by Caitlin Hart
The first food and drink pairing I vividly remember as a child would have to be milk and cookies. There was something magical about putting those two together. They complemented each other in ways that made them better together than apart. Meanwhile I witnessed fancy adults conversing about how this chardonnay worked with chicken and this cabernet sauvignon with steak. At 22 I mostly get this, but to be honest wine and food pairings are still a bit of a mystery to me. Wine pairing is complicated. Based on type of wine, region, year and personal taste, it can take years of reading and tasting to figure this out. Not to mention wine is expensive.
This is where beer comes in. Beer and food pairings are still relatively new to most people yet far more accessible to twenty-somethings. When pairing a beverage with food the first thought is usually wine. It’s true of my favourite publication LCBO’s Food and Drink where most recipes include a wine pairing.
Beer is way more versatile than most people give it credit for. With a wide variety of types from bitter to dessert sweet there is literally a beer for every mood and every dish. To top it off beer doesn’t have the limitations that wine does. Beer can cut through the spice in curry in ways that wine can’t.
Before wandering out to match beer with that mac and cheese there are a few guidelines to ensure that the result isn’t disgusting. Matching beer with food is really no different than matching flavours. Think about how raspberry and chocolate complement each other or how certain pasta dishes work better with a red sauce versus a white sauce. The same applies when pairing food with beer: you want to combine subtle flavours with other subtle flavours so you don’t overpower the dish. Subtle beers would be pale ales, lagers and wheat beers. These beers go well with fish, chicken and mild pasta dishes. Now say you want something that has a more intense flavour such as red meat or something with more seasoning. In this case you want to look for a stronger flavour brown or amber ales and stouts. What about that spicy curry that makes your nose run and eyes water? For this an India pale ale (IPA) will cut through the spice with a nice bitter edge.
When searching for the right beer my best advice is to research online, read labels on bottles or talk to the folks at the LCBO. The taste profile is often listed on the back of the bottle or can and some beers even have food suggestions.
Did I mention have fun? Experimenting is probably the highlight of this. You might make mistakes but then again you might discover something mind-blowing.