Over the past 10 years, craft beer has benefitted from a meteoric rise in popularity throughout the United States. Microbrews and micropubs have often leveraged the success of their beer by teaming up with esteemed chefs who add delicious food to the restaurant’s menu. But with so many different beers, there’s a bit of an art to matching the taste of each beverage with the perfect dinner dish. This post will aim to help educate servers and owners about what styles of craft beer to pair with certain foods.
India Pale Ale (IPA)
The crown jewel of the craft beer movement, IPAs are everywhere these days. The beer is known for its bitter flavoring that’s been sweetened via citrus and herbal additions. For thirsty customers who prefer a more bitter-tasting beverage, a double IPA will be more likely to satisfy them. Made with more hops, double IPAs have higher alcohol content than traditional IPAs.
The bitterness of heavier IPAs is great for offsetting spicy foods like Thai, Indian, and Mexican. Anything that’s liable to make an eater sweat is a perfect match for double IPAs. Lighter IPAs that also offer some sweetness do best when paired with more mild dishes like barbecued meats. Steak, chicken, are burgers are all great choices.
The lightest beer on this list, wheat beer generally has less carbonation and a lower alcohol content than other craft options. Since wheat provides minimal flavoring to the beer, breweries often add in fruity flavors when brewing.
Glasses of the light-tasting beer are ideal for pairing with appetizers and snacks like salads, cheeses, and sushi. The combination ensures diners won’t get weighed down by a meal that’s too heavy. Wheat beer is also known to match well with a variety of sweet dessert offerings.
Deep black or brown coloring leaves no mystery as to whether a stout is a light or dark beer. Blending dark malts with hops, stouts are most popular during cold months. The beer has a smooth texture and often tastes similar to coffee, chocolate, or a combination of the two. As a result, stouts are excellent dessert options and are commonly enjoyed alongside cakes or brownies.
Another dark beer, porters have a very similar taste profile to that of stouts. Sharing a strong roasted flavor bursting with hints of chocolate, caramel, and coffee, porters differ than stouts in that they generally have a smoother finish.
As a result of a porter’s rich flavors, the beer is a great match for desserts as well as smoked or barbecued dishes. Meals like burgers and chicken become even heartier when they’re washed down with a heavy pint of porter.
It’s essential to understand there are both light and dark lagers. Although light lagers are extremely popular within the United States and celebrated for their refreshingly crisp taste, they don’t have the same powerful flavor punch that other craft beers possess. While this light tasting beer is versatile enough to be enjoyed with nearly any meal, it especially excels at putting out a spice-induced mouth fire caused by spicy dishes.
On the other hand, dark lagers are more popular in Europe and feature a nuttier flavor that often has a bit of caramel syrup taste. These heavy beers are usually paired with hearty dishes like sausage, bratwurst, pizza, and stew.
Also known as red ale, amber ale commonly feature caramel and crystal malts while boasting a dry, smooth finish. Commonly utilizing citrus and other fruity hops, the beer is versatile enough to go well with a wide range of dishes.
Since amber ales have such a smooth finish, they excel at cleansing a diner’s palate. This means they do well when paired with heavily seasoned dishes that pack a flavorful punch. Barbecued chicken, grilled fish, and other smoky or flavorful meats are ideal matches.
Craft beer offerings vary significantly, and the aforementioned styles only scratch the surface of what breweries are churning out. Since the craft beer bubble still hasn’t popped, restaurant owners might want to consider offering some local options if they haven’t already done so. Beers don’t have to be on tap, and customers will likely appreciate a cold bottle just the same. Just make sure you keep your glasses and bottles cold with bottle coolers and glass chillers. For other essential bar items, check out the rest of our bar refrigeration equipment and bartending supplies.
Arming servers with knowledge of which beers pair with which dishes puts you even another step ahead of the game, as it ensures each customer receives personal attention related to their own food and drink preferences. After they experience the synergism effect of a thirst-quenching craft beer combined with a mouth-watering meal, they’ll be even more likely to revisit your restaurant.