- Other ingredients include adjuncts such as malted wheat which aids head retention (often a desirable characteristic), fruit, honey, herbs and spices – brewers will experiment with almost everything!
And then there is the method of conditioning which can range from the subtle cask conditioning of traditional English ales to bright champagne like carbonation of some Belgian styles.
The endless combinations of these factors have delighted both brewers and drinkers for centuries and the modern boom in craft brewing worldwide continues to push the boundaries of what is possible.
Food Pairing Rules
So how do you decide what beer to pair with your food?
There are some very basic rules to start you off:
First, match the intensity of the food with that of the beer. Strong flavoured foods require strong beer flavours. A rich game stew will overpower a delicate lager but will match beautifully with a porter or a stout. That same stout, however, would trample over a delicate salad or a light fish dish.
Second, think about either complementing or contrasting the flavours. Try matching sweet with sweet or contrast it with sour. A sour beer on its own might not be to everybody’s taste but, when paired with a pickled dish – such as rollmop herrings – it can be incredible.
Third, pay attention to the texture of the beer. A smooth silky stout, as well as matching the flavours of a chocolate mousse or truffle, will also compliment the texture of the food. A crisp pilsner, however, will pair will with a crisp, lightly dressed salad.
Finally, think about the level of carbonation and acidity of the beer. This is known as ‘cutting’ as it cuts across the flavours in your food. The acidity produced by the hops during the boil helps to break down fattiness in food and the carbonation will lift it from the tongue and refresh the palate between each mouthful.
These basics should be part of the vocabulary of anybody selling, serving or tasting beer. For the beer on its own can be wonderful but – paired with the right food – it can be exceptional.
See our Food Pairing pages for some suggestions!