The Beer & Food Pairing Guide You Never Knew You Needed

We’ve spent countless hours dedicated to pairing the perfect wine with the meals we cook at home, but sometimes you just want a beer. Sure, wine has the prestige, but beer can pair with food in a similarly artistic, profound way — you just have to choose the right one. Ditch the PBR (OK, save it for backyard BBQs and block parties if you must), and opt for a carefully chosen selection of beer instead, whether that means a blonde ale with your holiday turkey or a raspberry lambic with a serving of berry crumble.

1. White meat

If you’re eating white meat, like roasted chicken, turkey, or other poultry in a mild sauce, try pairing your meal with a blonde ale or a wheat beer. Both have a light flavor that won’t overwhelm the taste of the meat, and if you marinate your chicken with citrus and herbs, these beers will bring out those flavors.

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2. Red meat

Red meat, like steaks, roasts, and burgers, can stand up to a stronger beer. If you’re eating a fatty cut of meat, look for a hoppier beer, like an IPA. The bitterness with help cut through the richness. For leaner cuts, opt for a regular Pale Ale, which still has some hoppy bitterness but not so much that it will give you palate fatigue. If you’re eating barbecue or a grilled steak, play up the toasted, smoky flavors with a dark porter.

3. Fish

For fried fish, a light, fizzy pilsner helps balance your meal. They also work well with light, flaky, mild fish, complimenting it without overwhelming the mild flavors. For fattier fish, like salmon and tuna, try a Belgian Saison. These beers are slightly tart, and can stand up to the richness of the fish, but don’t pack a wallop of hops that would drown out the taste of the fish.

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4. Vegetables

Pairing beer with something light, like a fresh veggie salad, doesn’t have to be hard. A lighter beer like pilsner has a refreshing, crisp taste that compliments salads dressed in tangy vinaigrettes, as well as simple pan-roasted green veggies. Grilled veggies, on the other hand, pair better with an amber lager, which has more body and a slight sweetness that complements the smoky flavors from the grill.

5. Spicy food

Drinking IPAs with spicy curries may be a traditional pairing, but the strong hops in an IPA can actually make a dish taste spicier. Instead, try pairing your favorite spicy foods with a lighter lager or a pilsner, or an amber ale if you want something with a little more complexity.

6. Chocolate desserts

Eating a rich, decadent chocolate dessert? Try pairing it with a chocolate stout or a chocolate porter. These dark beers share the same toasted qualities as roasted cocoa beans. Another option is a barley wine – these high alcohol beers are too strong to pair with most foods, but sugary chocolate desserts can stand up to their bold flavor.

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7. Fruit desserts

For fruit pies, cobblers, crumbles, and crisps, opt for something that’s also sweet — thing an off-dry cider, or something really indulgent like a sweet fruit lambic brewed with cherries, peaches, or raspberries.

Now that you have all the info you need to pair like a pro, it’s time to go try all of these combos. Happy pairing!

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