Dynamic duos

Beer pairings to accompany your eats

By Hayley Fudge

Photo: Hayley Fudge

I think all of us beer lovers can agree that there’s not much better than pairing well-crafted beer with some amazing food. Just as with wine, there is indeed an art that comes with brew and food pairings that focuses on complementing and contrasting the flavors of the food and beer to maximize the experience. Ultimately, though, it should still be driven by your personal preferences for both.

Here are a few of my favorite pairings:

Cheese and beer

If you ever want to ensure your party food contributions are eaten, all you have to do is throw together a quick charcuterie plate—cured meats, fruits, crackers, and especially cheeses—I guarantee you take no leftovers home.

The great thing about cheeses is that they really all go well with beer. Some, however, do bring out the flavors a little better than others. You’ll want to make sure the intensity of both the cheese and beer are comparable—strong cheeses need beers with strong backbones, so they don’t get lost in the mix.

Consider partnering a soft goat cheese with a rustic saison. Both offer earthy, tart flavors that blend nicely. If you’re looking for more bite, consider pairing an aged English or Irish cheddar with a fresh hop or wet hop ale, which will be hitting shelves later this fall.

Locally available beers to seek out: Yellow Springs Brewery Captain Stardust Saison, Brewery Ommegang Hennepin Saison, Founders Harvest, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Tacos and beer

If pizza (almost too obvious to include in this, really) didn’t exist, I’d argue there is no better dual-threat dinner in the world than some tacos and beer. Texture, spice, and variety are endless—as are the protein options and beer compadres to accompany.

Shrimp or fish tacos go exceptionally well with India pale ales, especially the West Coast style, which tend to have a massive hop aroma busting with citrus and tropical fruit flavors. Malt takes a backseat with these beers—the hops are the star of the show. They contrast the mildness of the fish yet tend to accentuate the spiciness.

When opting for carnitas (pork) or chicken tacos, try them out with a low-key brown or amber ale. The malt-forward beers bring out the roasty flavors of these meats. For those not loving the heat, this malt backbone will tone it down some.

Locally available beers to seek out: Fat Head’s Head Hunter IPA, Jackie O’s Mystic Mama IPA, Ballast Point Sculpin, Bell’s Amber Ale, Bell’s Best Brown Ale

Meat and beer

Since the fall seasonal beer creep has already made its way here, it makes sense to focus on the fall beers. Thankfully, it’s not all pumpkins and yams—there are some seriously legitimate fall beers that should garner your attention. Styles such as Oktoberfests, Vienna lagers, and Marzens make meat feel right at home in its company. Subtle on the hops and richer on the malts, for those whose palettes that pleases.

Dry-rub ribs + wet beer = good stuff. The dry spiciness of the ribs can be set off by the lighter styles of the Oktoberfest beers. The caramel and nut nuances and the malts will surface while highlighting the sugars and spices on the ribs. For sauced or dry ribs, a smoky beer will do. Dry ribs will emphasize it, if that’s your thing; wet ribs will tone the smoke down.

I’d be remiss to not mention some kind of sausage here, if I’m talking meats. Bratwurst and Oktoberfest beers are just kinda meant to be together (duh!). Don’t be afraid to contrast here, either: Kielbasa, full of flavor and often served alongside punchy sides such as grilled onions and sauerkraut, can be perfectly complemented with a light, crisp pilsner.

Locally available beers to seek out: Revolution Oktoberfest, Sam Adams Octoberfest (still a classic benchmark for this style!), Yellow Springs Brewery Smokin’ Handsome Brown Ale, Great Lakes Eliot Ness Lager, Warped Wing BrassPunk Pilsner

Cupcakes and beer

Hello, cupcake. You look thirsty. Let me introduce you to my friend lambic, or cream ale, or stout. Just as with the other pairings, it’s best to stick with like flavors or contrasting flavors for the most part (though no one can ever argue with a chocolate and peanut butter pairing).

These days, artisan cupcake bakeries are popping up everywhere, similar to breweries. So it’s not difficult to find some special cupcakes to pair with some equally special beers. Try a strawberry cupcake with buttercream icing (or a vanilla cupcake with strawberry buttercream icing) with a light, cream ale. Couple a dark chocolate ganache cupcake with a tart fruit lambic (cherry, raspberry, strawberry) for something more decadent. And as mentioned, try a chocolate peanut butter-themed cupcake with a nice, balanced stout.

There will be no regrets.

Locally available beers to seek out: Warped Wing Ermal’s Cream Ale, Fifth Street Brewpub Jo Jo’s Midnight Stout, Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Kriek lambics (assorted fruit variants)

Hayley Fudge is one of Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geeks. An enthusiast of craft beer and the culture that surrounds it, Hayley aspires to share her love of beer with others by whipping up beer-infused cupcakes on the regular. Reach Hayley Fudge at HayleyFudge@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Hayley Fudge is one of Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geeks. An enthusiast of craft beer and the culture that surrounds it, Hayley aspires to share her love of beer with others by whipping up beer-infused cupcakes on the regular. Reach Hayley Fudge at HayleyFudge@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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