Beer and Food Pairing - Pairing Beer and Food

The idea of giving deep thought to which wine to serve with a particular meal goes back centuries but it may come as a surprise to many that the same is true of beer and food pairing as well.

Beer has a long and glorious history, in some forms stretching back as far as 6,000 years, although modern brewing methods go back a mere 200 or so years. Even so, during those 200 years, many fine minds have experimented with forming the perfect partnership between beer and food.

When it comes to beer and food pairing, there are three basic considerations to take into account. These are contrast, complement and cut.

To 'cut' a dish is to try to offset its dominant flavors by proper beer selection or dish selection, if you start with the beer first. A heavily buttered duck can be cut well with a light pilsner, helping to achieve a good balance.

To 'contrast' is almost self explanatory. Beyond cutting flavors, you want to actually highlight both by finding pairs that are distinctly different. The hearty flavor of barbecued steak is delightfully contrasted with a pale ale, for example.

To 'complement' is just what it sounds like, combining like with like or pairing two that go together naturally . A Belgian complements a chocolate dish in ways that go beyond geography.

In no case would you want the flavor of the beer to overwhelm the dish or vice versa. Although beer goes well with many cheeses, some of the stronger versions will drown any good beer. Similarly, a strong vinegar based salad dressing that will be high in acid, will interfere with even a highly malted brew, such as a Scottish ale.

For those fond of cheese - happily, a very wide group, there are still many choices. An American wheat beer goes well with soft cheeses, such as cream cheese or ricotta. Cheddar cheeses pair well with a double bock or even a fruity ale. Hard cheeses, such as parmigiano, benefit from pairing with a porter or barley wine, as does Roquefort.

Pizza, obviously, is a favorite amongst Americans. And consistent with the common sense found among them, they often instinctively select a domestic lager or pale ale.

Wheat bear complements not only cheese but fresh fish where the beer may be the appetizer. A light lager with the halibut is always welcome, too.

A roast chicken forms a delightful contrast to a pale ale, but turkey makes a good complement. But to really bring out the best of both beverage and bird, try a steam or amber ale with that Thanksgiving meal. For stronger flavored game birds try a fruity, dark ale.

For those well done steaks or roast beef think traditional English bitter. The truly adventurous will go all the way with a porter.

And last but not least, wine is not the only fermented drink that pairs well with dessert. Those delightful Lambics, made with the Belgian wild yeasts of West Flanders, are the perfect way to wash down raspberries or cherries.

For sweet desserts, such as a rich chocolate, think Belgian Trappist dark ales, oatmeal stout or even a Scotch ale. On the other, just remember that, sometimes beer can be a dessert all on its own.