9 nostalgic food and beer pairings

Illustrated banner of pairings. Left: stout and chocolate fondue with strawberries and sponge cake; centre left: classic north American pale ale with party or tea; centre right: light lager with watergate salad; right: sour beer with red velvet cupcakes.

To celebrate our 95th anniversary, we relive some classic food trends from yesteryear and share the best beers to pair with them

A lot has changed in the 95 years that we’ve been serving Ontarians as their main source of beer. Foods North Americans learned to love have come and gone. (Goodbye, jelly salads; hello, ramen.)

But there’s one timeless truth: Beer makes a tasty companion for just about any meal. Here are some by-the-decades pairings to help you relive key flavour moments in our almost-century-long history. Plus, we share how to put a modern twist on some of the classic dishes below.

We also share some fun historical facts about The Beer Store so you know what we were up to over the decades, too.


Party sandwiches + Classic North American pale ale

The cocktail party was all the rage in the Roaring Twenties, and what’s a party without a tempting plate of little finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off? A few oddball old-timey favourites — like sardine and mustard, and banana and cheese — have vanished, thank goodness. But how about an assortment of cucumber and cream cheese, ham and cheese, turkey tarragon and smoked salmon? Yes, please! And with these, a classic, easy-drinking pale ale will go down as pleasantly as light sandwiches and sparkling conversation.

Our history: Heralding the end of Prohibition in Ontario, the precursor to The Beer Store opened in 1927 as “Brewers Warehousing Company Limited.”

An illustrated glass of pale ale stands next to an illustrated plate of tea sandwiches. There's 20s-style wallpaper in the background and a calendar that says 1920s.


Sloppy joes + amber ale

Alas, for many people, the ’30s were all about making the most of a lousy economy. A sloppy joe was an affordable comfort food before anyone referred to it as such. Pair with amber ale; the sweet malts will harmonize with the sauce. And how about a tin of beans for authenticity? Thankfully, this combo will never go out of style.

Our history: The province allowed beer to be sold in hotels, clubs and elsewhere as of 1936. Today, The Beer Store is the biggest distributor of beer to bars and restaurants in Ontario.

An illustrated glass of amber ale stands next to an illustrated plate with a sloppy joe sandwich on it. There's 30s-style wallpaper in the background and a calendar that says 1930s.


Tinned meat, boiled potatoes + pale lager

Wartime meant rationing. Meals could be bland when households were limited to modest amounts of fresh meat, butter, fruit, sugar and other essentials. But with the right outlook (and a hungry stomach), even tinned meat and potatoes can be surprisingly tasty. We use the same philosophy for the beer (which, yes, was also rationed in Ontario): A pale lager is simple yet delicious, and it always hits the spot. Today we favour it alongside a tasty meat loaf and creamy mashed spuds.

Our history: In 1940, we became “Brewers Retail Ltd.” Hey, it was short and snappy for the time.

An illustrated glass of pale lager stands next to an illustrated plate of sliced tinned meat, boiled potatoes and green peas. There's 40s-style wallpaper in the background and a calendar that says 1940s.


Cheese casserole + British-style pale ale

Peacetime! Progress! Parties! In the growing and bustling postwar neighbourhoods, the casserole was queen of many a shindig. Thanks to its nutty flavours, a British pale ale pairs beautifully with cheddar — one of the few cheeses familiar to most Ontarians at the time. Many of us still enjoy the nostalgic comfort of a cheesy casserole, but if that’s not your speed, a delicious mac and cheese would make a mighty fine substitute.

Our history: As of 1955, Ontarians no longer legally had to sign their names in a book to purchase beer from us.

An illustrated glass of British-style pale ale stands next to an illustrated plate with cheese casserole. There's 50s-style wallpaper in the background and a calendar that says 1950s.


Chocolate fondue + stout

There was no dip in social activity in the swinging sixties — if anything, socializing only became more la-di-da. A fondue craze oozed across the nation, in both cheese and chocolate versions. If you’re breaking out that forgotten fondue set from the back of the cupboard and filling it with melty chocolate, pair it with a stout for its cocoa-like malt flavours. Now, where’s the Twister mat?

Our history: To standardize beer bottles and make recycling them easier, the still recognizable “stubby” bottle debuted. The stubby may be mostly extinct now, but we’re still a major recycler of glass in Ontario.

An illustrated glass of stout stands next to a fondue pot filled with chocolate and a plate with chocolate-dipped strawberries and sponge cake. There's 60s-style wallpaper in the background and a calendar that says 1960s.


Watergate salad + light lager

The pinnacle of zany party foods coincided with a massive scandal south of the border, and voila: the arrival of a “salad” featuring pistachio pudding, marshmallows and a cherry on top. People thought of this as a light-flavoured dessert, so let’s pair it with a light beer. (Fun fact: Light beer really took off in the ’70s, too — but unlike marshmallow “salads,” it was here to stay.) For today’s version, berries and slightly sweetened whipped cream will go wonderfully with a light lager.

Our history: Our first self-serve store opened in Toronto in 1971. Today, self-service is available to some degree at most Beer Store locations (where it often coexists with our famous roller system).

An illustrated glass of light beer stands next to an illustrated bowl of retro dessert salad called Watergate salad. There's 70s-style wallpaper in the background and a calendar that says 1970s.


Sushi + dry lager

Consuming raw fish was a fresh idea for a lot of Ontarians in the 1980s. It may not have been for everyone, but some went for it hook, line and sinker. And the rest is history. The perfect beer here is dry lager, another Japanese invention. (Dry lager hit the North American market in the 1980s, too.)

Our history: Brewers Retail started doing business as “The Beer Store” in 1985. It has a certain ring to it, wouldn’t you agree?

An illustrated glass of dry lager stands next to an illustrated plate of sushi. There's 80s-style wallpaper in the background and a calendar that says 1980s.


Sundried tomato and goat cheese salad + Belgian-style wheat beer

Since ’90s fashion is back, why not some ’90s cuisine? If you’re of a certain age, you’ll definitely remember this flavour combo — which may have been inspired by the popularity of the Mediterranean Diet back in the ’90s. You may also remember the rise of witbiers (Belgian-style wheat beers), which have a tang that goes great with goat cheese and prominent citrus notes that contrast with the tomato.

Our history: The Beer Store’s selection grew as new breweries and specialty styles gained popularity. It’s a trend that hasn’t stopped since — which explains why we now carry 1,000-plus brands.

An illustrated glass of wheat beer stands next to an illustrated plate with greens, sundried tomato and goat cheese. There's 90s-style wallpaper in the background and a calendar that says 1990s.


Cupcakes + fruit beer

Remember when you couldn’t go anywhere without running into a platter of fancy cupcakes? To keep the nostalgia on the sweet side, try pairing a red-velvet cupcake (remember how exciting those were?) with a dessert-friendly fruit-flavoured beer. Maybe pop a disc into the DVD player for old times’ sake.

Our history: The Beer Store offered home delivery for the first time ever in 2017, for residents of Scarborough and Ottawa. (Nowadays, we deliver to many parts of the province.)

An illustrated glass of fruit or sour beer stands next to an illustrated plate with red velvet cupcakes and white icing. There's early 2000s-style wallpaper in the background and a calendar that says 2000s.

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