Beer is often overlooked as an accompaniment to food, being considered more of a social drink in itself. Whilst wine is known to compliment food, and vice versa, for many people the idea of serving beer with a well-made quality meal would seem eccentric at best; at worst – a good meal ruined! This seems set to change with many breweries hyping up the virtues of a good beer and food combination. In years to come it may seem perfectly reasonable to enjoy a couple of glasses of ale with a meat dish or a ‘kriek’ beer (a lambic beer brewed with fresh fruit to produce a strong sweet/tart flavour) with dessert.
Suggested Beer and Food Combinations
Generally, heavier, richer foods will be best combined with ales and other darker beers, such as porter, whilst lighter foods will be complimented by a lager or light bitter. In addition to this, beers hold a great many flavours, some which can be combined in harmony – or in an interesting contrast with – food. Combining beer with food is much like the art of cooking itself – flavour combinations really are down to personal preferences and it pays to experiment. If in doubt, follow the guidelines below:
- Beef: Strong ale, porter and stout are all sufficiently ‘meaty’ enough to go compliment the rugged flavour of beef.
- Cheese: Try Brie and other creamy full flavoured cheese with a stout; goats cheese goes well with tart beers such as wheat beer or lambic beer; barley wine and strong ale go well with blue cheese; real ale and lager compliment the sharp and bitter taste of cheddar.
- Curry: The combination of beer and Curry is by now classic. Try to go for lagers brewed in India (or by Indian companies, such as Cobra), as they are brewed especially to compliment spicy dishes.
- Duck: Trappist ale and lambic fruit beers compliment the tangy flavour of duck.
- Mushrooms: Rich malty beers go well with the strong muddy textures and flavours of mushroom based dishes.
- Lamb: Lamb is both robust and full of subtle flavours; try spicy ale, a wheat beer, or a lambic beer.
- Pies: Stout, Porter and Strong ales are an excellent accompaniment to pies, many of which contain ale or stout as an ingredient.
- Pizza: Amber and brown ales suit the sweet and spicy flavours of Italian pizza.
- Poultry: Lagers and Wheat beers go well with the robust yet light and creamy taste of chicken.
- Salad: Light lagers and ales go well with a summer salad.
- Seafood: Stout and oysters are a well-known combination, the textures going excellently together; fish go well with light lagers and bitters.
Food and Beer: The Future Combination of Choice?
Wine is generally considered to be the natural dinner time drink, yet with campaign groups such as CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) promoting the consumption of quality beer with food, this could be set to change. Food writers and restaurants are steadily taking up the case for beer over wine, with establishments dedicated to the cause emerging: The Brew Wharf in Borough, London brews two ales on site, whilst specialist beer producer ‘Meantime’ supply the rest of their stock. Their blend of bistro cooking with authentic quality beer promises to champion the case for beer as the food connoisseurs drink of choice: Beer menu anyone?