Everyone knows that food and wine are easily matched with one another. However, what many people fail to appreciate is that craft beer can also be a perfect partner for their grub. It works in much the same way as wine – some beer styles perfectly complement your meal, whereas others will overpower it and leave your taste buds numb.
I’ve taken four of the most popular beer styles available, from powerful stout to humble lager, and recommended what dishes they team up with best. So leave the cork in your Merlots and Sauvignon Blancs, it’s time to try something completely different with dinner tonight.
Works well with: Chicken, seafood, hot dogs and burgers
Ahh lager, the nation’s favourite alcoholic drink. In many cases, it comes in lifeless and boring varieties, with the vast majority of mass-produced lager being watery, tasteless and won’t add anything to your choice of dinner. However, craft lager is starting to gain a foothold and there are several options worth trying.
Vocation brewery’s Yakima Pilsner is packed with American hops that add a citrus, refreshing flavour. It pairs perfectly with seafood such as white fish and salmon that typically benefit from a squeeze of lemon anyway.
Chicken works well in tandem with lager too, and is subtle enough that it won’t overpower the bird. A solid choice such as Camden Town’s Unfiltered Hells will be a neat substitute for your usual glass of white.
Finally, we’re onto junk food – burgers, hot dogs and those other choices you’ll regret in the morning. For this, you’re going to want something a little sturdier. Try a Brooklyn Lager, which actually tastes halfway between a lager and an IPA. It’s strong and bitter enough that it’ll hold up well to that burger, no matter how much ketchup or mustard you slather your meat in.
Works well with: Thai, Indian, Mexican – anything with a kick!
Modern craft IPAs are loaded with hops, tropical flavours and tend to weigh in from 6% ABV and beyond. As such, they can take a pounding from heavy, spicy dishes and still fight back.
Thornbridge’s classic Jaipur IPA matches up especially well with an Indian curry, the American hops standing up strongly to most levels of spice. Jaipur is one of the few IPAs that tastes just as good on cask as it does on keg or bottled – if you see it served this way then don’t hesitate to get a round in.
The Kernel Brewery’s IPAs are another excellent go-to option whenever you’re cooking up Asian cuisine. Unlike many traditional breweries Kernel don’t have a ‘core’ IPA, instead they experiment with different hop combinations constantly, according to availability. Despite the vast variations they’ve produced over the years, the consistency is brilliant and a bottle of Kernel IPA is a great companion to this type of cooking. Or at any time, really…
Works well with: Steak, chocolate
Stouts and red wine share many of the same characteristics when it comes to pairing with food. They both have complexity, depth and woe betide you for serving them too chilled. This makes them perfect for rich cuts of steak.
At 5.1% ABV, Fourpure brewery’s Oatmeal Stout is very versatile and surprisingly drinkable, a solid match for a rump or sirloin steak. However, when you’re getting out the big guns like fillet and ribeye, it’s only fitting that you choose a beer to match. An imperial stout such as Beavertown’s Heavy Water, which is flavoured with raspberries, cacao and vanilla, clocks in at a whopping 9% and will help maximise all the flavours from your steak.
If you wanted to go even further leftfield, seek out the infamous Yellow Belly, a collaboration between Sweden’s Omnipollo and the Peak District’s Buxton brewery. Billed as a peanut butter and biscuit imperial stout, an 11% ABV means this is probably one best shared between friends over a rib of beef on a special occasion.
Works well with: Salads, cheese and cured meats
Saisons are still gaining traction in the UK but this refreshing, slightly sour style is perfect for when winter turns into spring.
Brew By Numbers’ Citra Saison is an excellent interpretation of the style, the citra hop adding in a little tropical flavour that pairs up nicely with a light salad or fruit. Elsewhere, Burning Sky isa rare UK brewery that specialise in saison and farmhouse styles of beer. Its flagship Saison A La Provision is the perfect match for a night spent picking at the cheese and meat board.
This general guide should help get you started on your adventure pairing food and beer but, as with wine, there are no set rules. Experiment with different styles and food to see what works for you, but remember that beer deserves just as much attention as wine when it comes to deciding which bottle to open with dinner tonight.