the meal, but don’t drink a beer purely for pairing’s sake. At the same time, know that if you drink a Russian imperial stout with a Caprese salad it will have an effect.

Secondly, do you want to compliment or contrast? Whether we like to admit or not, human beings love dramatic experience. Who doesn’t love baking in the sun then diving into a pool, or the comedic relief in a movie that has brought you to tears? The same concept of contrast happens with beer pairing. A salty dish and a sweet beer can create that sweet and salty experience. The contrasting of sweet and sour can be enjoyable as well. Sour beers have a unique taste especially if you aren’t expecting it. However, a sour beer could be paired with a sweet dish to create that enjoyable contrast.

Complimenting flavor can be an easier process. Light and frothy beers go well with fatty foods due to the carbonations ability to cut the fat. A sweet beer can go with a sweet dish but know that whichever is less sweet may seem more bitter than desired. Also, consider the source of the flavoring. Something could be salty because of the spice, sweet because of the sauce, and tart because it is grapefruit. This creates both a unique dining experience and also a complicated pairing decision. When reading through a menu or cooking at home, all the aspects of a dish need to be considered if you want to take your beer pairing seriously.

Finally, there are some fantastic charts online that help make these decisions. I am not going to chart out all the possibilities but beeradvocate.com and craftbeer.com do a great job mapping out the food pairings. The next time you are at the Malted Meeple, feel free to ask me what beers might pair with your snack or soup order.

Meeple Dana Miller

Dana Miller has embraced the nerd culture his whole life. Starting from a passion for collectible X-Men cards to feverishly saving the princess from Bowser on his NES. He has managed game rooms, blockbusters and restaurants. He loves cooperative and team based activities, learning new board games, comic book films, League of Legends, and trying different craft beers.

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