Beer Up: How to Craft the Perfect Beer Pairing
Beer is taking its rightful place alongside wine at the dinner
table, as the craft beer movement explodes across the country.
However, with more than 3,000 microbreweries serving more than
100 styles of ale, finding the perfect brew for a meal can be a
Pairing beer and food doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
There are tricks to finding a mouth-watering food-and-suds
combo, as well as some tried-and-true matches. Besides,
experimenting is half the fun, and it’s hard to go wrong
with craft beer. The first step is to taste beer, and that
means paying attention the methods of a professional beer
taster or trained Cicerone (an expert in serving and pairing beer).
How Does it Taste?
If you’re used to swilling down a pint without thought to
the beer’s bouquet or flavor, don’t despair. All you have to
do is use your senses. Pause and consider the following five aspects of the beer.
Much of what people think of as taste is actually perceived through the nose.
Before taking a sip, swirl the beer around and take a deep whiff. Note the scent
of fruit, herbs, ginger, hops, malt, and other added aromatics.
Take a drink and let it rest in the mouth. Swish it around. What does
the beer feel like? Pay attention to temperature, carbonation, creaminess,
body, astringency, and burning, numbing, or cooling sensations.
What is the basic taste sensation of the beer on the tongue:
sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or umami (savory)? Sometimes, it’s easier
to tell after swallowing.
What flavors are present in the beer? Does it have chocolate,
vanilla, or caramel undertones? Is it smoky, fruity, citrusy, or peppery?
Look at the color of the beer. Typically the darker a beer the more intense the
flavor. Assess the overall strength of the brew. Is it delicate or strong, light or heavy?http://www.craftbeer.com/craft-beer-muses/decoding-flavor-four-keys-to-tasting
How to Find a Perfect Pair
Once you assess the characteristics of different beers, it’s easier to
match them with food. Start by combining brews with familiar dishes, then
experiment. The following five tactics can help beginners discover delicious pairings.
A dish and beer should generally match each other in strength,
so neither the drink nor food overpowers the other. For instance,
a salad pairs better with a light lager or pale ale than a heavy stout.
A beef stew pairs better with a rich porter than a pilsner. When pairing
a multi-course meal, start with lighter, lower-alcoholic beers and progress
toward heavier ones to avoid overwhelming the palate.http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_24567880/douglas-county-model-gives-libraries-new-e-book
Balance Taste Elements
Assess how the beer’s taste – the sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or
umami sensations on the tongue – balances or enhances a dish. Remember
the guidelines chefs use to season dishes:
Pair a beer and meal with contrasting, balancing, and calming elements for a winning match.
Researchers believe the reason certain food combinations are popular – for
instance, coffee and cream or oil and vinegar – comes down to mouthfeel.http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/food-pairings-rely-on-mouthfeel-12-10-15/
Astringent foods such as coffee and vinegar are drying and rough in the
mouth, so oily foods balance them with a slippery feeling.http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/food-pairings-rely-on-mouthfeel-12-10-15/ Beer isn’t
astringent, but bitterness causes a similar feeling in the mouth. Thus,
hoppy IPAs or sour beers pair well with heavy, oily dishes. Carbonation
also cuts through rich foods and cleanses the palate.http://www.craftbeer.com/craft-beer-muses/eight-tips-to-help-you-pair-like-a-pro
Bridge Flavors or Aromas
To make a pairing pop, look for similar flavors and aromas in the
dish and beer. For example, try pairing:
- Juniper-, spruce-, or pine-flavored brews with rosemary-flavored dishes
- Brews with cinnamon or ginger undertones with spicy curries
- Citrus flavored ales with lemon- or orange-flavored dishes
- Roasted porters and stouts with grilled or caramelized meats
- Caramel-, vanilla-, or chocolate-flavored beers with dessertshttp://www.craftbeer.com/food/pairing/tips-for-pairing
Planning a Beer Pairing Menu
By paying attention to the unique qualities of beers and using these
tricks to match them with food, you’re sure to find some combinations that
please a group. Hosting a beer pairing dinner party is an excellent way to
experiment and test your skills.
Stumped on what to serve? Try some of these tried and true combinations.
More Tips for Beer Pairing Dinners
Establish a theme to help narrow down food and beer choices.
For example, select brews and dishes that are in season or from a
certain region. Or, select beers from a specific brewery.
There really isn’t one perfect beer for each dish, since all gastronomic
pleasures vary by personal preference. Don’t be afraid to offer two beers with
a single course: one with contrasting flavors and one with complimentary flavors.
The different beers will bring out different aspects of the food and appeal to
Pour between four and seven ounces of beer for each guest per course.
Guide guests through the different pairings to enrich the experience.
Print a menu, and pay attention to lighting, background music, and other
details to create a more elegant gathering.
Consult one of these helpful resources:
- The Brewmaster’s Table by Garrett Oliver
- Beerology by Mirella Amato
- The Oxford Companion to Beer by Garrett Oliver
- Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher
Once you plan a couple of pairing menus, you’re sure to find your own
favorite combinations. With more craft breweries opening every day, the
options are bottomless.