You have no doubt heard about wine and food pairing, but did you also know that your favorite craft beers have their own food pairs, too? That’s right, no longer do you have to settle for simple beer snacks with your brew of choice. Armed with a little knowledge, you can experience and experiment with all that beer food pairs have to offer. Why not try fresh and succulent seafood with your German pilsner or kimchi with your Indian Pale Ale?
Beer has a versatility and depth that should never be undersold. In fact, a great beer can bring out the best in a dish. It’s all about knowing which beers and cuisines go together. From rich and hearty stouts to refreshing amber ales, our guide shows you how to find the perfect food companion.
The Three C’s – Cut, Complement, Contrast
Before we take a look at perfect matches between beer and food, let’s tell you about the basic principles. They are the three C’s of food and beer pairing, otherwise known as Cut, Complement and Contrast. Quite simply, beers and foods are married together based on the effect they have on one another. Some beers may cut through the flavor of your food, producing a fresh mouthfeel and new flavors. Others complement each other perfectly.
When we refer to the cut, we are talking about the beer’s ability to cut through bold and strong flavors in food. These flavors may be created by spiciness. creaminess or fattiness. The idea is to pair these extreme and intense foods with beers that will counter the opposing flavor and take the edge off it. The result is that the beer refreshes and revives the palate with each sip. For example, pale ales are often sold in Indian restaurants as they are known to cut through spicy curry flavors.
Complement is used to describe how the beer enhances the flavors in food and creates a harmony between the two. To find beers and dishes that complement one another, look out for flavors and aromas that are similar. Robust beers will complement robust foods perfectly while hoppy and spicy beers are perfect for hot and spicy dishes. For example, a dark ale will go brilliantly with a hearty and rich meat stew.
Contrast is used to describe when a beer reveals a new layer of complexity that food just cannnot deliver. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily expect oysters and stout to go together, but they produce some amazing flavor and mouth-feel experiences. While both have quite different flavor profiles, the rich bitterness of the stout accentuates the silky smoothness of the oysters.
Food and Beer Pairings – Simple Rules to Live By
Before we dive into our food and beer pairings, there are a few simple rules that will help you to get the most from your pairing adventures.
- Don’t be scared to experiment. With so many different foods and beers available, you never know which amazing combinations you might stumble upon.
- Follow your taste buds. Your palate is always your best guide.
- If at first you don’t succeed with a food pairing, try another!
Your A-Z of Beer and Food Pairings
American Amber Ale
American Amber Ale gets its name from its golden to amber color. It has a medium roasted flavor.
Pair it with: Grilled meats, medium cheddar and pound cake.
American Amber Lager
This highly drinkable and widely available craft beer style is medium-bodied and has a caramel-like malt character.
Pair it with: Grilled meats and vegetables, white cheddar and fruit desserts.
American Barley Wine
Barley wines deliver a toffee or caramel aroma with a malt character. They can also be fruity.
Pair it with: Beef cheek, strong blue cheeses and rich desserts.
American Black Ale
Well known for its dark body, caramel malt and dark roasted flavors, this beer is also known as black IPA.
Pair it with: Grilled shrimp, blue cheeses and chocolate truffles.
American Brett beers have a very unique flavor. Expect goaty, leathery, horsey and fruity characters with this one.
Pair it with: Roasted game, farmhouse cheeses and fruit tarts.
American Brown Ale
American Brown Ale delivers a caramel-like, chocolate-like and roasted malt character.
Pair it with: Grilled meats and vegetables, aged cheeses and pear or apple fritters.
American Cream Ale
This mild, pale and light-bodied ale is more of a lager than an ale and is a refreshing treat on a hot day.
Pair it with: Salads, light shellfish, Monteray Jack and lemon custard tarts.
American Imperial Porter
This Imperial Porter is definitively American and delivers a medium caramel and cocoa sweetness.
Pair it with: Chicken mole enchiladas, smoked cheeses and blondie brownies.
American Imperial Red Ale
American Imperial Red Ale has a medium hop bitterness, aroma and flavor and offers a solid malt profile.
Pair it with: Corned beef hash, mozzarella and toffee pudding.
American Imperial Stout
American Imperial Stout is the strongest in body and alcohol of all stouts. It’s extremely rich flavor and sweet malt character makes it the perfect match for robust flavors.
Pair it with: Foie gras, aged cheeses and chocolate fudge cake.
American IPA delivers a fresh, floral and citrus-like character. It’s the top-selling craft beer style in stores and supermarkets around the world and for good reason.
Pair it with: Spicy tuna dishes, blue cheeses and fruity rice puddings.
American Lager delivers a crisp, malt and hop character while the highly carbonated body offers a clean and refreshing taste.
Pair it with: Pho noodles, soft ripe cheeses and kettle corn.
American Pale Ale
American Pale Ale may have taken inspiration from English Pale Ale, but it is certainly no copycat. Where it’s English counterpart has earthy and herbal characteristics, American Pale Ale is pine and citrus-like.
Pair it with: Grilled and roasted meats, medium cheddar and apple pie.
American Sour with its acidic and organic acids may be an acquired taste, it’s definitely worth a try if you haven’t experienced it before.
Pair it with: Lightly spiced meats, strong cheeses and fruity and creamy desserts.
As dark as it is robust, American Stout is one of the most identifiable varieties in the world of American beer. Perfect for supping on a winter’s day.
Pair it with: Grilled lamb, sharp cheddar and coffee cake.
American-Style Wheat Wine Ale
This type of beer does not have a single grape in it as its name might suggest. It’s a full-bodied beer made with 50 percent wheat malt and delivers a candy and bready flavor.
Pair it with: Smoked trout, asiago and peach desserts.
When it comes to approachable beers, few are more so than American Wheat. Their versatility allows them to be paired with a number of food options.
Pair it with: Salads, seafood, cheeses and fruit desserts.
Baltic-Style Porter delivers a smooth, cold-lagered and cold-fermented character and a strong alcohol profile.
Pair it with: Prime rib, aged gouda and s’mores desserts.
A barrel-aged beer can refer to any beer, lager, ale or hybrid beer that has spent time ageing in a wooden barrel. These beers tend to retain their woody characters and can also take on the flavors of spirits that have also inhabited the barrel.
Pair it with: Grilled lean meats, smoked cheese and chocolate cheesecake.
Belgian-Style Blonde Ale
This easy-drinking beer has a pleasing hop bitterness and a spicy and fruity character. It is medium in sweetness.
Pair it with: Sweet and sour chicken, brie and angel food cake.
Belgian-Style Dubbel is known for its caramel and cocoa flavors and aromas and has a malty sweetness.
Pair it with: Apple-smoked sausages and cheeses, milk chocolate desserts.
Belgian-Style Flanders varieties can range from cherry-like to malty and deliver a very complex taste.
Pair it with: Beef stew, Mimolette cheese and pumpkin pie.
Belgian-Style Fruit Lambic
Also known as framboise, kriek, peche and cassis, Belgian-Style Fruit Lambic takes on the flavor and color of the fruit used during the brewing process.
Pair it with: Grilled prawns, soft cheeses and chocolate cake.
Belgian-Style Golden Strong Ale
This fruity and complex beer often sits at the higher end of the ABV scale, but it is still very approachable to many different palates.
Pair it with: Beer battered fried shrimp, triple creme cheeses and baklava.
These beers feature high levels of fruity esters and can range from sour to sweet.
Pair it with: Mussels, mascarpone and rich chocolate cake.
Biere de Garde
Biere de Garde translates as beer for keeping and it is a style that is becoming increasingly popular. It has a toasted malt aroma and slight malty-sweet flavor.
Pair it with: Roasted lamb and mint, ripe cheeses and pecan pie.
Blonde Ale is one of the most approachable of all beer styles and is a very easy-to-drink beer. These beers often have fruit, honey and spices added.
Pair it with: Spaghetti and meatballs, pepper jack cheese and sugar cookies.
Brewed with lager yeast, California Common has a noticeable caramel-like and toasted malt character.
Pair it with: Pork loin, feta cheese and bread pudding.
Chocolate beers are robust, rich and of course, feature high chocolate-like intensity. Perfect for sweet tooths and beer connoisseurs alike.
Pair it with: Venison mole, aged cheeses and raspberry torte.
Beer and coffee make a perfect and perhaps unlikely combination. More and more craft breweries across America are embracing this concoction and you can now find many varieties readily available.
Pair it with: Pork tenderloin, semi-hard cheeses and vanilla ice cream.
The Contemporary Gose comes in a wide variety of aromas and flavors including spice, floral, fruity and herbal. They deliver a sharp and refreshing sourness.
Pair it with: Watermelon salad, queso fresco and lemon mousse.
English-Style Bitter is well known for its lower-alcohol and sessionable style. Hop bitterness is medium and there is a low residual sweetness.
Pair it with: Roasted chicken, firm English cheeses and oatmeal raisin cookies.
English-Style Brown Ale
This is one of the most iconic of all beer styles and features a toasty, robust and chocolate-like character. While it is almost a meal in a glass on its own, it goes with a number of foods very well.
Pair it with: Roasted steak or pork, aged gouda and pear fritters.
English-Style Brown Porter
English-Style Brown Porter delivers a black malt character and a medium malt sweetness.
Pair it with: Roasted or grilled meats, gruyere and chocolate peanut butter cookies.
Caramel and malt form a large part of the aroma and flavor profile of English-Style Mild. Hop bitterness is very low and liquorice tones may also be present.
Pair it with: Mushrooms and wild game, mild cheddar and dark fruit tarts.
Strong, bitter and refreshing, English-Style IPA has a fruity character that differs widely from the American version.
Pair it with: Fettuccine Alfredo, aged cheddars and ginger spice cake.
English-Style Oatmeal Stout
Oatmeal Stout is creamy, smooth and has a rich body. It should be caramel and chocolate-like, but never bitter.
Pair it with: Chicken in mole sauce, aged cheddar and pumpkin cheesecake.
English-Style Old Ale
English-Style Old Ale can range from copper-red to dark in color and has a sweet and very rich, wine-like character.
Pair it with: Roast beef and lamb, double Gloucester and spiced plum tarts.
English-Style Pale Ale (ESB)
ESB stands for “extra special bitter” and that’s exactly what you’ll get when you choose this brew. It has a medium to high hop bitterness and a fruity aroma and flavor.
Pair it with: Roast chicken, English cheeses and maple syrup bread pudding.
English-Style Sweet Stout (Milk Stout)
Also referred to as milk stout and cream stout, English-Style Sweet Stout is black in color and has a chocolate or caramel flavor profile.
Pair it with: Spicy BBQ meats, buttery cheddar and chocolate ice cream.
This style of lager is all about creating the perfect balance and you’ll experience a medium hop character and low malt sweetness when you choose these varieties.
Pair it with: Grilled steak, soft cheeses and bread pudding.
Fruit and Field Beer
Fruit Beer, as its name suggests, is made with fruit extracts. It’s closely-linked cousin, the Field Beer expands on this idea by using herbs and vegetables.
Pair it with: Salads, creamy cheeses and vanilla ice cream.
Traditional German Bock is high in malt sweetness and a nut-like malt character. Bock means “goat” in German!
Pair it with: Grilled ribeye, swiss cheese and chocolate.
German-Style Altbier delivers a beautiful balance of malt and hop flavors and can also feature peppery and floral hop aromas.
Pair it with: Grilled salmon, Emmental and apple pie.
Doppel means double in German. The German-Style Doppelbock is stronger and bigger than other bock beers and is very food-friendly.
Pair it with: Pork or ham, strong cheeses and German chocolate cake.
German-Style Dunkel is a very dark beer (dunkel means dark in German) and offers a balanced flavor of caramel, bread crust and chocolate.
Pair it with: Sausages, Munster cheese and ginger beer cake.
German-Style Dunkelweizen delivers a chocolate-like character and sweet maltiness. It can also feature bubblegum, banana and clove esters thanks to the type of yeast used during the brewing process.
Pair it with: Roast chicken, gouda and banana cream pie.
This is one of the most recognizable of all beer styles thanks to its distinctive yeast and wheat malt characteristics. Refreshing, crisp and eye-catching, it is little wonder this beer style has been kept alive for centuries.
Pair it with: Seafood, soft cheese and key lime pie.
This hop-centric bock beer has a lightly toasted and bready malt character. It is also paler in color than most bock beers.
Pair it with: Ham, swiss cheese and white chocolate cheesecake.
This is a real beer for beer lovers and delivers a pleasant malt sweetness and floral aroma and flavors.
Pair it with: Samosas, Colby cheese and baklava.
Kolsch is a beer hybrid that is light, refreshing and perfect for hot and lazy summer days. In addition to their thirst-quenching capabilities, Kolsch varieties are fun for pairing with beer.
Pair it with: Bratwurst, nutty cheeses and apricot cake.
This is a beer that is the perfect balance of malt and hop bitterness. It has a biscuit-like or bread aroma and flavor and is very popular at Oktoberfest.
Pair it with: Kielbasa sausage, jalapeno cheese and coconut cake.
Pilsner is possibly the most iconic beer in modern times. Light in color, it has a very short finish and is an exquisitely balanced lager.
Pair it with: Shellfish, cheddar and shortbread cookies.
Also known as black lagers, schwarzbiers are dark and dry with a roasted malt flavor.
Pair it with: Mushroom strudel, muster-style cheese and fruit tarts.
If you like German-Style Bock, you might want to give its cousin the Weizenbock a try. With flavors like bready malt, plum, raisin and grape, this is a great partner for food.
Pair it with: Chicken and dumplings, manchego and banana bread.
Herb & Spice Beer
A herb and spice beer can be any lager or beer that is made using roots, flowers, seeds, fruits or vegetables. Look out for winter holiday varieties with lots of spices.
Pair it with: Grilled meats and fish, aged cheeses and ginger cake.
Lagers and ales can be made with honey and they are an absolute delight when they are! Overall, the taste of honey should be subtle and not overpowering.
Pair it with: Bruschetta, ricotta and lemon gelato.
Imperial India Pale Ale
If you love American craft beers, then you will absolutely love Imperial India Pale Ale. While a stronger version of American IPA, Imperial delivers a stronger hoppy flavor and bitterness. Even better, there are plenty of variations to try.
Pair it with: Miso salmon, rich cheeses and carrot cake.
Irish-Style Dry Stout
Dry stouts have a dry-roasted character and a coffee aroma and flavor. Hop bitterness is medium to high.
Pair it with: Seafood, Irish cheddar and chocolate desserts.
Irish-Style Red Beer
Known for its low bitterness and unique malty taste, Irish-Style Red Beer is one that all American craft beer lovers will enjoy. It’s also usually low in alcohol.
Pair it with: Roasted vegetables, cheddar and poached pears.
New England IPA
New England IPA embraces hop aroma and flavor without being overpowering with bitterness. Many varieties are bursting with tropical juicy flavors.
Pair it with: Hawaiian pork tenderloin, blue goats cheese and creme brulee.
Nothing quite says fall like pumpkins and a good quality craft beer. Many American breweries have done a great job of combining the two and there are some interesting varieties available to go with your meal or snacks.
Pair it with: Roasted turkey, camembert and coffee ice cream.
With a more bitter and malty flavor than brown porters, Robust Porter also delivers a cocoa and caramel-like character. You’ll find many breweries that have experimented with this variety of beers.
Pair it with: Roasted and grilled meats, gruyere and peanut butter cookies.
Rye Beer has a spicy or pumpernickel character thanks to the addition of rye during the brewing process. It has flavors of chocolate, caramel or cocoa and a medium malt sweetness.
Pair it with: Jerk chicken, Wensleydale and savory bread pudding.
Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
With its overwhelmingly malty character and rich and sweet malt aroma and flavor, it’s easy to see why Scotch Ale is gaining in popularity. Look out for smoked varieties.
Pair it with: Grilled game meats, strong cheeses and creamy desserts with fruit.
Scottish-Style Ale is strong in flavor and aroma and has a caramel-like character.
Pair it with: Meat and game, pungent cheeses and creamy desserts.
Smoke Beer is made with malt that has been kilned over an open flame. This creates a dense smoky flavor and aroma.
Pair it with: Grilled vegetables, parmesan and gingerbread cookies.
The base for a Smoke Porter is a Robust Porter. The smokey flavor and aroma is created by the wood-smoked malt and different woods can be used in this process creating different flavors.
Pair it with: Grilled sausage, strong cheddar and s’mores.
Vienna Lager ranges in color from copper to reddish-brown and has a slight malt sweetness and malty aroma.
Pair it with: Grilled meats, mild cheese and almond biscotti.