If you like beer and you like food, pairing the two seems like a no-brainer. But if you’re looking to get a little more sophisticated than just grabbing whatever six-pack is handy, try choosing a beer based on whatever you’re cooking to enhance the whole tasting experience. As a former bartender, I developed this set of quick tips and tricks for how to pair the right beer with your food.
First and foremost, figure out what you want your beer to do. Do you want to it complement your meal, or to contrast with it? You can do either, but having an answer to that question will help you figure out which beers should even be in the running.
Either way, the goal is to find a beer that won’t overpower your food. Once you’ve figured out your objective, start looking at beers that are on par with the strength of the food. Chicken and fish pair well with light beers, while steak goes well with darker, heavier beers. In that way, beer pairings are not fundamentally different from wine pairings.
If you’re into spicy food try pairing your chicken wings or jalapeño poppers with an IPA. The bitterness from the hops and the light, carbonated body will make that burn last for a little extra heat.
Looking for something to go with a hearty beef stew? Get yourself a brown ale or a porter.
Don’t forget dessert. Do you want something to make that rich chocolate cake really pop? Try a coffee stout or something with a bold, nutty flavor.
Finally, if you want to find the best beer for your food, don’t be afraid to ask any local brewer. They’re not only happy to have your business, but they’re happy to educate you about beer.