Saturday, January 8, 2011

Matching Beer With Food

What was once considered a gimmicky concept, and for those who could not appreciate a fine wine with their meals, is now taken very seriously indeed. But as serious as some take it, it is also a lot of fun. Gone are the days of a pizza and a six-pack, or a roast dinner and a big glass of ale. They have been replaced with BBQ ribs and IPA, or fish pie and hefeweizen.

The best part of the Beer with Food concept is that it is being led by the craft beer industry. Microbreweries all across America have their festivals which involve a chef and a brewer discussing ingredients and flavours associated with their products thus creating their own beer and food pairings. The concept is beginning to catch on here, slowly but surely. The best we can hope for at the moment is finding a bar that serves quality beer and has a kitchen crew who understand the importance of matching a quality beer list with quality foods. Ireland does not have a portion of the general public that is willing to put its money in someone else’s hands in order to try this concept, but if we can make some simple suggestions at dinner time, things may change.

The biggest hurdle that beer and food pairing has to face is the human element: we are all unique so why should our taste in food and beer be any different? Starting with a few simple principles, however, could make all the difference.

The basic idea behind pairing is to create a “middle flavour” which is the result of combining flavour elements from both the food and drink. This is also true for wine and cheese, or coffee and dessert. The “middle flavour” is perhaps better thought of as not so much a flavour, but more of a process to extract the best from the food or beer. For example fish & chips is a dish loved the world over. But it is greasy, heavy and generally leaves the taste buds hidden under the grease layer. Bring on fizz: a pilsner style beer is well carbonated, light in flavour and available in most bars or off licenses. What the beer offers while you enjoy your healthy option, is continuous washing of the grease from the taste buds, allowing the flavour of the white meat to get through. You will also notice a more pronounced malt element because of the food. Finding new flavours in your fish & chips, or experiencing a nicer way to enjoy food, is what beer and food pairing is all about. The same is also true for Food & Wine pairing.

It is always easier to look at the beer element and then find a suitable meal to pair it with. The reasoning here is that you can't decide on a meal and then brew a beer to suit, unless you own a microbrewery and employ a personal chef. What you need to do is assess the beer: is it light and delicate, is it fruity and easy going or is it likely to cause temporary speech loss?

For example, craft beers tend to show more of the hop element than regular beers. Hops can be fruity, spicy or even citrusy (I would like to point out that you are obliged to add a “y” at the end of words which wouldn't normally have one when describing beer flavours). If you have opened a big hoppy beer such as an India Pale Ale, your meal should at least match the intense flavour, or have a spicy element to it. Ribs with a spicy sauce would work well here. If you were to pour yourself a witbier -- a light beer with a citrus element -- a creamy seafood dish is the way forward.

Dark foods or dishes with dark sauces pair well with, stouts, ales, dunkels and porters. Dishes with lighter foods such as chicken or fish are best paired with K├Âlsch, blonde ales or pilsners. Spicy foods such as curries are best with IPAs, hoppy reds or Belgian tripels, weissbiers with sushi. That's not to say that you should not have stout with salad, or ale with fish & chips. Remember we are all different, and what works for one is awful for the other. But if you experiment every now and again you will pick it up easily.

Desserts can also be included in beer pairing. A raspberry wheat beer is fantastic with vanilla ice cream, or how about chocolate brownies with a dry stout?

Having friends over and sharing different beers and foods is a fun way to learn. And when you become an expert in the art of pairing beer and food, you will find yourself looking for wine snobs at dinner parties in order to unleash on them your newfound knowledge.

The fact that craft beer is finding its way into more bars and off licences means the day is not too far away when we will find ourselves planning a meal, either at a bar or at home, thinking of ingredients and wondering if butter is staying on the menu, or will that imperial stout have to wait for another day.

Our Best Selling Combinations 
Baby Back Ribs with Galway Hooker Pale Ale
Fish & Chips with Staropramen Czech Pilsner
Fisherman Style Pie with Weissbier
and last but not least
Deep Fried Mars Bar with Youngs Double Chocolate Stout(usually shared)

So it's probably time to offer a simple choice of beer and food combinations, simple enough to try at home, or in well-stocked bar or restaurant. Remember we are all different, so expect some strange and startling results. But above all, have fun.

Bacon with eggs – Bavarian Weissbier or Belgian Witbier.Bacon with other savory dishes – Belgian Dubbels, German Rauchbiers and Doppelbocks.SeaBass - Weissbier, Witbier, North German PilsnerRoast Beef – British Bitter and Pale Ale, German AltbierChocolate Brownies - Imperial stout, Baltic strong porter.BeefBurgers - American Brown ales, Pale ale and IPA, Schwarzbier, Altbier, American Amber Ale.Cajun Foods - American Pale and Brown Ale, Schwarzbier, Dunkel, SaisonCalamari (fried) – Pilsner, helles, Kolsch, American Amber Lager, American Pale ale, Saison.Cheesecake – Sweet Fruit beer, Baltic strong porter, Imperial Stout, American StoutRoast Chicken -- Dunkel, Pale Ale, British Brown ale, Dubbel, American Amber, Belgian Pale aleFried Chicken – American Amber Lager, American Brown Ale, AltbierTandoori - American pale Ale, Saison, Belgian Strong Golden AleChili - American Pale ale, Brown ale, and IPA, Irish Stout, Smoked BeerChinese – Weissbier, Weissbock, Smoked beer, dunkel, Belgian strong golden aleChocolate – Imperial Stout, Stronger American Stout, Baltic strong porterChowder – Weissbier, Witbier, Helles, Kolsch, Pilsner.Baked Ham – Irish Stout, Pilsner, Hellesbock, Tripel, Belgian strong ale, English Brown.Ice Cream – Imperial Stout, American Stout, Cream Stout, Strong Baltic porter, Sweet Fruit Beers.Indian (spicy) – Saison, Pilsner, Dortmunder, Hellesbock, American IPARoast Lamb – Scotch ales, Strong dark Trappist or Abbey ales, old ale, bier de garde.Lasagna – American Amber Lager, Belgian Pale ale.Lobster – Weissbier, witbier, pilsner, helles, Irish Stout.Meatloaf – British Bitter, Brown Ale and Pale ale, porter, dunkel. oktoberfest marzen; altbierOysters – Irish stout, pilsner, helles, Kolsch, gueuze, Flanders red alePizza – American Amber Lager, American Pale and amber ale, Oktoberfest marzen.Salads- Weissbier, witbier, American Wheat Beer, Kolsch or with Blue Cheese have Dopplebock.Salmon – weissbier, witbier, american wheat beer, saison, pilsner, American IPA.Smoked Salmon – Pilsner, Dortmunder, Saison, Weissbier, Witbier, smoked beer, gueuze.Steak – American Amber lager, American brown ale, altbier, porter, and dubbel.Thai food- Weissbier, Saison, American pale and and IPA, American amber lager, altbier.Trout – Weissbier, weissbock, or smoked beer if fish is smoked.Veal – Dunkel, hellesbock, Belgian strong golden ale, weissbock, saison.Venison – Doppelbock, British and American brown ale and porter, Trappist and Abbey ale,smoked beer.

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