How to Pair Food with Beer

If you’re like most people, beer is your beverage of choice to chill out and cool down. Beer is all about the casual good times in life. Finished mowing the lawn on a hot day? You deserve a beer! Hanging out at your cottage on a lake with friends? Miller time! Chowing down on a BBQ’d burger at a picnic? A beer goes perfectly with that!

But the craft beer revolution over the past couple of years in Vancouver is creating a more discerning beer consumer.

Beer’s not just about some backyard brewskis any more. It’s become artisanal, interesting and nuanced. And much like wine, certain beers pair better with certain foods.

Postmark IPAI recently interviewed Joe Palmer, who’s the BC rep for one of our newer craft breweries, Postmark. Postmark has been on the map for about a year, and they’ve only been bottling since April. Brewed on location in the gorgeous Settlement Building in Railtown, Postmark offers a growler-filling station, and collaborates with Belgard Kitchen (also on site) to do pairings and beer accents in on their menu. You can also find Postmark on tap at many pubs and restaurants around the city.

“I love craft beer for pairing with food more than wine, because with wine there is only two, or maybe 3 ingredients that you can play with for a different flavour (grapes, water and the barrel).” Says Joe. “But with craft beer, there are so many things you can add to beer to create something amazing–there are no lack of new beers being created.  Just when you think you’ve drank it all, someone will come out with a new crazy idea, like our Butternut Squash Nut Brown Ale.  Who would have ever thought to put squash in beer, but it works!”

So; when it comes to pairing beer and food, what are the rules?

“You have two options,” Joe says. “Either you can compare flavours, or you can contrast them. For example, you could pair a strong beer with a spicy dish (because it will stand up), or you can contrast by pairing a lighter beer with a spicy dish, to cut the spice.”

In terms of flavour, beers run the gamut. Lighter beers include Ales and Lagers, specifically pilsners, hefeweizens, or blonde ales. They are usually lighter in colour, have a lower alcohol content and a lower IBU (International Bittering Scale). They usually have a clean, crisp finish, and are the kind of beer you likely crave on a hot summer day–cool and refreshing. These are the kinds of beers that you could compare to white wine when thinking about pairings.

Next up, there are the Ambers, Porters and the Stouts.These are much darker beers, and usually quite a lot bitter, higher in alcohol content, and often flavored with notes of coffee, caramel or chocolate. These are the kinds of beers you could compare to red wines when thinking about pairings.

Here’s a cool infographic I found that breaks down how to pair food with beer:

beer pairing chartNow, over to you! What’s your favourite beer/food pairing? Share in the comments below!

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