Because beer is, in fact, food, and because beer offers such a wide array of aromas and flavor, it allows for the perfect pairing to fully enhance your dining experience. Understanding exactly how the flavors and aromas of your beer can bring your meal to another level is actually quite simple and fun.
When pairing beer with your meal, look for harmonies and match strength with strength, while taking into consideration bitterness, sweetness, heat/spice, richness, and carbonation.
Finding Harmonies – Combinations that shares common aroma and flavor elements works best. The malty, toasty flavors of an American Brown Ale paired with the charred, fatty flavors of a burger or steak; the light, citrusy notes of a Belgian Witbier paired with seafood; the rich, lightly burnt, sometimes chocolatey/coffee-like flavors of an American Porter paired with the sweetness of a chocolate chip cookie are all prime examples of finding harmonies.
Match Strength with Strength – Delicate foods work best with delicate beers. strongly flavored foods demand more assertive beers. Intensity of flavor is the sum of the total taste experience. With beer, that involves alcohol strength, malt character, sweetness, richness, hop bitterness, roastiness and more. When pairing beer with food – sweetness, fat, textures, cooking methods, spicing, and complexity all have a roll in the dance.
Bitterness, Sweetness, Heat/Spice, Richness and Carbonation – Beer and food qualities interact with each other in predictable and specific ways. Considering these interactions ensures that the beer and food will balance each other, so that one element does not skew the other. Foods big on sweetness or fatty richness can be matched with various elements in beer such as sweetness, roasted/toasted malt, or alcohol. Carbonation works well to cut richness. Malty sweetness brings down heat. Hoppy bitterness brings up spices and heat.