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A Guide to Beer Pairing for Party Menus

A Guide to Beer Pairing for Party Menus

Beer is booming! Whether it’s small batch artisanal brews or renewed love for rustbelt classics, beer is as big as ever. And with this boom comes a renewed interest in beer pairing—so much so it’s not uncommon to find beer and food pairing suggestions on menus at your favorite restaurants.

But where do you start if you want to do your own beer and food pairings at home when you entertain? Thankfully, it’s not as difficult or mystical as some suds purveyors would like you to believe. In fact, you can often make reliable pairings based on your primary protein (if you’re planning a dinner party) or the flavor profiles of your appetizers (if you’re doing more of a casual thing). Below, we’ve got some common dinner and snack options with which you can easily pair your favorite brews (while remembering to drink responsibly)!

But before we get down to pairing specifics, it is worth noting that there’s more than one way to come up with beer and food pairings; thankfully, the Brewers Association has some failsafe tips:

  • Punch at the same weight—which is to say make sure your beer and food are working with the same strength, and no, we don’t mean ABV. When in doubt, look to your foods’ and beers’ attributes for a perfect pairing wherein one won’t overpower the other: light with light, assertive with assertive, rich with rich—you get the idea.
  • Find common ground. Beer and food pairings work well when they contain similar flavor notes—fruity, nutty, sweet, sour. Note that these shouldn’t be the only flavors happening in either the beer or the food, just a highlight.
  • Zoom in and enhance. Like the desire to choose similar flavor notes when pairing beer with food, it’s also important to punch up and balance entire flavor profiles. Spicy foods call for cooling from sweeter brews, rich beers can be both tempered and highlighted by bitterness in your dish, and rich foods can be balanced by a more carbonated beverage.

Got it? Good. Now, here are some pairing examples to get your beer pairing ideas flowing:

Beer Pairing for Party Menus

Chicken (not fried) or fish: Pair fish and chicken dishes with a lighter beer. Consider a light lager or blonde ale to accompany your dish. If you’re using a cream sauce, though, you’ll want to ratchet up the richness of your beer too.

Beer Pairing for Party Menus

Beef: Whether you’re grilling up burgers or perfectly searing a steak, the right brew for your beer and food pairing when you’re dealing with a beef recipe is a brown ale or a stout for big, bold balance.

Beer Pairing for Party Menus

Fried foods: If you’re treating yourself to something fried, you’re going to want to taste it! Look for a blonde ale or lager.

Beer Pairing for Party Menus

Spicy foods: If you’re serving something spicy—buffalo chicken wings, Thai or Mexican food—all of these rules go out the window and you’ll want to work to balance the heat. Stick to lighter lagers and wheat beers to beat the heat.

Beer Pairing for Party Menus

Sweets: Even your dessert course—or dessert-heavy snack time—deserves a decent pairing! Think of fruitier beers, like a classic lambic. You may even want to drink your dessert instead!

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