Five Easy Steps To Beer Pairing Nirvana

No, we're not talking about the way the subtle notes of ice-cold rocky mountain air in that Coors Light accentuate the cool ranch flavor in Doritos, not here at least. The knowledge that different varieties of beer compliment various foods in much the same manner as wine dates back many years. Below are a few things to consider when picking the right brew for your stew.

The "Beer Equivalents of Wine" pairing theory is a load of crap.

There are books and websites that will say ales are the beer equivalent of red wine and lagers are whites, so pair accordingly. There is so much more to wine than red and white. Ditto for beer. You see the problem.

Become a "Beer Buddhist".

The end goal is to achieve a kind of balance: the food/beer Nirvana. There are really only three principles on which to focus: cut, contrast and complement. A light, hoppy beer like a pilsner will cut heavy, fried cuisine and pale ale is a nice contrast to the rich, smoky-sweet flavors of barbecue. Strong stout has long been hailed as dark chocolate's perfect mate (anything chocolate, really). Ommmmmmm.

Just because it's called Corona doesn't mean it's Mexican.

Corona is made by Budweiser, which is owned by the Belgian company InBev. Dos Equis is a Heineken brand. Both lagers do happen to go with Mexican food like, well, beans and rice, but automatically assuming that ethnically named beer matches cuisine from its alleged country won't work every time and prevents you from discovering exciting new flavor combinations.

Consider seasonality.

This Labor Day weekend may not be the best time to try out that smoked duck & porter pairing at the backyard barbecue. When it's 107 degrees in the shade, it's best to keep cuisine, beer and clothing light. Stick to lagers, pilsners and wheat beers.

If you've always hated pilsners, just wait and see how much more you can hate pilsners with Thai food!

If oysters repulse you, pairing them with Guinness will not make you see them as any less snot-like and may turn you off to Guinness as well. Your friends might all be raving about sesame chicken and Paulaner, but you are about to go into a sugar coma.

The bottom line: drinking what you like is always the right choice, no matter what's on the menu.

Have a beer and cheese tasting.

Sampling a variety of beers and cheeses is a great way to learn about flavor combinations. It's also a fun excuse to invite a friend (or ten) over for a tasting. Even more fun, have every guest bring a different beer and cheese to share.

Ales - Blue Cheese, Medium Cheddar, Parmesan, Romano

Bocks - Swiss, Gruyere, Limburger

Fruit Beer, Iambics - Mascarpone

Lagers - White Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Brick, Munster

Pilsner - American, Muenster, Havarti, Monterey Jack, White Cheddar

Porters - Gruyere

Stouts - Sharp Cheddar, Parmesan, Gouda

Wheat Beers, Hefeweizens - Gruyere, Feta Cheese, Goat Cheese, Buffalo Mozzarella, Manchego, Boursin

For a detailed guide to food and beer pairings click to enlarge the image below.

Additional resources

BeerAdvocate.com BeerTravelers.com CraftBeer.com Epicurious.com

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