What beers to pair with your favourite comfort foods

Illustrations of eight beer and comfort food pairings. Top row, left to right: macaroni and cheese with brown ale; ramen with cream ale; grilled cheese and tomato soup with British-style pale ale; and spaghetti and meatballs with red ale. Bottom row, left to right: steamed BBQ pork buns (char siu bao) with dark wheat beer; chicken biryani with Belgian-style white beer; perogies with pilsner; and shepherd’s pie with porter.

Comfort foods — like grilled cheese sandwiches, ramen and perogies — can always find an easygoing beer BFF. So pull on your best sweats and dig into these cozy pairings

You’re familiar with the concept of comfort foods, but what about comfort beverages? Obviously, beer is our go-to — we have hundreds of varieties, after all, and they go down nice and easy with all sorts of cozy dishes, from shepherd’s pie to ramen to grilled cheese.

Okay, okay, we know you’re hungry already. So here’s a list of our G.O.A.T. comfort food and beer pairings for your next couch-bound, sweats-clad, kicked-back night in.

Macaroni and cheese + brown ale

This might be Canadians’ favourite comfort food, thanks to all that glorious starch and rich dairy goodness. Both of those elements call for beer, especially brown ale. Its nutty sweetness beautifully complements cheddar — or any other cheese, if you’re feeling fancy.

Illustration of a bowl of macaroni and cheese, with a pint glass of brown ale behind it.

Ramen + cream ale

Whether you’re slurping a cup of instant noodles or a bowl of steaming Japanese-style ramen from your fave café, you’ll want a crisp, light-bodied beer to counter the salty soy-infused broth. Cream ale holds its own here and has a satisfyingly big mouth feel. It’s even better if your bowlful features slices of slow-cooked pork shoulder and all the fixings.

Illustration of a bowl of ramen, topped with sliced pork, hard-boiled eggs and green onions, alongside a pub glass of cream ale.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup + British-style pale ale

British-style pale ales have gentle, earthy-smelling hops, which are a knockout with cooked tomato dishes. And while they sometimes go by the name of “bitters,” these brews are actually malty, so they harmonize perfectly with the sweetness of the tomatoes — and the ketchup, if you’re a grilled cheese dipper.

Illustration of a plate containing a grilled cheese and tomato soup, with a side of ketchup and a tulip glass filled with British-style pale ale.

Spaghetti and meatballs + amber or red ale

This filling meal also features lots of sweet-tangy tomato, so it calls for a malty ale with moderate hops, which also complements the oregano in the sauce. Now sing it with us: “On top of spaghetti, all covered in cheese; paired with an amber ale, or red if you please…”

Illustration of a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with a tulip glass full of red ale alongside.

Steamed BBQ pork buns (char siu bao) + dark wheat beer

The barbecued pork (char siu in Chinese) in these beauties is pretty darned sweet, thanks to its signature sauce. It and the surrounding fluffy white bun (a.k.a. bao in Chinese) require a brew that plays well with sweetness. Enter dark wheat beer, which balances out the sugary notes, as wheat beers tend to do, and features subtle spicy aromas and flavours.

Illustration of a bamboo steamer basket filled with steamed pork buns, with a glass of dark wheat beer on the side.

Chicken biryani + Belgian-style white beer

For this dish of chicken, rice and a bouquet of spice, a Belgian-style wheat (or white) beer is nice. This style of suds is often flavoured with coriander, orange peel and other aromatic ingredients, which complement (instead of clash with) the cardamom, cinnamon and other seasonings in the biryani.

Illustration of a plate of chicken biryani and a lime wedge next to a tall glass of Belgian-style white beer.

Perogies + pilsner

We’re definitely not wading into the steamed-versus-fried debate on these tasty pockets of dough. As a neutral party, we’ll simply advise that a crisp beer, such as a pilsner, will cut through any fat in the filling, as well as in tried-and-true perogy toppings like sour cream and bacon.

Illustration of a plate of perogies topped with a dollop of sour cream, alongside a tall footed glass of pilsner beer.

Shepherd’s pie + porter or stout

One foolproof way to pair beer and food is to match the body of the brew to the body of the dish. That’s what’s going on here: Shepherd’s pie and stout/porter are both filling and full-bodied, so they’re ideal companions. Warning: You might need a nap after this satisfying, substantial matchup.

Illustration of a plate of shepherd’s pie with a dimpled mug full of porter behind it.

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