The german translation of this article is available at braumagazin.de/us-craft-bier-und-speisen
By-lined to Adam Dulye, Executive Chef for the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American craft brewers, one of the world’s leading experts on beer and food pairings
Beer and food pairing in America is highly advanced with 88% of craft beer drinkers enjoying beer with their meal at least sometimes and 63% of people selecting the beer they are going to drink based on their choice of meal. The diversity of beers styles, high standards of quality and endless innovation by craft brewers make American craft beer the perfect partner for almost any food dish. Beer with food is a growing trend, nearly half of all craft beer drinkers say they drink craft beer with food now more than a couple of years ago.
In America beer and food pairing has reached a whole new level so try my top six tips below to elevate and enhance your beer and your food pairing experience either when experimenting at home or going out to eat:
- Match strength with strength. Pair delicate dishes with lighter American craft beers and strongly flavoured dishes with intense, more assertive beer styles.
- Taste, taste, taste! Taste is personal – experiment with flavours and ingredients to find what works for you and be adventurous
- Use the dominant flavour or ingredient in a dish as the starting point. Hops are insanely food-friendly and will go with almost any food.
- Think of beer as just another ingredient in a recipe, except it’s in a glass not on the plate
- Avoid incorporating American craft beer within a recipe because the cooking process drives off flavour, and depending on the beer, may enhance bitterness
- Foods with spice, heat or acidity are a great way to showcase certain beers – hops can calm heat and spices, malt can balance acidity while carbonation can cleanse the palate
There are three main interactions with beer and food pairings – complementing, contrasting and cutting. For a dish to be complementary you’re looking for harmonious flavours between the ingredients and the craft beer eg. rouladen with a brown ale or Dubbel or the light acidity of a witbier with a salad and vinaigrette dressing. Roasting or grilling will complement the malts used in the beer and bring out the Maillard reaction.
Contrasting is the most challenging interaction on the palate and works best when the dominant flavour of the dish contrasts against the main flavour profile of the beer eg. sweet v sour or bitter v sweet. A classic example is the tropical flavour notes of an American IPA with an intensely, hot pepper spiced dish or curry.
Craft beer cuts through the fat of rich, succulent and creamy foods to cleanse the palate after every mouthful and leave it feeling refreshed, clean and ready for the next bite. The bitter strength and astringency of hops lifts fat from the palate and a sweet finish cuts away acidic flavours, leaving a pleasant sensation in the mouth. Sour and tart flavours can cut away sugary and fruity notes and the scrubbing effect of carbonation diffuses the richness of the food.
Beer styles can be broken down into six flavour profiles:
- Crisp & Clean eg. Pilsners, Helles, Kölsch, Blond Ale
Refreshing, delicate and slightly dry these styles work well with light salt, vegetable flavours or common citrus notes that naturally complement their flavour profile. Carbonation in beer has a scrubbing effect that will cleanse your palate. Pair with spatzle, knödel, sauerkraut, vegetables, pretzel
- Hoppy & Bitter eg. Pale Ale, IPA, DIPA, Amber Ale
Hops contribute the majority of aroma and bitterness found in most beers styles. They respond well to pairing with fatty foods as the hops do here what carbonation does in a lighter style ie. cleanse the palate of overwhelming and intense flavours. The flavour profile of this category can be earthy and bitter, pine and resinous or citrus, herbal and floral. They are great with food that need a bit of competition on the palate, think spicy, fatty or acidic. The bitterness of hops lifts fat from the tongue leaving you ready for the next bite
Pair with bratwurst, currywurst, cheese, carrot cake
- Malty & Sweet eg. Dubbel, Dunkel, Scotch Ale, Doppelbock
One of the deepest connections between beer and food is the act of roasting, known as the Maillard reaction. Malty and sweet beers develop caramel flavours and sweet notes of nuts, toffee and dried fruit from the roasted malts complement foods that are roasted, crispy or browned. Pair with: schnitzel, rouladen, duck , charcuterie, cheese, apfelstrudel, stollen
- Rich & Roasty eg. Brown Ale, Stout, Porter, Schwarzbier
Intensely dark, rich flavours of barrel-aged bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, coffee and sometimes a smoky aroma, these beers work with dishes that have roasted fat such as red meats, nuts or chocolate. They’re great with anything charred, barbecued, grilled or with a clean, briny finish such as oysters. When pairing, use ingredients that can stand up to these stronger styles of beer. Pair with: sauerbraten, meat casseroles, barbecue, spicy food, oysters, chocolate/coffee desserts, chocolate
- Fruity & Spicy eg. Belgian Blonde Ale, Witbier, Hefeweizen, Saison, Tripel, Quadrupel
Flavours are mainly driven by yeast and can include notes of stone fruits, citrus, ginger, salt, banana or clove. Spicy aromatic foods that go well with rosé or white wine would be good accompaniments here and beers full of fruit and spice are best with ingredients already associated with those flavours. Pair with: shellfish, seafood, sushi
- Sour, Tart & Funky – eg. Brett, Sour, Flanders Ale, Gose, Geuze, Lambic
Beers are often barrel-aged and may have fruit or natural sugars added. Farmhouse, leather, hay, grass and even wet socks may not sound appealing but if you like acidic, biodynamic wines you’ll love these! They range from gentle, light beers such as BerlinerWeisse that are great with rare or barely cooked seafood, to lambics or gueuze which may contain fruit, to Flanders Ale which may be a little more vinegary but makes a great sweet and sour sauce when reduced! Pair with ceviche, goats cheese, creamy desserts, cheesecake, chocolate gateau
For advice and assistance regarding beer and food pairing the Brewers Association publishes American Craft Beer and Food: Perfect Companions – a handy 12 page booklet detailing the basics of beer and food pairings. Downloadable free of charge here:
and „The Brewers Association Guide to American Craft Beer”:
More information is available on www.craftbeer.com
About the Brewers Association
The Brewers Association (BA) is the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts. The BA represents 5,000-plus U.S. breweries. The BA’s independent craft brewer seal is a widely adopted symbol that differentiates beers by small and independent craft brewers. The BA organizes events including the World Beer Cup℠, Great American Beer Festival®, Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America®, SAVOR℠: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience, Homebrew Con, National Homebrew Competition and American Craft Beer Week®. The BA publishes The New Brewer® magazine, and Brewers Publications™ is the largest publisher of brewing literature in the U.S.
Beer lovers are invited to learn more about the dynamic world of craft beer at CraftBeer.com and about homebrewing via the BA’s American Homebrewers Association and the free Brew Guru™ mobile app. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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