Settling in at home for a wonderful meal with great alcohol is one of life’s simplest pleasures. This is also a more common activity as chilly weather begins to encompass us. This is a great time to discuss some great beer and food pairings.
During the colder months hearty meals are sought. Along with these hearty meals come higher alcohol beers. These two common sights during this time of year make for great pairings. While there are no steadfast rules to follow, there are some suggestions to get the most out of your meals.
The trick with pairing beer and food is to find the right balance of flavor so that one does not overpower the other. The idea is to find a beer that will add flavor depth to the dish without taking away from the original intent of the food.
Here are a few popular dishes many of us enjoy this time of year with a few suggestions of beer styles. Pairings will enhance both the food and the beer to create a wonderful dining experience.
Roast Chicken: Chicken is a delicate dish on its own and the roasting will bring forth naturally sweet flavors. A beer that gravitates toward this sweetness, while not overshadowing any spices, is the perfect choice. Try a Bière de Garde, this Belgian style offers a bit of a twist with a more malt forward appearance and slight hop bittering. Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien is a perfect option for this style; a German bock beer with hints of sweet caramel malts melting into the chicken is also wonderful and Sam Adams Winter Lager will be good selection. A Belgian Dubbel, with its heart and sweet malts balanced with a bright yeast character and dark red fruit aromas are a dream with chicken, Ommegang Abbey Ale is always a perfect choice.
Chili: Is there anything better on a cold night than a warm, hearty bowl of chili? This is also a great option as it can be made to suit vegetarians. The warming spices can easily overwhelm many beers so a perfect pairing is a must. Hop forward pale ale Alpha King from 3 Floyd’s offers a spice kick with a strong malt backbone. An American brown ale like Dogfish Head’s Indian Brown Ale, is a great choice with a touch of hops settled into a semi-sweet malt backbone to provide perfect balance. Or pair chili with a smoke beer to add an extra flavor depth to your chili, Stone Brewing Co.’s Smoked Porter is the perfect pairing.
Venison: While some may not be familiar with the wonders of deer meat, many of us in NEPA have long been enjoying this wonderful bounty. The naturally sweet and lean meat is perfect during the colder months and when paired with the right beer, is an absolute treasure of a meal. Try pairing with a doppelbock, the sweetness of the beer and hefty malt backbone will match with the venison perfectly while keeping any gamey flavors in check. Sam Adams Doppelbock is an absolute must; an old ale is also a wonderful choice with a hearty flavor profile, high ABV, and smooth rounded mouthfeel. This is a pairing that will make you feel like a king, Founders Brewing Curmudgeon is one of the best. Or try a strong Scotch ale for a decadent dinner Orkney Brewery’s Skull Splitter is incredible.
The pairings are seemingly endless this time of year. The trick to making these pairings successful is to know what you want to experience from them. Are you looking to highlight flavors in the food that may not already be present or are you looking to bring forward more subtle flavors within the beer? This simple view on the pairing will tell you everything that you need to know to establish a successful match and therefore an unforgettable evening! Bon Appétit!
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.