Beer and Food

If you’re looking for the best brew to match to your favourite dish, take some advice from our Chief Brewer, Bill Taylor.

Beer and food is a great match, but with the popularity of cool refreshing lagers in our part of the world, beer has been most commonly associated with casual eating and pre-dinner drinking. But beer is a versatile drink.

With the almost endless variety of beers available today it’s possible to find a beer to suit every occasion, every mood, and most importantly every food. In fact, one of the most enjoyable aspects of beer is the pleasure to be found in pairing it with a great meal.

The secret to the relatively straightforward art of matching beer and food is succinctly summed up by Lucy Saunders in her book Cooking with Beer. She says that ‘cut’ (or cleanse), ‘complement’ and ‘contrast’ are the ‘three Cs’ of any food and beverage pairing – and I agree!

Beer and wine share many of the same attributes as an accompaniment to food. Both are based on agricultural crop and yeast fermentation with a resulting complexity of flavour. Both can be dry or sweet, full-bodied or thin and have moderate acidity. Both have tannin and can be astringent and while wine can be still or sparkling, beer is mostly sparkling. Beer has a bitter dryness and arguably a wider range of different tastes and while both contain alcohol, beer is generally the more moderate drink. Given all that the two have in common, it is easy to see why beer can be as natural a food partner as wine!

It must be said that there are some food flavours beer is uniquely suited to – spicy food and chocolate are stand-out examples.

Beer and Spice

The fragrant aromas of spicy Thai, Malaysian or Indian combine perfectly with dry, hoppy, aromatic lagers. The layers of flavours in the beer seem to mirror those in the food and the aromas tantalise. There is sufficient body and flavour in the beer to marry with the taste of the food and the lingering heat of the spice is matched by the lingering bitterness of the lager. The alcohol gradually dissolves the heat as the bitterness and the chill of the beer cools and revives the palate.

Beer and Chocolate

Sometimes I think stout was created especially for chocolate. It’s a magic combination and an absolute indulgence. The flavour of stout is complex and intense. In it there are chocolate, coffee, liquorice, pepper, nutmeg, roasted and bitter flavours, which harmonise with the chocolate. The bitterness in a good chocolate cake makes the unique match complete. I also enjoy the textural synergy – stout and chocolate both have a smooth feel in the mouth. This physical combination, the unique bitter interaction and the sharing of chocolate flavours is a multilayered harmony all of its own.