Chew on Brew

“My wife and I are getting ready to host a dinner party. Since some of the guests don’t love wine, we want to find some cool beers to pair with dinner as well. Can you offer any suggestions about pairing beer with food?” - James (Tigard)

Whether you are a wine-lover or not, sometimes you just feel like having a beer with dinner. Even if you had a room full of wine lovers, beer pairings can be a fun way to spice up a meal with friends. Here are a few basic guidelines:

1. Lighter beers tend to pair well with lighter foods, while heavier beers fare best alongside heavier foods. 

2. Very hoppy beers, like some IPAs, can kill your taste buds and overwhelm your food, so the more hops your beer has the more flavorful or hearty your meal needs to be. 

3. Sweet beers go best with sweeter foods and tart beers are best with, yep, you guessed it, tart foods. Try to keep the beer a touch more sweet or tart than the food. 

4. As with wine tasting, try to avoid serving fuller, heavier alcohol beers early in the meal; start light and end big. 

For more detailed info on beers paired with certain dishes, I suggest visited the Internet, which has several resources. Here is a little taste of what I found:

Blond, Wheat or lightly hopped Lager: With a balance of hops and malt and a crisp, dry finish, they work best as thirst-quenchers. Try them with sweet or spicy cuisine like Thai or Mexican or as a complement to lighter seafood. 

Hefeweizen: Classically paired with white sausage, they also contrast nicely with sharp and intense aromatics such as mustard flavors, pickles, horseradish and charcuterie. 

Bitter or Pale Ale: Because hoppiness cuts through fat, these beers make for wonderful food pairings with fried foods and are a nice balance to seafood. The fruitier pale ales harmonize well with lamb, beef, game or pâté. 

India Pale Ale: With hoppy beers, it is important to remember that they can sometimes intensify the spice or heat in your dish — which may or may not be desired. They can add balance to intensely flavorful, highly spiced dishes. 

Pilsners: Clean and palate-cleansing with pronounced hop aromas and a touch of bitterness, these beers pair well with ballpark foods like hot dogs, burgers and similar summer fare. They also work well with salmon, tuna and meats with a little marbling. 

White Ales: Pairing especially well with salads, sushi, ceviche and other light seafood dishes as well as feta and goat cheese, white ales also — move over, mimosa — make a great accompaniment to breakfast dishes.

Porters and Stouts: The dark brews stand up well with especially hearty foods like barbecue, steaks or burgers right off the grill. The char in the food is a perfect complement to the slow roasted malts in the beers. Stouts can also enhance silky, salty foods like oysters on the half shell and Gorgonzola. Sweeter stouts pair astoundingly well with chocolate desserts and even ice cream. Beer floats, anyone?

Fruit Beers and Lambics: These beers work well with wild game and pâté and are also sometimes used to pair with light fruit desserts, but try and avoid the sour varieties for dessert pairings as they can overwhelm the food.

As with most things, there are more exceptions than rules when trying to pair beer with food. A good rule of thumb is to experiment with flavors and textures to discover what you like. 

Cheers! —Jennifer Cossey  

I look forward to receiving more of your questions. Email me at to submit your questions and I’ll see you next month! 

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