Foods That Taste Better With Beer
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We're not haters. Just because we're beer lovers doesn't mean that we dislike wine. (Lovers, not fighters...) We're big fans of fermented grape-juice. We admire wine's nuance and mystique. We have bottles of Bordeaux aging alongside our beer collections. The bottom line, however, is that beer just happens to be more versatile in flavor profiles. It simply offers a wider breadth of flavors than wine. (We're prepared for some angry letters.) There are some beers as sour as a kumquat or fresh yogurt, there are beers with pine tree resin flavors that coat the tongue. There are beers that taste like a shot of espresso and others brewed with coriander and juniper. Beer's many flavors and styles are liberating and pair well with a plethora of foods. This is why we knew that part of our book had to be devoted to beer's relationship with food - why we discuss the beauty of the beer dinner - and why we called upon chefs to share recipes that use beer as an ingredient. Beer belongs with food. If you're just delving into the craft beer world and are beginning to move your beer pairings beyond bar menu items like Buffalo wings and chili cheese fries, be prepared to taste food again for the first time.
Here are five foods that we feel pair best with beer. Skeptics, it's time to zip it, and let your taste buds decide. Beer lovers be prepared for validation.
1) Grilled Artichokes - Notoriously difficult to pair with wine, artichokes make most wines taste sweet due to a complex compound (cynarin) that affects our taste buds. Indeed, the flavors of an artichoke are difficult to describe, but a Saison can be a perfect pairing with its citrus and spicy notes that enhance the artichoke's flavors. Just imagine a squeeze of lemon and a dash of pepper.
2) Spicy Curry - Heat is hard to handle, especially with red wine. Some whites work well enough, but they lack the beer's bubbles that help ease a fiery tongue. Try a Belgian Golden Ale, or a beer brewed with spices used in Indian foods, like coriander and clove (perhaps a Witbier). Let the beer pick up the sweetness of those spices while maintaining a dry hop backbone for the full flavor and cool, prickly bubbles to help cut the heat. Or go another way and try a Belgian IPA (not to be confused with an American India Pale Ale or IPA), a style known for a dry hop that can slice through big and bold flavors.
3) Burgers - Perhaps this isn't a revelation. No doubt, most people have washed down many a burger with a nice cold "lite" brewski. But that's not what we're talking about here. If you've only paired a burger with a light crisp lager, you're missing something special. We like to pair our burgers with a tannic and dry IPA (now we are referring to the American IPA). What better way to cut through the fat and full flavors of a burger with cheese and onions, and hopefully bacon, than a nice hoppy effervescent IPA? It's the bite that you always wanted with your burger, cleansing the palate with each sip.
4) Cheesecake - Oh so many beers work with this classic dessert. The richness of cheesecake, like bites of cheese itself, benefit from the bubbles (as most of these pairings do) and different flavors of beer transform this dessert. An Oatmeal Stout adds chocolate and coffee notes, a Peche (peach) Lambic adds sweet and tart fruity notes. A dry funky Gueuze adds an earthy complexity with a sour, clean finish. Just as cheese loves to be paired with beer, cheesecake, in its many variations, is seduced by beer as well.
5) Ice Cream - Who drinks wine with ice-cream? No one, that's who. But beer and ice cream are fast friends. The richness of the cream plays well with a bit of CO2, and the multitude of ice cream flavors provide endless possibilities of accompaniments to a variety of beers. Think how much better that root beer float would be, if you took out the "root" and just went with the beer instead. Think Double Chocolate Russian Imperial Stout with vanilla bean ice cream. Yes, the beer float is gaining popularity as the dessert of choice by Gelato lovers who have become craft beer connoisseurs.
So there you have it. A primer of beer and food pairings to get you salivating and thinking in the right direction. Again, we're not haters, and we've got nothing against traditional beer pairings like Bratwurst and Oktoberfest beers, but the fun in dining with craft beer is in the experimentation. You might get it wrong sometimes, but we're willing to bet that, more often than not, you'll get it right. And when it's right, it's Oh So Right!