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Food & Beer Pairing 101

That’s right—food & beer pairing is a thing! There aren’t quite as many rules as there are for wine & food pairing, but that leaves a lot more room for experimentation, and less risk of totally ruining a meal with the wrong combination. With that said, here are three avenues we recommend exploring when you find yourself choosing a beer to accompany a meal:



One popular pairing concept is to create contrast between the beer and the food. Typically, you’re going to have success pairing a beer with a strongly-flavored, bold profile such as sweet or spicy. When I think of contrast, I can think of no better example than my Connecticut-style Lobster roll (warm w/ butter) alongside a cold Allagash White (a Belgian-style witbier with a snappy dryness that cut through the butter like, well, a butter knife). Other popular examples include: buffalo wings with a hoppy IPA or IIPA, where the spicy buffalo sauce is extenuated by hoppy bitterness and then delightfully refreshed by a slight malty backbone (often seen in Double IPA’s), or pairing oysters or PEI mussels with a stout-- the salty, briny notes of the fare are dominant enough to hold up to rich, dark, roasted notes of a stout (however, we recommend doing this with a dry style stout and not one of the barrel-aged, imperial, chocolate, or coffee infused stouts that have become popular on the American market).



Another pairing guideline that is very straight-forward is palate-cleansing. You know the moment in all of those Coca-Cola commercials when the person has a sip and then lets out a prominent, breathy, “Ah!” to indicate extreme refreshment? That’s sort of what we’re going for with this pairing- choosing a beer with a refreshing profile to wash down strongly flavored foods. Again, using spicy food as an example, you might choose a Belgian Witbier or a German Helles Lager. Instead of amplifying the spice with the previously mentioned IPA, these beers will wash the spice away from the palate providing your mouth with a little relief and hopefully a craving for another bite. This strategy can also be inversed, making the food the palate-cleanser, by selecting fatty foods that aren’t intensely flavored to counter balance a complex, bitter beer style.



The third pairing concept is possibly the simplest to execute: complimenting, or picking a beer with similar weight and heartiness as the meal itself. You might use this strategy to pair a light, crisp pilsner with a light summer salad or a simple seafood-based meal. Or, you may pair a robust porter with heartier fare like BBQ or meatloaf. The end goal for this method: striking a balance that allows you taste the food and the beer for what they are without one overpowering or manipulating the other.



Now, these are merely suggestions for you on your path to food & beverage pairing. Personally, I divert to the contrasting strategy most often because I find it to be the most fun and interesting; its almost like a personal challenge to pick a beer that will really set the food off (hard to beat a fresh, hoppy IPA alongside the super-savory lengua tacos at Villalobos w/ spicy salsa). However, sometimes it’s nice to stay simple, in which case I grab my favorite pilsner to wash down a bowl of Spicy Miso ramen and relieve some of that heat. Next time you’re shopping for beer, think about what you’ll be eating and try your hand at one of these pairing strategies. But don’t stress or overthink it—at the end of the day the best beer is the one in your hand!



Below are some of my absolute favorite food-worthy beers.

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Brasserie Dupont - Vieille Provision Saison Dupont NV (750)
Brasserie Dupont - Vieille Provision Saison Dupont (750ml)

Saison Dupont is a classic Belgian farmhouse ale. This is a beautifully balanced, complex beer that has a refreshing fruitiness and long, dry finish. It is bottled unfiltered so it may be cloudy or have a slight sediment but this... Read More

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