How do you choose a beer to pair with a meal?

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Answered by: Cory, An Expert in the About Beer Tasting and Drinking Category
You're sitting down getting ready to have a delicious meal, and you realize you're missing a glass of wine to complement your meal. Why not keep the wine on the shelf and choose a beer instead. For a lot of people the thought alone is blasphemous, but the world of beer has changed a lot over the last few years. Craft beers have taken over the scene, providing countless new flavors.

If you think about it you can actually find a better pairing for your meal with beer than wine. Wine really only has one ingredient grapes, while beer can be flavored with any number of spices, fruits, and other ingredients. The art of pairing beer with food is just as subtle and important as wine. I'm here to give you some tips on how to do this.

Lighter beers such as lagers and pilsners pair well with lighter, more delicate foods such as fish and chicken. The more delicate flavor of light beer won't overpower and destroy the delicate flavors of the fish. They also pair well with lighter pastas (oil based sauces, sauces without meat or cream). Think of it like you would a wine pairing. You pair a lighter white wine with the same types of food.

Try pairing an India pale ale or another hoppy beer with spicy food. The bitter, complex taste of the hops will counteract the spice.

Don't judge a book by its cover. A beer that is seemingly from the same region as your food may not be the best choice. A lot of ethnic beers such as Tecate or Tsingtao are just European-style lagers, and won't complement the flavors of the food. Try something citrusy that will pair well with the flavors in Asian cuisine. A wheat beer or American pale ale is great for lighter Mexican food such as ceviche or fish tacos. Pair heavier dishes such as carnitas or fajitas with medium bodied ales (brown or Amber) or dark lagers. These beers won't get washed away by the heavier flavors of the meat.

Go big or go home for steak, burgers and roasted meats. A darker beer such as a porter or a stout will stand up to and balance out the flavors of meat. Others will simply be washed away.

Don't forget about dessert now. Beer is the perfect companion for when you're indulging your sweet tooth. Make sure you choose a beer that's as sweet if not sweeter than your dessert. If you don't, the sugar in the dessert will affect the way the beer tastes. Your beer will taste more bitter than it normally would. Rich, dark beers like stouts and porters complement chocolate desserts nicely. Look to pair fruity witbiers and German wheat beers with fruit-based desserts. You can also go with beers that are actually flavored with fruit as well. These can be extremely sweet though, so be careful.

Remember these are just guidelines and nothing is set in stone. Experiment and have fun with your beers. See what you like the best and stick with that.

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