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What's Up Magazine

Brews and Foods

Dec 11, 2014 10:37AM ● By Cate Reynolds
Pair the perfect beer to your meal

By Kimberly Cooper

Ironically, there’s something about fall and winter that makes me want to grab an icy cold brew from the fridge. Maybe it is the crisp chill in the air that lends weight to beer drinking. Of course, there is always the question: what do I eat when enjoying this particular type of bottled brew? Pairing is looked at as sort of a science with a specific formula. Well, sure. There are certain foods that go with certain beers for one reason or another. Consider this your helpful guide on what to grab from the fridge.


Beers with a malt flavor go incredibly well with spicy foods. Unusual? Perhaps. But the sweetness of the malt cuts through the intense flavors of spicy food like a hot knife through butter. Picture your favorite spicy foods, be it Mexican or Thai. Now, choose a malty favorite to go with it. Try a porter, a blonde ale or a lager. Flying Dog’s Old Scratch Amber Lager is a great, malty choice. It’s a little sweet, a little bit caramel-flavored. It will cut right through the spiciness of a stuffed jalapeño or a plate of spicy Thai noodles.

Malts also go well with smoked foods. Think barbecued chicken, grilled pork tenderloin or a smoked brisket. Malt also has caramel, toffee and sometimes coffee or chocolate undertones. They match up and compliment the smoky flavors in food.

Fruit Flavors

For every drink pairing, there has to be something to go perfectly with dessert. After all, who doesn’t love dessert? And who doesn’t want a nice drink to go with? This is where fruity beers come into play. Something like Abita’s Purple Haze, brewed with raspberries, will go well with any sort of light dessert. Consider light mousse or chiffon. Chocolate, naturally, is a great companion for a raspberry beer as well. Blue Point Brewing Company’s Blueberry Ale is a great choice if you are in the mood for lemon desserts. The classic lemon blueberry combination is a winner. Try to choose a fruity beer that will compliment the flavors in your dessert but won’t overpower them. And avoid choosing anything too similar. A raspberry beer with a raspberry tart could end up being too cloyingly sweet for the palate.


Hops are a tricky thing to describe. They have an almost bitter flavor. It is sometimes described as “earthy” or “grassy.” That bitterness or earthiness is a great companion for anything rich or anything greasy or fatty. A rich cream sauce, a plate of fried chicken or a heavy pasta dish would love to be paired with a pale ale or an IPA (India Pale Ale). Try Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog. It is an American brown ale and is strong on hop flavoring. The flavors will lighten up a super rich sauce, giving it a lighter mouth-feel.

Of course, pairings always leave room for fun experimenting. There are never strict rules, especially where beer is concerned. Cold brews are meant to be played with, meant for taste-testing. Try a nice wheat beer with a piece of grilled salmon. Grab a vanilla stout when you’re eating a rich piece of beef. The fun thing about beer is that they are often offered in variety packs, allowing plenty of tasting options. Grab some tiny glasses, make up some appetizers, and play around!