By Brian Montgomery
On this Valentine's Day, many people envision a nice meal with the perfect bottle of wine, and most people are probably familiar with the concept of pairing foods and wines. But beer and food? I guess some would argue that a great beer doesn't need any food to accompany it... and depending on the brew, you might have me agreeing with you! But that's not what I want to talk about here.
With the recent surge of craft breweries and microbreweries across the country, people are really starting to take an in interest in unique brews. For example, with a quick search I was able to identify 10 local breweries right here in Lancaster County--and I might have missed some. I'm sad to say that I haven't been to all of them--yet! But many of them serve food too, along with their artfully crafted creations.
Whether you're making your own special brew in-house, or offering the creations of a local brewer or two on tap, it's a great idea to familiarize yourself at least a little bit with some basic food and beer pairing info. The National Restaurant Association has identified food and beer pairings as a top trend in its 2011 What's Hot chef's survey.
So to prepare for tonight's Valentine's Day rush, why not brush up on some food and beer pairing tips? That way, you'll be able to suggestively sell and make beer and food pairing suggestions to your amorous patrons along with the traditional wine suggestions! Keep in mind, even though I am a self-proclaimed "beer snob", these are merely suggestions and some very basic ones at that--try them, ignore them, do the opposite, or even better--experiment and go beyond your pizza and beer, wings and beer, or burgers and beer comfort zone!
- The hoppier the beer, the bolder the accompanying food should be. A strong IPA would overwhelm a bland dish. Likewise, for me, a hearty porter or stout is great with a juicy steak or rack of ribs. Or, you could take a different approach and pair an acidic, hoppy ale with a rich, fatty food like cheese or fried fish.
- If you want to think of food and beer pairing like food and wine pairing, you could think of ales like red wine, and lagers as white wine, and make pairing suggestions accordingly.
- If the entree you're serving is sweet, you might want to suggest a sweeter beer; if your serving a tart dish, a drier, more tart beer might complement it. Of course, you could go for the opposite of complementary flavors, or suggest trying a dry, robust beer with a sweet dish or--gents, take note-- chocolate!
One of my favorite brewpubs lets you order a sampler flight of beers. I'll get to pick 6-9 small taster-size glasses of different brews, which makes my meal an adventure--I can experiment on my own with different flavor combinations between the beer and my dinner and come up with my own favorite matches.
Offering beer flights or beer samplers is a great way to encourage your patrons to experiment and get excited about your signature brew or your latest creation, and having the right beer glass for the brew you're serving only adds to the visual and sensory appeal. With the right food and beer combination, your customers are sure to leave satisfied!
What is your favorite food and beer pairing? Have your own dynamic combination that you recommend? We'd love to hear about it!