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3 tips to Craft the Perfect Beer Pairing: From the Menu to the Must-Have

light and dark beer types

Bursting with a wide range of complex flavors, craft beer has made a huge splash in the culinary world. In comparison to wine, beer offers more diverse flavor options, textures, and styles to choose from. The larger and more unique selection make it easier to find a beer match for any palate.

When pairing beer, long gone are the days where beer is only left to wash down the typical bar food like chicken wings and pizza. Beer has now found its way onto most mid-range to upscale restaurant menus. With craft beer on most menus in the nation it has become a necessity to have the right food pairings at your business. It has become difficult to find a fine dining restaurant without a well-curated beer list.

Chefs from all over have learned the amazing capacity beer has to pair with an assortment of foods. Many chefs have now transitioned to actually preferring beer to wine when pairing their favorite cuisines.

In general, most people are familiar with the basic concepts of pairing certain types of wines with certain types of dishes. Such as the popular champagne with strawberries, or Cabernet with red meats. But when it comes to beer many customers are unfamiliar where to start. By understanding how to suggest beer to complement a meal, you will not only increase the business’s revenue but it will also help increase the customer’s experience and satisfaction to a more enjoyable one. Here are some useful tips to help guide your selections when assisting customers with beer pairing.

Tip 1: Pair by Color

When creating a pair menu or suggesting a pairing to customers who are rookies to the concept, it is always a good idea to pair by the beer’s color. Just as with wine, a general rule of thumb is to pair lighter food with lighter colored and lighter-flavored beer.

The goal is to choose beers and foods that won’t dominate the other.

A lighter colored beer tends to be lighter in body and flavor therefore will not overpower lighter dishes. Lighter colored beers include Pale Ales and Lagers, which match well with foods such as salads and salmon.

Steak which is a darker more hearty meat, pairs well with darker beers such ast Stouts, Porters, and Bocks. These beers are more complex and rich in flavors offering a good match with the darkness of meats. Stouts are also good choice for dark chocolate.

Feel free to print or share the following chart to make pairing your beer and food menu easier for your staff, guest and self.

Simple Beer Pairing Guidelines

Suggested Dishes Beer Type Beer Color
Salads, Salmon, Chicken Cream Ale, Blonde Ale Light
Spicy Food, Sweet Desserts India Pale Ale Light
Smoked Beef Brisket, Lamb Imperial IPA Light
Roast Pork, Sausage Brown Ale, Altbier Brown
Barbecue, Meat Stews Abbey Dubbel Brown
Raw Oysters, Rich Foods Dry Stout Dark
Smoked Goose, Foie Gras Stout Dark

Tip 2: Pair by Compliment

Another easy way to pair beer is by matching foods that compliment one another or naturally go together. With this approach you are simply paying attention to aromas and flavors that are similar in both the beer and the food.

Unlike wine, there are over 100 styles of beer to choose from and almost every flavor found in food can also be found in beer. An example of beer and food that pair well with similar flavors would be choosing a tasty chocolate dessert to go with a chocolate stout.

Tip 3: Pair by Contrast

The idea behind this concept is that opposites attract. Just think in terms of Ying and Yang. Although a riskier approach to pairing it really pays off when it’s done right and can often times be a more memorable experience for your customers!

It’s all about putting together bold and contrasting flavors that you typically wouldn’t match and having them balance each other for a delicious combination. Try pairing a sweet beer with a spicy food or a bitter beer with a sweet dessert. The classic example of contrasting is pairing fresh raw oyster with a dry stout. This combination has become so popular over time that breweries are now brewing their stouts with actual oysters.

Bring it to a Head

Overall, there are many rewards to businesses who adopt the idea of pairing beer with their food menu. Not only does craft beer pairing increase sales but it also enhances both the dining and drinking experience for the customer. Happy customers will always mean a win-win. Also remember pairing is not an exact science but is more subjective to taste. So have fun and experiment with different combinations. Make sure to share your favorites with your customers. They will greatly appreciate it.

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