In a Beer with Nat first, this week includes a bonus episode!
Lotte Peplow, who you heard from in Episode #008, is so passionate about beer and food pairing, she invited me to her home and prepared three different pairings for us to share… so we could eventually share them with you, as well.
Lotte talks us through each dish – a starter, main, and dessert – and explains why each recipe works well with the recommended beer.
She also references a whole host of resources, recipes, and further reading, which you’ll find below.
Before we dive into the pairings though, I thought I should quickly talk us through the principles of beer and food pairing for those who aren’t familiar. (If you already know the basics, scroll down for the recipes and further resources.)
Beer & Food Pairing Basics
The idea of making a beer and food match has to do with how the flavors of the food and the beer interact.
First up: Intensity
The first step is always to compare the strength, or intensity, of the food and beer options. You want them to stand up to each other, but not overpower each other. So you wouldn’t pair a light fish dish with an Imperial Stout in the same way that you wouldn’t match up a light, summery blonde ale with a powerful and pungent cheese.
Intensity of a beer can be determined by how roasted the malts are, the level of bitterness, or if there’s any acidity present, like in sour or wild ales, for example.
A food’s intensity is determined by the ingredients, how they’re cooked, any sauces or marinades used – you get the idea.
Followed by: Interaction
Once you’ve matched on strength, you’ll then determine the flavor interaction: do you want the beer to complement, contrast, or cut through the food?
With complement – there will be similar flavors that resonate in both the food and beer. The classic example here is a chocolate stout with a rich chocolate cake (which we enjoy a version of for dessert!)
Contrast helps play the flavours of the food and beer against each other. Sweet and sour anyone? This is summed up nicely by traditional pairing in Belgian cuisine – pairing a sharply acidic Belgian style like a Gueuze with steamed mussels, or better yet, steaming the mussels in the Gueuze, which makes the mussels taste sweeter by comparison.
Finally, cutting is an important power of beer – carbonation and alcohol help cut through fatty foods, while malt helps balance out spice. We encounter a couple of examples of this in the pairings Lotte prepared.
While there is certainly more to be said, that’s enough to get you started, as the best way to learn about food and beer pairing is to put it into practice and see what combinations you enjoy!
Be sure to play around a bit, too. As you’re about to hear, we try our first dish with two different beer styles to see which we prefer.
To give you an idea of how to get started, these are a few of Lotte’s favourites that we enjoy in the episode. They’re all from from Chef Adam Dulye’s book The Beer Pantry.
Main: Pork Meatballs with Tomato Sauce paired with Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale
Dessert: Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake paired with Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro
Hungry and thirsty for more? Here are a few great resources to get you started.
-Brewers Association, Craftbeer.com Beer & Food Pairing Guide
-Brewers Association, Craftbeer.com Recipes
-Brewers Association, Craftbeer.com Tasting Tools
-Brewers Association, Brief Beer & Food Matching Chart [a slightly more advanced, but very informative cheat sheet!]
-Online – Brewers Association, Craftbeer.com Beer & Food Course
-In-person (London) – The Beer & Cider Academy, Beer & Food Matching
Finally, a caution – don’t listen to this episode while hungry. You’ve been warned.
Time for Lotte to take it away…
Image by Natalya Watson