Cooking & Dining with Beer

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If you enjoy the taste of a cold beer, you'll love the rich, unique flavor that it can add to your favorite recipes. And when you're planning a meal, consider the various tastes of the many beers available today, and how they pair with the food you serve. You'll find that beer on the menu will add a delicious flavor that makes food taste better than ever.

There are numerous types and styles of beer available today, thanks to the American beer distribution system which gives smaller brewers the ability to utilize beer distributors to get new beers to a wide range of retailers. Consumers benefit by having the choice between the largest and smallest brands, all on the same store shelf, restaurant list and bar tap. Why not take advantage of the hundreds of beers available by experimenting with them in your favorite recipes?

Beer can substitute for wine and water in many of your favorite recipes, adding a distinctive flavor. Lighter beers, such as pale ales and lagers, will thin batters and are delicious in bread and pancake recipes. Or try steaming shellfish, mussels or shrimp in beer instead of water for a tangy taste that complements the saltiness of the seafood. Beer also makes a wonderful marinade or sauce for grilling and roasting your favorite meats and vegetables.






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Beer & Food Pairings

Pairing particular beers and foods can be every bit as interesting and delicious as the more traditional pairing of food and wine. While there are no absolute rules to proper pairings – the goal, after all, is personal taste satisfaction – there are some guidelines to getting started on making successful matches. The goal is to find a balance between the beer and food, so that the beer complements or contrasts the food flavor.

Here are some points to keep in mind, as well as some basic beer and food recommendations. Have fun experimenting with various beer brands.


Light Ales, light Lagers and Blonde Ale beers are perfect with spicy foods, such as Mexican, Indian and Caribbean flavors.


Wheat beers like Hefeweizen are also delicious with light or citrus-flavored desserts. For a chocolate dessert, try an Imperial or sweeter Stout beer.


Brown Ale beer goes well with beef entrees, like steak, pot roast or roast beef.


Dry Stout beers like Oatmeal Stout and Porters are hearty beers that are good with soups, stews and dishes served with brown gravy. They also bring out a unique flavor in oysters.


Bock beer pairs well with heavy, spicy dishes such as sausages and sauerkraut.


Lighter fruit-flavored beers are tasty with leafy green salads or fresh fruit. They are also a nice complement to fruity desserts.


An unusual beer, the Dunkelweiss has a delicious yeasty taste that goes well with delicate foods such as pasta or light soups.


Amber Ale beer is a good all-round beer choice that works well for any food that isn’t too sweet. Pair it with pizza to spice up a cozy evening at home.


Bitter Ale’s hoppy flavor is a nice match for fried foods, such as calamari, shrimp or other seafood.


Many beers work well with vegetable dishes. Try Ambers, Brown Ale or Porters, especially if the dish contains heavy flavorings, such as garlic.


Pairing Tips

Not sure how to choose a beer to best complement your food or meal? Here are some guidelines to get you started:


bulletNot only does beer enhance the flavor of food, but food enhances the flavor of the beer. There is no better way to learn to appreciate the complexity of hidden flavor within various beers than to pair it with food.


bulletStart by considering the flavor of the beer. Take a slow sip of the beer and try to determine the prominent flavors. Is the beer yeasty or hoppy? Sweet or dry? Does it have a tangy, sharp taste with a clean finish? Make a few quick notes about your observations.


bulletThink about how the beer would best relate to foods, keeping in mind that there should be a balance between the two. Key points to remember: The beer should either complement or contrast the food.


bulletAs a general rule, heavier Ales work well with red meat dishes and lighter Lagers with white meat. But exceptions to this can be delicious!


bulletEthnic beer and food pairings are generally safe and a good way to sample complementing flavors. Try German pork dishes, sauerkraut and horseradish with German dark beers, tangy Mexican beers with Southwestern dishes, or hoppy American Pilsners with New England seafood.


bulletIf you’re planning a beer dinner with a different beer for each course, plan to serve lighter beers first and progress through the dinner to the heavier, stronger beers. Serve small portions of beer – about four ounces per course to ensure that your adult guests enjoy each paired course.


bulletThere are some very strong beers, such as Barley Wine or Old Ale, that are too powerful for all but the heartiest flavors. End a meal with one of these unique beers, served alongside pieces of very strong cheese or dark, bitter chocolate.


*This information provided by National Beer Wholesalers Association,

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