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Unexpected Pairings

Strange deckfellows: Unexpected beer-and-food pairings that actually work

Some food-and-drink pairings just sound right — you won’t get any arguments if you suggest pale ale for pork chops or amber lager with pizza. Other matches may challenge your preconceptions, but they’re surprisingly delicious.

In the mood to experiment? Try these unlikely pairs.


Lean steak and pilsner

Steak often goes with bold red wine, which may influence your choice to reach for a heavy beer to wash down your grilled beef. But some experts say the opposite may be a wiser option.

Why it works: With a lean but high-quality cut of beef — say, tenderloin or filet mignon — the clarity of a pilsner allows the subtle flavours of the meat to shine through. And when you’re splurging on a steak dinner, that’s exactly what you want.


Italian sausage and India pale ale

Italian flavours are often associated with wine, but not so here. Beer experts often suggest hoppy beers for spicy foods, and India pale ales (IPAs) are the among the hoppiest around.

Why it works: Some people believe the elevated bitterness and aroma of an IPA helps beat the heat. Yet there’s evidence to suggest the hops and the heat of a spicy dish amplify each other’s intensity. It’s a paradox, for sure. But it works.


Jerk dishes and stout

You may know that pale lagers are popular in Jamaica, but stouts are also appreciated there and throughout the English-speaking Caribbean.

Why it works: The spicy and smoky flavours of slow-cooked jerk dishes call for an equally strongly flavoured drink — and stout is certainly up to the task.


Barbecued eggplant and dark lager

Eggplant soaks up smoky flavours when cooked on the barbecue, whether you’re giving it a quick sizzle on the grill — perhaps to add to a starter or salad — or slow- roasting it for a Middle Eastern recipe.

Why it works: Smoky eggplant calls for the roasty, toasty malt flavours of dark beer. The light body of a lager works best with vegetables.


Thai food and Belgian-style blonde ale

Thai dishes represent four flavour categories: sweet, sour, salty and spicy. A pad Thai with grilled chicken and spicy sriracha, for example, has a taste profile that’s bold yet balanced.

Why it works: Big-flavoured Belgian blonde ales are malty-sweet but have plenty of herbal aroma and tangy bitterness from the hops. It’s a complex profile that’s a good match for the powerful taste of Thai dishes.


Ceviche and white beer (witbier)

Fish and seafood that’s “cooked” using the acidity of lime juice may be the most refreshing summer meal around. Keep it light by pairing ceviche with a tangy and aromatic beer.

Why it works: Quite simply, seafood goes with citrus — which Belgian-style wheat beers (also known as witbiers or white beers) deliver.


Pickles and sour ale

The traditional red and brown ales of Belgium’s Flanders region deliver a pleasing tartness, which North American brewers have been learning to harness in their own sour beers. They’re often enjoyed with fruity desserts but can take on some pretty bold flavours.

Why it works: The acidity of the sour beer harmonizes with the vinegar in the pickles. Go figure.

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