The Three C’s of Pairing Beer and Food

If you take a few minutes to understand “The 3 C’s of Pairing Beer & Food” you will immediately be able to put them to work the next time you sit down to eat. Compliment, contrast, and cut are the key words to keep in mind when pairing beer with your food.

While considering beer and food pairings that complement one another, look for similar aromas and flavors in both the beer and the food. For example, if the food has a certain spice to it such as coriander, then look for a beer with a similar spice note, like a Belgian Witbier, which is actually brewed with coriander. 

Try pairing a cheese that has a pleasant funky aroma, with a similarly funky-smelling sour beer, such as a Gueuze. For dessert, try pairing the sweet, rich flavors of chocolate cake with the rich, robust flavors of a Russian Imperial Stout.

When contrasting a beer with a particular food, look for opposing flavors and aromas. These are flavors that are, in essence, opposites. Sweet and sour on their own can both be overwhelming. Sour can pucker and create imbalance in select tastes, whereas sweet, oftentimes overbearing and cloying, covers up more subtle flavors. 

However, when used together, sweet and sour balance each other out and create a wonderfully unique taste experience. As the old saying goes, opposites attract, and when they do, they add up to a complete and delicious pairing. A classic example of contrast when pairing beer and food is Dry Irish Stout paired with fresh, raw oysters. The roasted, chocolate bitterness of the stout contrasts perfectly with the briny, sweetness of the oysters. This pairing is so classic that many breweries today actually brew their stouts with oysters or oyster shells.

Cutting is similar to contrast, it just takes it to a higher level. When we consider cutting, we are talking about big, bold flavors and sensation. Think the heat on your tongue when you taste the spicy flavors of a hot chicken wing. To cut that heat, you’ll want to pair these extreme flavors with a beer that will take it down a notch. 

The sweet, malty flavors of an Amber Ale will cut through the heat and spice of the chicken wing. For another example, try cutting the richness of a fatty cheese with the bright sourness Fruited Lambic.

True Brew America