Beer expert Kerry Tyack talks to Chelsea Burke about the art of matching a brew with your stew.
Is matching beer with your meal any different to matching the right wine?
Beer has a lot of the same flavour characteristics as food, it can go with any course of a meal, it's just all about finding the right one.
Start with what's in the bottle then choose the food to match it. Wine has natural acidity that clears the palate but beer doesn't. The palate tires early after eating rich food so choose lighter food with beer to lift the palate. Some rules, however, are the same - choose food to contrast or complement the beer.
Generally speaking, what type of beer suits which food?
In summer, choose a citrus beer to complement shellfish, seafood or salads as a dark, caramel-y beer will just overpower it.
Darker, malty beer goes best with richer food, and lager or pilsner is best of barbecues. It keeps the palate fresh and interested. Lagers and pilsners have a higher hop content which give them a herbacious and grassy taste. These two also go well with more subtle, herb-flavoured foods.
Salads always go well with lager but remember, lager is a huge category. It's like saying "white wine" goes with something.
So not all lagers are created equal?
Be more selective when choosing lager. Drinkers can choose between dry and hoppy, sweet honey, citrus, Indian pale ales or pilsners.
They're all very different in taste and will suit a huge range of meals.
If you're taking beer to dinner but don't know what's on the menu, what something that will go with a lot of different food?
A lot of wheat beers go well with a variety of foods. They're so complex they react differently to different foods, but manage to match well to a lot of them.
Wheat beer has flavours such as clove, spice and honey.
They're rich and textual and will stand up against more robust foods. There's a great range of wheat beers available now, especially over summer.
Let's get more specific - I'm going out for Thai and plan to eat something really spicy, what would you recommend?
A cool, fruit-driven beer that's not too dry or hoppy will go well with a spicy meal or curry. Try something with lime or lemon characteristics such as summery ales and lagers.
Is there a food you should never try to match with beer, or a beer you should never drink with any food?
Cheese is hard to match with beer, as are peas and asparagus. But really the only thing to steer completely clear of is highly-salted food as it tends to dull the beer by killing the effervesents.
So, perhaps surprisingly, the traditional old bag of chips with your pint at the pub is a no-go.
What would be some surprising matches?
Dessert and beer. Chocolatey, malty, caramel-y beers will go with similarly flavoured desserts but people don't tend to try it much. Fresh fruit salads go really nicely with Belgium Lambic beers made with cherry and peaches.
Framboise beers are also really suited to fresh fruit and berries as they have a fizz similar to sparkling wine. They are perfect for the end of January/beginning of February berry season.
One final tip... ?
Don't overchill your lager.
There's an old saying: "Warm climate, cold beer. Cold climate, warm beer".
But in summer, if the lager is too cold, you'll never get the full taste of the brew. So don't ever put it in the freezer to cool.
- Detours, HoS