Welcome to the food and beer pairing revolution, where craft brewers have their sights set on your menu.
Everyone knows that wine and food are better together, but did you know that beer and food can be best mates too? Besides being a great way to refresh the palate between courses, beer has a brilliant ability to pair with many types of food. You’ll need a good beer – one that balances the sweetness of the malts with the bitterness, spice and zest of the hops.
While there aren’t any official rules around matching the right beer with the right food, it helps to follow what many brewers and other beer experts call the three Cs: Cut, Complement and Contrast.
Cut refers to a beer’s ability to cut through the creaminess, fattiness or spicy elements of a dish, thanks to its fizz, otherwise known as carbonation. Crisp flavours and lively bubbles help to cleanse, refresh and revive the palate between mouthfuls of food that has big, rich flavours.
Try a lager with creamy pasta, or a pale ale with cheese.
Complement describes the way beer can enhance the flavours of food. A good beer and food match is when the two different elements harmonise with each other. Light dishes with fresh tasting beers are best, and heavy meals with bold beers do the trick.
Contrast is when you match beer and food that may seem to have conflicting flavours, but which can meet in the middle as best friends. Start with a distinct flavour – something sweet, hot, oily or rich – then pair it with a beer style at the opposite end of the spectrum. Chilli stir-fry with a hoppy IPA, for example, or minerally, briny oysters with a rich stout. It’s a risky move, but who dares wins, right?
Cellar Press sat down with two of Australia’s finest craft-beer brewers to talk about their latest special releases, sold exclusively through Vintage Cellars, and what they consider to be their beer’s ideal food partner.
What should people consider when pairing beer with food?
The goal of beer and food pairing is to match the flavours and character of the beer with the characters and flavours of the food. Think about how hops and carbonation can cut through any rich, fatty, spicy flavours; or if it’s possible to contrast opposing flavours to create a unique match between the beer and the food, where one enhances the other.
How did the idea for your Hoppy Pilsner come about?
Pilsners are perfect thirst-quenchers in warmer weather. The addition of specially selected hops adds a gentle tropical aroma and flavour, which provide greater depth, character and intensity.
What style of beer is the Hoppy Pilsner?
It’s basically our take on a traditional Czech Bohemian pilsner. It’s a really refreshing style of beer, perfect for the warmer months.
What type of food would you recommend matching with Wolf of the Willows Hoppy Pilsner?
Our Hoppy Pilsner matches with a broad range of food styles, although my personal preference is for the spicy foods of South-east Asia or Mexico. The carbonation slices through the spiciness of these foods, while the particular garnish of herbs, such as coriander, can complement the hops. The sweetness of the pilsner malt also contrasts with the acidity of the citrus that’s typically used in these types of dishes.
What are your basic rules around beer and food pairing?
Beers can be complementary to food when a flavour in the beer enhances the flavours in the dish – maybe a fruity IPA with a papaya salad, or a dark, wintry stout with chocolate cake. They can also be a contrast to food: how about rich, slow-cooked beef cheek with a cold, brightly hopped, malty pale ale to cut through the richness?
What inspired you to make B-Side Brut IPA?
Our Brewers B-Sides collection is a series of limited-release beers that allows our brewers to try new ideas, ingredients and styles. Our friends at Hop Products Australia sent us some experimental hops, so our brew crew decided to make a single-hop beer to show off its glorious characters.
How would you describe this beer?
It’s a style that’s becoming quite popular with hop-heads around the world. Its lighter body and drier finish allow hops to be front and centre, while the higher alcohol creates some lovely esters that balance with the aromas of the hops and lighter malt body.
What dish would you recommend to pair with your B-Side Brut IPA?
I reckon one of the best matches would be some prawns and oysters with pepper and lemon. The beer is bright and summery with a little richness, which goes so well with the beautiful flavour of quality Australian seafood. Add a sunset and some good friends, and you’re winning any day of the week.