A great meal can be measured by many things such as color, texture, taste, and presentation to name a few, but one thing many food lovers don’t realize is that your choice of drink can also affect the taste of your meal, be it for better or for worse. The most common drink options for a meal are soda, tea, coffee, wine, or beer. While there are many rules to consider before choosing the type of wine to drink with your meal, are there the same standards to consider when selecting a type of craft beer? If so, what are the rules? Let’s explore the rugged world of fine dining with craft beers.
Types of Beers
There are over 75 different beer styles, depending on the strength of the hops, fermentation, preparation of ingredients, types of ingredients, alcohol content, and many other subtle changes. The most common types of craft beer are ales, lagers, India pale ales (IPAs), porters, and stouts. You must take many things into consideration when picking a craft beer to pair with your meal. Some beers may have too strong of a flavor that will overpower the taste of your food. Some beers will not have a strong enough flavor to compliment your food. It’s a delicate balance.
Ale is a common variety of beer and encompasses many other beer types. You’d be hard-pressed to find a beer that isn’t considered an ale. Ales are created opposite of lagers in that they are made using top-fermentation yeast that gives the ale a sweeter, more robust, and fruitier flavor. A short list of foods that pair exceptionally well with an ale is:
- burgers (try these Hoisin Shitake burgers from Blue Apron)
- buffalo wings
- Chinese food
- Mexican food
- fried foods
Ale loves to play with the savory, sweet, and spicy flavors of these foods. It will echo back a contrasting taste to whatever you’re eating because an ale is an amalgamation of contradictory tastes itself.
Lagers have a very smooth, light flavor. They ferment a little longer than ales and have very few flavor variations making them a consistent beer with a neutral pairing. The best foods to pair with a lager would be:
- cheese plates
- seafood (try pairing with these Grilled Fish Tacos from Plated)
Lager is the standard craft beer to order when eating pub foods. It doesn’t overpower the taste of the food but compliments the aftertaste on your palate.
Porters and stouts are what one could call “beer cousins.” They are made in almost the same exact way with one variation. Porters are made with malted barley while stouts are made with unmalted roasted barley. Because of this similarity, porters and stouts pair well with almost the same exact list of foods.
- Barbecued/grilled foods
- roasted/smoked foods
- rich stews (try the Ultimate Beef Stew from Tyler Florence)
- braised dishes