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.

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.

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.

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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