Complementing beer with food
The new buzz around cask ales and speciality beers is how they can be chosen to accompany food in the same way as wines. On a recent visit to a restaurant I was both surprised and pleased to see a beer menu in addition to a wine list, suggesting beers as an alternative accompaniment to our food. Beer can be a refreshing change, sometimes wine is too strong or not thirst quenching, particularly at lunchtime.
We all know red wine goes best with red meats, white with fish or poultry and sweet wines with desserts, but as any wine buff will tell you, itís not that simple and to get the best combination takes knowledge and practice. Many of us may have had the practice, but few have the knowledge. Wines have an advantage over beer in their acidity which cuts through rich, fatty foods; few beers are truly acidic.
If anything, working out which beers go best with what food is just as complicated as wine and less well established, so getting it right needs some guidance. Perhaps the best known beer and food combinations are Guinness with oysters and lager with curry. Donít forget beer is used in cooking too, for example, steak and ale pie and fish with beer batter, so it is natural that certain beers go well with specific foods.
Now, if you think all food and drink combining is a load of old ullage, next time you are out for a hot curry, order a good bottle of red wine and see how the two clash like a policeman and anarchist. A good combination on the other hand raises the enjoyment of both. Now letís not get all pretentious about this, itís supposed to be fun, an adventure through the subtle blend of tastes. Be adventurous, experiment and get the most from your beer.
So which goes with what? Listed below are some ideas, these are generalisations and by no means comprehensive:
Red meat, beef, steak pie, sausages
Guinness, porter, mild, Old Peculiar, full-bodied bitters
Wheat beers, strong dark lager
Brown ale, spicy ales
Fullers ESB, wheat beer
Cobra, Tiger (brewed especially for curry), wheat beers, IPA
Pale ale, fruit beer
Pale ale, golden ale, Chimay Trappist
Cheese: Lighter flavour, brie, mild Cheddar
Strong pale ale, wheat beer, fruit beers
Cheese: Stilton and Rich Cheddar
Barley wine, oatmeal stout
Charles Wells Banana Bread Beer, Dark Island Reserve, Christmas Pudding Ale