When it comes to what people enjoy drinking at the cabin or cottage, beer has a strong foothold. And I’d like to believe they particularly enjoy drinking craft beer made by the breweries around B.C.’s cottage country.
With so many great beer flavours and styles out there, beer pairing has become a great way to highlight the beer and your food—and to support the local breweries that dedicate their time to crafting a great Canadian product.
There are people out there who don’t like beer—yes, it’s true—but with everything from a grapefruit beer to classic India pale ales on the market, there is something for everyone in the world of beer, and there are just as many ways to pair the perfect beer with your meal.
When it comes to matching your brews with your food, a lot of the same principals apply to pairing wine.
Think of the body of merlot vs. chardonnay, but with beer it would be stout, porters, and dark ales vs. lighter ales and lagers. Chad Hansen with the Nelson Brewing Company offered a great example for pairing dark beers (like NBC’s Nelson After Dark Organic Ale) with pepper steaks. The dark qualities of porters, stouts, and dark ales lend themselves to the bolder flavours of red meats and stews. The strong flavour can also be a great addition to a soup, gravy, or barbeque sauce. Chocolate often tastes great with a porter or stout, and some brewmasters have even gone as far as including it in their beers. When you’re pairing dark beers, think of it the way you’d pair red wines.
With lighter beers like IPAs, other ales, and lagers, these pair in a similar way to a white wine. IPAs like Townsite Brewing in Powell River’s Tin Hat IPA and Nelson’s Paddy Whack Organic IPA with their hoppy flavours are the perfect complements to foods like curries (both Indian and Thai), smoked meats, or pungent flavours like gorgonzola cheese. According to Hansen, “Those who think that only wine can pair well with food have never had a great IPA with a spicy food.”
When it comes to pairing beers with desserts or sweeter foods, some connoisseurs avoid pairing sweet with sweet. Instead, try a wheat beer or a light Belgian-style blonde ale like Townsite’s Zunga. Wheat beers are often served with a slice of orange, which shows they can handle the sweetness. Because of the subtle flavours of a wheat beer, it is better to pair it with lighter foods.
As with wine, more and more people are cooking with beer. It is being used in the place of wine in comforting stews or with steamed mussels. With barbeque season on the horizon, Hansen recommends a popular way of combining beer, the barbeque and chicken.
“One thing people have told us they like doing is stand up chicken on the grill with a can our Wild Honey Organic Ale in the cavity,” he says. “While the chicken is dry roasting on the outside, the inside is being bathed with steamy beer, keeping the meat wonderfully moist. Use whatever rub you like for the outside of the chicken and enjoy!”
If you don’t have a barbeque, you can do the same thing with an oven.
One essential rule when it comes to cooking with beers is to never use a beer you wouldn’t drink yourself. If it’s not good enough to sip on its own, it’s not going to be good in your food.