A guide to beer and food matching with our beer sommelier Nikki Rowe

Interest in beer and food matching has exploded in recent years to the point that we now have entire pubs and restaurants devoted to the practice.

 Wine is no longer being seen as the go to accompaniment with food and we are constantly being encouraged by food journalists and beer writers to ditch the corkscrew and reach for the bottle opener the next time we sit down to dine.
However, many are apprehensive and understandably so. After all, the image that instantly springs to mind as soon as beer is mentioned is that of the traditional British pint which is not something normally associated with “fine dining”. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Treated in exactly the same way as wine with a different style for each course, served in beautiful stemmed glasses to allow for the swirl and release of all the amazing aromas it has to offer, beer can actually produce some of the most memorable and stunning flavour combinations you will ever experience.
So what makes beer so versatile and such a great partner for food? It’s all down to its basic ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a glass of wine as much as the next person and there’s no denying that it can be a great addition to a meal but at the end of the day it is essentially fermented grapes. Beer is made from water, malt, hops and yeast and as a result can bring a far greater spectrum of these flavours and aromas to the table and can really pick up where wine leaves off.
From bready German Helles to rich and buttery Czech Pilsners, toasted and biscuity English pale ales to the sweeter Scotch ales and chocolatey, coffee porters to velvety roasted stouts, there really is a beer for everything (and everyone!)
Tempted yet…?!
For those of you considering taking the plunge at your next soiree, a useful mantra to bear in mind to help you to achieve successful pairings is link, level and lift.
Linking is when you find a flavour that is common to both the beer and the food and you use it as a bridge to link the two (think aromatic Thai curry paired with the bright, lemony citrus hops of an American pale ale).
Levelling involves trying to create a balance between the two so that neither one dominates and harmony rules. Beer is great with cheese and Badger Fursty Ferret with a strong English cheddar works a treat. The sweet malty character of the beer counteracts the saltiness of the cheese and carbonation lifts the fat off the tongue to act as the perfect palate cleanser.
Lifting is when you’ve cracked it! The combination of the two is far nicer than the sum of its parts and you create an enhanced taste experience. A great example of this is Badger’s Poachers Choice with chocolate and raspberry brownies. Beer and chocolate you cry?? Trust me… it works!
Of course this list isn’t exhaustive and there are other things you can consider to help wow your guests, colour being one of them. As a rule, lighter beers go better with light food and darker beers with dark food. This is because as food is cooked it darkens due to browning reactions between proteins and sugars in the food (think bread as it bakes). By matching food and beer colour you will be indirectly considering how the food has been cooked and the extent to which the malt used in that particular beer has been roasted. This automatically introduces similar flavour components into the equation. Chargrilled chicken with a roasted porter is a perfect example of this.
Texture and intensity should also be taken into account. Lighter bodied beers pair better with lighter dishes and heartier dishes fare better with more full bodied beers. Delicately flavoured beers compliment less intensely flavoured dishes and hoppy, spicy beers enhance spicy, more flavoursome food. This links back to the level rule as you don’t want either to dominate. Great examples of these are Badger’s Golden Champion with herb encrusted salmon as its subtle elderflower notes harmonise with the herbs without swamping the delicate flavour of the fish but if you fancy spicing it up a bit the spicy hop and ginger notes of Badger’s Blandford Flyer work in sync to enhance a lamb biriyani.
Finally, if in doubt go local! There are now over 1,700 breweries in the UK producing over 11,000 different beers so if you are lucky enough to have one near you, consider using a local beer paired with local produce as freshness is a key factor for both the beer and food.
So come and join the authentic beer revolution! Trust me, take the plunge and I guarantee you will be amazed by some of the most exciting and flavoursome dining experiences you have ever had.


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