Regular readers of this column know I have an affinity for pairing beer and food, but there’s always more to learn when it comes to matching my favorite brews to my favorite grub. In an attempt to expand my knowledge of the subject, I recently picked up some newly released books on the subject.
First up was “Beer Pairing: The Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros” by Julia Herz and Gwen Conley, an expansive guide that’s geared toward novices as well as established cooks and craft beer lovers.
While many books about beer and food rely upon the reader trusting everything the author has to say, “Beer Pairing” is written in a way that encourages the reader to experience interactions between beer and food and then make their own conclusions.
An entire chapter devoted to “Palate Trips” is particularly intuitive, with six different “trips” designed to educate drinkers on the interactions between foods and the beers with which they’re paired. Shopping lists make prepping for each “trip” a breeze, and beer suggestions tend to cover a wide variety, assuring that at least one suggested beer is available in markets around the county.
“Palate Trip #1,” for instance, guides readers through a sampling of three beers matched with five foods, starting with American India Pale Ale paired with both a sweetened dried mango and a sour pickle. While the IPA’s hoppy bitterness is cut nicely by the sweetness and fat of the mango, it clashes horribly with the pickle, a reminder that “some interactions are going to be home runs, while others might be train wrecks.”
Pair that same pickle with a tart Berliner-style weisse, however, and you’ll find an interesting combination of sour negating sour, where the perception of neither the beer nor the food is very tart.
While the first “trip” is mostly guided by the authors, subsequent exercises encourage the reader to come come to his or her own conclusions based on the suggested pairings. How does a Belgian-style dubbel pair with a sea-salt butterscotch caramel? Does it complement or contrast with the food with which it’s paired? As you work your way through the trips, the interactions become more obvious, and before long it becomes easier to determine winning pairings and identify those that don’t work so well.
These interactions are all detailed in the “Pairing Practices” chapter, which provides the reader with a complete glossary of terms and definitions to keep in mind when pairing your favorite beers and foods.
Once you’ve got a few trips under your belt, you’re ready to tackle the chapter on pairing beers by style. As someone who often has a large and varied number of beers in the fridge, I found this chapter to be a valuable resource. Want to know what to pair with a German-style hefeweizen, such as Harpoon’s UFO? A “style and food” section gives a great overview of flavors and interactions, while “try this first” offers a sure-fire home run pairing and an explanation of why it works so well.
“Beer Pairing” is a great resource that I’d recommend for anyone looking to expand their beer-pairing knowledge, with information that’s valuable to aficionados of all levels.
Dan Murphy is a Certified Cicerone® and the founding brewer at Fairhope Brewing Co. Follow him on Instagram @Grand_Krewe and on Twitter @Beer_Man_Dan.