“Let me make one ironclad argument for shitty beer: It pairs really well with food. All food.”
So says David Chang, the man behind the wildly successful Momofuku brand. Chang certainly has a point – light, watery beers pair effortlessly with food, much like actual water would. However, low-quality beer sits beside your eating experience, instead of actually enhancing it, like a wonderful wine does. Tasteless beer is like that person you broke up with because you got tired of their constant level of calm and contentment. Yeah, they’ll never offend you, but they’ll never challenge you to be better. If you really want to tease out a full panel of flavor from your food, be a little more thoughtful when it comes to selecting a brew. As always, drink what you like. That said, here are some guidelines to help you choose the perfect beer for your meal.
As Is The Case With Any Relationship, Don’t Be Too Intense
If you plan on eating a plate of shrimp smothered in spicy sauce, or truffled anything, stay away from hopped up beers with equal forcefulness. Instead, stick to mild lagers, pilsners, ciders and lambics. That isn’t to say you should find beer with no flavor, but rather, search for beer that has grassiness, a bit of citrus tang, earthiness, and gentle sweetness.
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Roasted Food Goes Well With Roasted Beer
Stouts, porters, and brown ales typically boast the “roasted” descriptor. As you can see from our beer flavor visualization photos, that roasted taste is comprised of things like coffee beans, cocoa, and toffee. Unsurprisingly, these flavors complement roasted meat and grilled starch veggies like potatoes or turnips. Contrary to what you might think, if you’re loading up the barbecue, you might want to reach for a stout, not a crisp beer.
We’re not saying you can’t enjoy a pumpkin ale in the dead of summer, but seasonal flavors can often be in sync with the produce growing at the time, so nature does the pairing work for you. Additionally, breweries likely produce certain beer styles seasonally because they go well with the food and mood of that time. So all those summery, refreshing flavors are made with the intention of being enjoyed at the beach.
The aromas in your beer will often smell like certain foods. Give your pint glass a good whiff and see what you discover. Then, eat that food or something that contrasts with it. For example, if you smell cheese in your beer, grab yourself some cheese, or a bunch of grapes. You can experiment and see whether your beer goes better with complementary or opposing flavors.
Don’t Overthink It
In the end, your palate is your own. If a world-renowned chef can enjoy Bud Light, so can you.