Ultimately, whilst the history of brewing is fascinating, the beer scene is a helluva place to be involved and we all love hangovers (okay, maybe not the last one…), the main reason we all love craft beer is because it offers a completely different experience to anything that is available on the mass market. The sheer depth and breadth of flavours and styles available from everything from one-man bands to craft brewers with sites in multiple countries is incredible. This means that people who are into good beer are almost invariably also interested in great food. Here at We Brought Beer we’re strong believers that any meal can be enhanced by a great beer, which is why we’ve paired up with so many amazing food producers in the past and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Following our successful pairing event last night with Foxlow in Balham, we thought we’d look at exactly what it is we look for when we’re matching beer and food, how they work and also why they don’t work.

When matching beer and food, it’s often said that you should start with the three Cs: cutcompliment and contrast. There’s other ways of matching beer and food together which we’ll talk about in a bit, although the other main rule to keep in mind when planning your matches is keeping a balance between the beer and the food. Eating a light fish with a heavy Imperial Stout, or drinking a delicate lager with rich venison is going to end in tears. So, what do the three C’s actually mean?
The idea of beer cutting through the food follows the same train of thought as using lemons in spicy Indian cuisine, where the citrus sourness of the lemons cuts across the spice of the food, reducing the heat but bringing out some of the incredible chilli flavours. However, this doesn’t mean you should instantly reach for a hop-forward, citrusy IPA because the hoppy beers actually have a weird way of amplifying the heat to crazy levels. Instead, one of the perfect examples of beer cutting through food is a crisp Pilsner or India Pale Lager paired with charcuterie. CO2 is slighty acidic and their increased carbonation is perfect for clearing the tangy oiliness of your tongue.
When beer and food compliment each other it can be one of the most satisfying matches. This is pretty simple, and it’s where the flavour profiles of the beer and food work in tandem together because of their similarities. A perfect example of this would be a smoked-Porter with a burger, because the roast characteristics of the beer match the char on the grilled meat and they’re both rich enough to stand up to each other.
This is where the “opposites attract” rule comes into effect. One of our favourite examples of this which is a very easy match, and we’d recommend anyone to try, is vanilla ice cream with an Imperial Stout. The cold, bright flavours of the ice cream perfectly contrast the boozy, warming richness of the Stout and both elevate and lift each other.
As well as the standard way of pairing beers, we’ve got two other ways which we really enjoy playing around with. Whenever we do beer and food matchings we always try to include at least one of these because they’re a lot of fun to play around with and always result in a little smile or “ah-ha” moment from the person trying them.
Flavours are strongly linked to our memories (Ben did Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology at university, so you can trust us), and having certain foods can trigger memories of when we had them before. One of the coolest pairings we feel we did was Hood’s deconstructed, fancified Ploughman’s Lunch, which we paired with Sam Smith’s traditional Pale Ale. Although the flavours worked well together, the real magic in this pairing was in triggering the memories of sitting in a pub garden enjoying a “pint of ale” and a Ploughman’s Lunch.
Completing A Dish
The idea of completing a dish came about when we were eating some chocolate and drinking Boon Kriek, a cherry sour. These two flavours combining instantly made us think of Black Forest gateau. As a result, we’ve had a lot of fun figuring out what beers and dishes can combine to create completely different culinary creations. Another one we enjoy is an orange sponge cake with a chocolatey Imperial Stout to recreate the flavours of a Jaffa Cake. If you cook up half a dish and use beer to complete it, we guarantee it’ll put a smile on your face!
Don’t worry if you don’t particularly enjoy cooking – there’s still plenty of different options out there! One of our favourite foods to match beer with is cheese, and luckily there’s plenty of great cheesemongers around South West London. The funkiness of a stinky, creamy cheese compliments the farmyard flavours from a Brettanomyces spiked beer, whilst a true blue cheese is one of the few things that can go toe-to-toe with a high-ABV decadent Imperial Stout. For our Meet the Brewer with The Wild Beer Co, we paired several of their beers with cheese, and we’d definitely recommend giving it a listen here.
The other option is to go to a restaurant which either offers great beer or lets you bring your own along (like Foxlow on a Mondays). You can check out our previous email on great beer-lead restaurants here, although a special mention has to go out to one restaurant which we didn’t include on that London-focused list. Bundobust up in Leeds and Manchester are a vegetarian street food restaurant who do some of the most kick-ass food you’ll ever enjoy. They also have one of the most ridiculous tap line-ups you’ll find anywhere with some incredible guests such as Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout! Even Jay Rayner was seriously impressed when he visited.
Ultimately beer and food pairings are about having fun and experimenting – what works for one person, might not work for everything else. So, the best thing you can do is find a dish you love and experiment like crazy! Bon appetite.