When one typically thinks about pairing food and beer you think about the direct interaction between them from simply taking a bite of the food and a sip of the beer. Flavors are complimented, accentuated and even cleansed. However, as the relationship between the two has been escalated, and the number of people using beer in the kitchen as well as on the dinner table, so has the number of ways in which they can be “paired.” Here are our five ways that we believe food and beer can best be paired.
1. Simple pairing – As mentioned above, this is the direct interaction between food and beer from taking a bite of the food and a sip of the beer. The citrus in American hops tend to cut through fat and mellow spice; maltiness can add a new dimension such as toning down and sweetening the stronger flavors of wild game. Carbonation has palette cleansing abilities, making beer an excellent choice in a progressive dining experience, such as a tasting menu These are just a few examples.
2. Incorporation – This is the utilization of beer in the cooking process. Using it as a marinade or in a brine, adding it to a sauce or using it as a braising liquid are some of the ways incorporation pairing works. Incorporation can be a challenging task and requires some trial and error to see where the dish benefits from the addition of the beer. There are a few pitfalls to mention; reduce most beer too much and it can destroy the floral hop aromas and intensify the bitterness. Keep a meat marinating or brining too long in a beer and it can break down the proteins or overpower the flavor of the meat.
3. Mimicking – One of the most difficult pairings, mimic pairings are the act of matching the flavor profile of a dish with the flavor profile of a beer. It is difficult because not only do you have to understand the flavor profiles of the individual ingredients of the dish, but also the beer such as the type of hops, malt and yeast being used. Start off by tasting the beer and then write down the flavors that you experience from start to finish. For example, Duvel. Clean bright start, slightly bitter yet rich middle and a hint of citrus at the end. Now conceive a dish that follows that same path and same subtleties. A quick poll among chefs with this description yielded a few versions of a scallop and grapefruit dish.
4. Story Telling – Beer, like food, has a great history behind it. Not just how it was made, but why. This could be something as general as pairing a Saison which was typically brewed in the winter by farmers to be enjoyed in the summer, with a fresh summer salad and a pork terrine utilizing ingredients from one farm. The flavors might not be perfect together but you can experience what the farmers might have experienced when they were making and the enjoying a Saison. Of course you can get more personal with the beer. Brewers have a tendency to enjoy talking about their beer. Find out why. What inspired them to do it? Where did they get their ingredients from? Who did they brew it with? You’ll find some of the most rewarding pairings this way.
5. Experimental – This type of pairing is the most fun by far. It is finding a way to make the beer the main star of a dish. The experimental aspect of the pairing is more of an end result of trying one of the above. Chocolate Stout and Cherry Kriek Caviar with a Belgian Double Savory Bellini? NY Cheesecake with Coffee Porter Caramel? Head Cheese made by adding gelatin to an American IPA? Or a simple German Lager Bread with Cider Butter where the bittering hops are prominent in the aroma and flavor of the bread with the cider adding a complementing sweetness to the rich butter.
Erik Budrakey has seen it all. His career path has been focused around drinking. Be jealous. Budrakey has worked as a Home Brewer, Brewing Instructor, Brew Pub Manager, Salesman, and Craft Beer Marketing Manager. Traveling to breweries and drinking their beer is his specialty. When he’s not indulging in the finest ales, he can be seen playing ice hockey, talking beer on the radio and straight up hangin’ with his wife and kids.