Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Beer and Food Pairing - So Long Hotdog, Hello Foie Gras

Recently, I was approached to write for a brand spanking new publication – an actual printed newspaper – BC Craft Beer News. It’s pretty exciting that BC wants and now has its own local craft beer news source with six issues planned for the first year. I’m thrilled to be a part of this and can now share with you my first article.

You can pick up a copy of this new local paper at your favourite craft beer stores and establishments. If you don't see copies, ask them to email Julia@bccbnews.ca and she will send some out.


We’re all aware that wine and food pairings are common fare and who among us hasn’t been to a wine and cheese? But what the wine enthusiast may not know is that pairing beer with food is actually easier and provides more options. For instance, pairing wine with spicy foods can be challenging as the spices can alter the wine’s flavours whereas an India Pale Ale is an excellent accompaniment to strong, spicy foods such as curry.

“We began doing our beer pairing dinners in order to show beer’s versatility when paired with food. Wine has long been the beverage of choice for dining; we want to show people that beer has a place at the fine dining table as well. With a wide range of styles, flavour profiles and affordability beer is not only as good as wine for pairing with food, but if you consider the fact that beer is carbonated, it makes it an even better choice than wine.”
Don Farion, Certified Cicerone®
BierCraft Restaurants

Beer and food pairing used to consist of a hotdog and beer at a hockey game but thanks to the craft beer revolution, and the interesting and complex flavours that have emerged in these new beers, fine dining has new competition. Multiple flavours are identified in beers and each characteristic can be used to form a specific pairing. For instance, a saison has pepper notes, spice and dark earthiness. The bitterness of the saison can cut through the fat of a cracked pepper, spiced rib-eye steak and the earthiness of the beer will enhance the beef. The saison is also an equal partner to a salmon steak. The saison’s bitterness and acidity pulls the oils from the salmon and the pepper notes in the beer accentuate the fresh fish. How many wines can you think of that would pair so well with both beef and salmon?

There are guidelines that suggest a certain style of beer to specific food, but a good chef will properly evaluate the individual beer by aroma and taste, as well as the after taste, to determine what flavours are present in the specific beer before creating a pairing. The beer may enhance the taste of the food or vice versa. In my early craft beer drinking days, I didn’t care for sour beers however when it was paired with the right food at a beer dinner, I gained an appreciation for the sourness and now I adore sours.

Beers can be paired with every course – salads, soup, cheese, meat, fish and yes, even dessert. The easy dessert pairing is a porter or stout but you’re not limited to dark beers with your dessert. An abbey tripel would go well with a non-chocolate desert such as apricot tart.

The chart below is a sample of suitable beer/food pairings. The Brewers Association (www.brewersassociation.org) has a comprehensive Craft Beer and Food Pairing Chart for twenty eight styles of beer. Additional references such as The Brewmaster’s Table – Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver is another excellent resource.

Style of Beer
Pairs Well With
Spicy food, barbeque, hamburgers, chili
Bread pudding, poached pears, fruit flan
Pale Ale
Meat pie, English cheese, grilled meats, duck liver pâté, blackened chicken
Pumpkin flan, bananas foster
India Pale Ale
Spicy food, Thai & Mexican food, curries, grilled steak, mussels
Carrot cake, caramel apple pie, fig crème brulee
Rib-eye steak, salmon, mussels, calamari, sausage, Thai & Vietnamese food
Fruit tart, citrus sorbet
Lambic, Gueze (sour)
Sockeye salmon, duck l’orange, sweet & sour pork, eggs benedict, spot prawns
Apricot tart, baked pears
Smoked food, barbeque, blackened fish, sausage, roasted meat
Chocolate, toasted coconut
Imperial Stout
Beef Carpaccio, foie gras, smoked goose
Chocolate, salted caramel pot de crème, espresso cheesecake

The right pint placed beside the right plate served to friends and family is our definition of community.”
Daniel Frankel
Tap & Barrel-Daniel Hospitality Group
Beer Dinners
Many restaurants and pubs are having beer pairing and long table dinners to demonstrate how well beer and food pairs. The dinner theme may be a single style or region whereas other dinners showcase a different style of beer per course. All three, if done well, are exceptional ways to pair food and beer. In the last few years, many local restaurants have recognized that beer dinners can expose people to great pairings as well as providing another means to showcase craft beer. Some of the local establishments that host such dinners are:

Vancouver: Alibi Room, Biercraft Bistro, Butcher and Bullock, Rogue Kitchen and Wetbar, Steamworks, Tap & Barrel, The Cascade Room, The Irish Heather

Richmond: Hog Shack Cook House, Pumphouse Pub

Ladner: Sharkey’s Seafood Bar & Grille

Burnaby: Hop & Vine Tap House

Surrey: Central City Brew Pub

New Westminster: HOPS A Northwest Pub

White Rock: Uli’s Restaurant

To find out more about each establishment’s beer dinners, follow them on Twitter or Facebook for the details.