Beer pairing 101

Beer is finally coming into its own; not only are there more varieties than ever, there are more ways to experience it too. Including the food-pairing experience. While food pairing is traditionally associated with wine, it’s time for sommeliers to put down the wine glass and raise a pint.

Getting started

The great thing about beer is the sheer variety. While the Beer Judge Certification Program recognizes only 23 styles of beer, there is a huge variation possible within those styles. And for the brewmaster, the combinations are limitless. Thankfully, breweries are offering us hundreds of options. And we all know how many food recipes are out there. So let’s combine them.

So here’s the 101 part of this class. Let’s start with a classic, before we get too radical. Do you like burgers? Who doesn’t, right? And nothing tastes better at the cottage than a fresh-off-the-grill burger with all the trimmings. Throw on some cheese, some bacon, fresh lettuce, and a tomato, and you’ve got a real feast. Now pour an icy cold Muskoka Brewery Mad Tom IPA into a pint glass.

Here comes the easy part. Eat, drink, and enjoy.

Notice how the bitterness of the hops in the beer is balanced by the richness of the burger? Can you sense the citrus aromas from the hops complementing the fresh lettuce and tomato? Delicious right? A match made in heaven.

You just graduated from your first pairing. Now let’s get into it a bit further.

Resonance pairing

There are a couple of ways to do food parings. One is called resonance pairing. This is when you match the flavours of beer with the flavours of the food. So imagine a coffee porter with chocolate cake. The frothy coffee and chocolate qualities of the porter will resonate with the cake. The rich flavours of coffee and chocolate will be the stars of the show. It might seem like a crazy pairing for beer, but try it and see for yourself.

Contrast pairing

Another way to do food pairings is through contrast. In contrast pairings you are literally trying to counter the flavours between the beer and the food. Try a hopped up India Pale Ale with a caramel-swirl cheesecake. You might think it’s nuts to combine cheesecake and beer, but try it. The sweetness of the cheesecake will cut through the bitterness from the hops. The hops will cut down on the sweetness, balancing both intense flavours through their contrast.

Of course, this is only the beginning. A quick search online will give you plenty of ideas on what foods to pair with different styles of beer. Here’s a great chart to get you started. Enjoy!