Wine and cheese is a nice combination, but the cold holiday weather leaves us craving comfort food that goes beyond a cheese plate. Sure, you could taste reds until your lips turn purple, but what really goes great with a warming and heavy meal is a hearty brew. That’s right, we’re talking beer.
When you think about it, you’ve been doing this for years. What were you sipping when that Easy Mac was steaming away in the microwave during your college years? Beer. What was on your table during Friday night alongside delivery pizza? Beer. The flavors — and comfort — of these items just go together.
Since the explosion of the craft beer industry, the flavors of beer go way beyond the pale lagers of old-school Budweiser. Now, there are floral notes, herb additions, and different types of body and texture to consider.
In general, light beers will work with lighter foods, and heavier foods — like Shepherd’s Pie and meat-and-sauce dishes — go better with dark beers.
Everyone enjoys a beer with dinner at the end of the day, but the pairings don’t stop with that. You can easily transition your tasting to dessert by choosing the right beer for your sweet tooth. You can even make dessert with beer. Beer float, anyone?
Ready to get your brew and comfort food on? Whether it’s just a type of blend or a specific flavor from a brand, read on for the 10 best pairings.
The simplicity of a burger and fries is sometimes all you need on cold winter night. American blonde ale, like Knockout Blonde Ale from Lawson’s Finest Liquids, will do just the trick — especially when you addi traditional condiments like crisp lettuce and juicy tomato to your burger.
When you’re craving a warm winter pie but need meat to show up for the party, nothing beats chicken pot pie. A brown ale like Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Marron has nutty flavors and caramel notes that complement the creamy sauce. The smooth finish of both the food and beer go great together, too.
Thinkstock & funkybuddhabrewery.com
This pairing is a great example of how cooking with beer gets you better results. Add some Morning Wood American Porter from the Funky Buddha Brewery to your meat when browning, and then drink the rest of the bottle with your dish (don't worry — you're allowed to open more). The flavors of both the food and porter are similar: smoky with hints of dark coffee.
Put a plate of chocolate cake in front of your friends and add a bottle of Shake Chocolate Porter from Boulder Beer Company. Dessert will never be the same. The richness of the beer matches what is in the cake and is able to balance out the bitterness of dark cocoa in the recipe.
Shutterstock & worldmarket.com
We know it’s cold outside, but that doesn’t mean ice cream is out of the question. Chocolate ice cream was good enough on its own when you were a kid, but when you’re an adult, you can pair it with a lambic that adds even more richness to an already decadent dessert. Lindeman’s Framboise Lambic will do the trick.
You could go crazy pairing beer with mac and cheese when you start factoring in the different flavor variations (like lobster, bacon, and veggies). If you’re getting to the heart of the matter, though, classic mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food on a cold day, and that calls for nutty brown ale. This beer will enhance the taste of Cheddar, while still being crisp enough to cut the richness.
Pepperoni has a kick, so you’ve got to go with a beer that has some spicy hops and bitter roasting. A black IPA has the right amount of bitterness to assist the pepperoni in living up to the pepper in its name. The slow roast draws out the smokiness of the meat, too. Stone Sublimely Self Righteous Black IPA gets a thumbs up here.
This is a no brainer for most. If you really want a marriage made in heaven, use the stout in the cooking process of the meat in the pie. Guinness is dark and smooth with just the right amount of bite to complement the flavors of the Shepherd’s Pie.
A heavy meal calls for a medium-bodied beer. While spaghetti and meatballs isn’t the heaviest you can go when craving comfort food, it has heft, so you’ll need a medium-bodied beer to hold up. Amber ale has hints of toasted malts and fruity hops, which is ideal for the sweetness and acidity of tomato sauce. Plus, the malt works to enhance the meatiness of the meatballs.