Food and beer pairing

Barleywine, Thomas Hardy’s Ale – Burtonwood Brewery

Wine is used for pairings because of its tannins. These characteristics balance salt and fat, allowing other flavours to sparkle. But beer is an even more powerful ally in pairings, because of its wider span of flavours. It picks up where wine leaves off. Depending on the beer style, beer has different flavours based on the grains, the hops, the water and the fermentation. Beer has excellent flavour potential with roasted and smoked meats thanks to the complementing flavours of roasted malt. It has additional flavour parallel with hops eg. herbal and citrus notes.

US Pale ale – Sierra Nevada

Beer’s bitterness from hops and roasted malt respond to both sugar and fat. The yeast characters such as fruit esters and spiciness finds flavour connections to many kinds of food. The sugar left in beer pairs and plays well with spicy foods. And carbonation rinses the pallet, getting ready for the next bite. These reasons alone should be enough to get the chefs, cooks and guests ready for food and beer pairings.

The overall purpose of combining food and beer using a pairing method is to give a sensory experience where food and beer as a whole has a synergetic interaction.

Czech Pilsner – Pilsner Urquell

Beer is brewed on malt, hops, yeast and water in numerous variations.  Beers can vary from light and fresh to rich, dark and strong. The selection of different beers styles and the great variation in flavours can cover almost all occasions. This guide will help you master food and beer pairings.

In general there are two overall pairing methods when creating good food and beer pairings. These are the complementing method and the contracting method.

Complementing method

Tripel Karmeliet – Brouwerij Bosteels

Beer and food that shares common flavours and characteristics will support and complement each other. This will built up a greater sensation in a meal.

With the complementing method you search to create balance and harmony between food and beer. The main elements in both food and beer should work together and complement each other and create consensus. When using the complementing pairing method you should be aware of the main flavours in both food and beer and find a match where none of them are dominating. In this guide the main focus will be on the complementing method. This is also a relatively simple method to master and it will soon give you a lot of success in your food and beer-pairing.

Contrasting method

Belgian pale ale – Brasserie dOrval

Sometimes food elements or dishes can benefit from a contrasting element to take the sensory experience into balance. But beware not to create an unwanted colliding effect. This often happens and that is why contrasting pairings are hard to master.

With the contrasting method you make food and beer pairings with different characteristics. A fresh beer is served with a rich dish, this in order to enrich and add flavour to the meal as a whole.

Rinsing effect

Berliner weisse – Mikkeller

Regardless of what method you are planning to use you should always take into consideration the rinsing effect in a beer. Bitterness, sugar, alcohol, carbonation and acid will rinse and reset the palate.

In general beer can give you a refreshing sensation when paired with food, this because of the bitterness from the hoops and the carbonation. These two elements are also why beer and food pairing are different from wine pairing, and why we get a lot of new possibilities with beer.


Belgian strong dark ale – Brasserie Rochefort

With professional knowhow and many years of experience Christian has worked on finding a method to make professionel food and beer pairings. In he’s pairing method you have to categorize food and beer individually, and then place each item in the matrix below. Get more inspiration on my facebook site.

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