How to pair beer and food and a Beerology giveaway!

A glass of beer on eatlivetravelwrite.coman article by Neil Phillips

Food and beer pairing, you say?  Why yes – don’t let your wine snob friends say it only applies to their drink of choice.  😉

In fact, there’s just as much complexity in the beer world as in the wine world.  Many aficionados would even say that beers offer a more natural set of food pairing choices.  I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but I do agree that pairing beer with food is under-appreciated.  (Or at least, outside northern Europe.)

Recently Mardi and I were at the launch of Mirella Amato’s new book, “Beerology”.  For anyone with either a passing interest in beer, or wanting to delve in more deeply – I highly recommend this book.  I’ve seen Mirella many times over the years at seminars and events, and her charm, humour – and expertise  – come through in the book.  There’s a lot of detail for beer geeks, but it’s all presented in an easy-going style that does not intimidate the novice.  If you’re a knowledgeable wine drinker and want to understand a bit more of what goes on “on the other side”, this is a great place to start.

As with wine, flavours can complement or contrast with food.  Both offer differing approaches in pairing.  Mirella also speaks of a third, where the flavours “are in a dance”, bouncing back and forth.  Then there’s the elusive “new flavour” that’s created by the marriage of the two.  As you can see – much similarity to wine.

Many people know the basics of food & wine pairing, but where to begin with food & beer pairing?  Well, not surprisingly, some of the principles remain the same.  Herewith a few tips for making your selections.

Tips for pairing beer with food

1. Consider regionality

A fail-safe with wine, don’t forget with beer.  It shouldn’t surprise that a nice German Pilsner fares well with bratwurst, or that a Belgian witbier pairs beautifully with a bowl of steamed mussels.  Caution required, though:  it’s a bit trickier than wine, especially in places like North America and Australia where anything goes, in terms of today’s brewer’s.  (And food styles!)

2. Don’t forget the sauces, seasoning and spices

Don’t just think about the protein – think about the sauce.  That’s more important than the protein:  what’s the dominant flavour?  So those light sauces will generally want a lighter beer.  Lagers tend more to cereal, bread and citrus flavours, darker ales to mocha and coffee.  Think of that in terms of the seasoning on your dishes.  Of course, there’s no reason you cannot pair a different beer with each dish in a menu.  Which leads nicely to…

3. How heavy is your dish?

This isn’t as fail-safe, but works well.  Lighter dishes will often be overwhelmed by a heavier beer.  While a nice Porter goes well with that burger, or a Rauchbier is perfect with grilled ribs…both will likely be heavy for sautéed chicken breasts.  As with wines, a weight progression throughout a meal (lighter to heavier) is ideal for the palate.  This is actually the way a meal itself progresses, so works logically.  And yes – there are some perfect matches for desserts.  If you haven’t yet tried a kriek lambic with that black forest cake…you’re in for a treat.

4. How much hops is there?

The hoppier a beer, the better it pairs with spicy food.  Think India Pale Ale or American style IPA – the latter have tended to very hoppy styles the last years.  As heavy hops are not for everyone, don’t feel you need to get one ridiculously high.  But they’ll work better than a light lager.  Not sure about hops level?  The technical measurement is “IBUs” – International Bitterness Units.  Some craft beers now list on the label.  Anything over 30 starts to get into the hoppy realm…above 50 is serious bitterness.  Or ask your bottle shop expert.

As with wine, never fear experimenting!  You’ll find some surprises (stout with oysters, anyone?), and have fun along the way.  But as with wine, the only expert is you:  there’s no point drinking a beer you don’t enjoy just because someone tells you it “matches” with a dish.

Happy quaffing!

Beerology by Mirella Amato – a Canadian giveaway!

BeerologyCover on eatlivetravelwrite.comThanks to the kind folks at Random House Canada, I have one copy of “Beerology” to giveaway to a lucky Canadian reader.

How to enter:

There are 2 ways to enter (maximum of two entries per person for the duration of the contest).

1. Leave  a comment on this post telling us your favourite way to pair beer with food.
2. Tweet the following message: Enter to win @beerologyboffin ‘s “Beerology” from @RandomHouseCA + @eatlivtravwrite (Canada)  Details:  then come back to leave a second comment letting me know you did.

Eligibility and contest rules:

– Open to Canadian residents only.
– No purchase of any product necessary for entry.
– Winner will be chosen randomly (using from all qualified entries on Sunday June 1st after 6pm EST.
– Winner will be notified via email Monday June 2nd.


Disclosure: We were provided with a copy of “Beerology” for review purposes.  We were also guests of Random House Canada at the book launch/ beer and cheese pairing.  We were not asked to write about either the book or the launch, nor are we being compensated for doing do. All opinions 100% our own.

30 thoughts on “How to pair beer and food and a Beerology giveaway!”

  1. In my world I try to offer guests the same with beer as with wine: there should be a 1+1=3 experience. In essence neither should be diminished by presence of other. Together they should be more than sum of addition. I do though sometimes give in to playful labels! At a recently catered meeting/seminar of 47 geologists that included a social and sit down dinner I specifically sought out themed product. The wine spoke of volcanic derived soils and had a suitable logo, the beer included “Rock Cut” from Lake-of-Bays Brewing and had the crossed tools of trade of the prospector. The attendees were delighted such attention was paid to drink!

    • Hugh – that’s a wonderful paring! A bit beyond the scope of my article…but very fun.

      I’ve done similar sorts of “themed” dinners, albeit more around wine.

  2. To corrupt a long-established advertising slogan down under, “beer ain’t beer”, as is clear from Neil’s post.
    I have always found it hard to try and ‘pair’ a beer with food – although it always seems to be the alcohol of choice on a warm day with the odd snack.
    Thus, when you can’t ‘pair’ a beer, you tend always to fall back into the easier choice – viz. wine. The book sounds like a useful contribution to better understanding of the wider role beer can play in complementing food.

  3. I like to pair beer with the things I cook by infusing whatever I’m cooking and then using that same beer to drink with the meal or dessert.

    • Elin, that’s a standard great way to go – with beer and wine. I should have mentioned that…so obvious I forgot! Thank you so much for mentioning! 🙂

  4. I love all kinds of beer and I’ve honestly never really thought too much about specific pairings. We often have beer with summery type meals. Steak on the BBQ with a Townsite Brewing ZUNGA is our go-to on a summer day.

    • Try a Rauchbier if you can get your hands on one. Also known as “smoked beer” – smoked in the same sense a peaty whisky is! It’s dark, not to everyone’s taste…but with smoky BBQ ribs….a wonderful pairing.

  5. I tweeted as well :). We typically pair beer with anything we put on the BBQ except for fish. And further we pair it with snack foods-specialty nuts and kettle chips.

  6. I tweeted as well :). We typically pair beer with anything we put on the BBQ except for fish. And further we pair it with snack foods-specialty peanuts, cashews, smoked almonds and kettle chips.

  7. I like to match the beer with the type of food I’m serving. Light, summery foods are paired with light, summer beers, and heavier or spicier foods can go with a stronger beer. Most often, beer gets paired with food during the summer months more so than winter – especially if we’re grilling!

    Thanks for the review and giveaway!

  8. I like to pair beer with a shareable foods (i.e. nachos, spinach dips, etc) on a nice patio with good company! Or with a bucket of wings. Nothing wrong with that 😉

  9. I like to pair whatever craft beer I have in the fridge with whatever I am cooking on the BBQ. Usually it i gone before the food is cooked.

  10. I’m still learning the ins and outs of proper pairings, but I am fully on board with pairing hoppy pale ales with spicy foods – I’ve found Amsterdam’s Market Pale Ale goes pretty nicely with fish tacos!

  11. I am a true Canadian. I mean beer and poutine is the perfect combo, especially when enjoyed on the back deck while soaking up some rays. Thanks for offering this amazing giveaway, I love your blog 🙂
    *I also tweeted*


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