A Master Brewer's Tip For Approaching Food And Beer Pairings

If you're looking to take your craft beer game to the next level, knowing how to pair beer with food is the move. To help us bring a professional touch to the conversation, we reached out to Jeff Tyler, head brewer and co-owner of Spice Trade Brewery & Kitchen, for his thoughts on the topic.

"For beer pairings, sometimes the beer is the star and sometimes the food is. Each pairing is different but my general guideline is first to match the intensity of your beer and food," Tyler told us. "If you're eating something light and delicate like a pan-seared fish, you want to pair that with a light and delicate beer so as to not overpower the flavors of your dish. If you're eating something with more intense flavors, you can typically amp up your beer with something more bold."

This sound advice is similar to how most food and beverage pairings go, so if you're comfortable with food and wine pairings, just bring that experience to the world of beer. Although beer and wine are quite different in many respects, how you identify their flavor profiles and match them with food is pretty similar.

Identifying flavors in your beer and food

Jeff Tyler went on to say, "You want to think about the spices and ingredients in your food and either try to complement, contrast, or cut those flavors. If you're eating spicy Sichuan chicken, a higher alcohol saison could be a really good pairing because you'll get some complementary notes of citrus and black pepper in the beer and the alcohol will stand up to the spice and help provide a little relief from the heat."

Understanding the core profile of a beer's flavor is subjective, but if you take a sip, you should be able to identify the general outline. A porter is rich, sweet, and somewhat earthy. A pilsner, meanwhile, is light and crisp, with a mineral finish. Within each of these categories you'll have variation, but knowing a little about the different types of beer can also help you pick something if you've never tasted the exact beer before.

Tyler ended on a high note. "The most important thing is to try!" he said. "Sometimes, I'm surprised by what works well together in practice versus what I thought would work. Beer and food pairings can be really fun and a unique, interactive way to experiment."