Category Archives: Beer and Food

Beer and Food Pairing: A Curry Dish and Saison Dupont

Today’s pairing is more of an idea than an actual pairing.  I was inspired at a recent Christmas dinner for the bartenders at the bar that I manage.  We were at Copper, an excellent Indian restaurant in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte.  However, their beer list is less than stellar.  Therefore, we were drinking wine.  Nothing against wine.  In fact, the pinot noir we drank was excellent.  However, as I drank I could not help but think, “A beer would be better with this meal.”  Why did I think that?

Well, there is the obvious that I work in the beer industry and I have a beer blog and beer is one of my favorite things on Earth.  There is also the stone fact that beer is better with some foods than wine because of the cooked nature of beer and the way the carbonation in beer scrubs the palate.

On to the meal and the pairing.  First, the naan was outstanding.  I will eat naan without any tzatziki or any other condiment.  Second, my entrée was equally outstanding.  I had the Yukon gold-green beans-mushrooms curry served with Goan style coconut-chili sauce, garlic, and vinegar.  The pinot noir we were having with dinner fought valiantly, but it did not quite work with the spicy nature of the dish.

So, my mind started working.  I needed a beer light on the palate, crisp enough to cut through the spiciness and creaminess, and yet spicy enough on its own to handle the spicy nature of the curry.  What was my answer?

Saison Dupont
Photo by Ryan Moses

Saison Dupont is my favorite beer.  In this case not only is it my favorite beer, but it is the perfect beer to pair with a spicy dish such as this.

Let’s start with why a saison before we get to why this saison and you will see why I picked it.  Saisons are crisp, refreshing, and dry.  Just what you want to cut through a creamy, spicy food.  Then they also tend towards a spicy and citrusy taste both of whom complement most curry dishes.  Why this particular saison?  This the saison all other saisons strive to emulate.  You remember how everyone wanted to be like Mike?  This the same thing.

In a subjective business, like beer rating calling something the G.O.A.T. is almost pointless.  I may not be able to say Saison Dupont is the G.O.A.T., but I can say, you will be hard-pressed to find a saison that hits every checkmark when you look at the BJCP style guide with such exacting beauty.  It is crisp and with its touch of citrus cuts through the spice and cream.  The hint of pepper also makes it a compliment to the curry’s heat and spice.  Its carbonation gives it bright refreshing taste the scrubs the palate and has a perfect dry finish.

So, this particular saison because this particular saison is the almost perfect representation of the form which makes it ideal for this particular meal.

Beer and Food Pairing Quick Shot: Rev. Nat’s Sacrilege Sour Cherry Cider and Chocolate Cake

Rev. Nat’s is a new cider to North Carolina coming all the way from Oregon.  One thing that makes it different from most other ciders is that Nat uses beer yeast instead of champagne yeast.  That lends a heftier mouthfeel and different esters and taste profile.  For the Sacrilege, Nat chose English ale yeast.  It is a specific one from a specific brewery, but I don’t think he is allowed to publicly say which, but he told me and a few other beer/cider people here in Charlotte when he came in for the product launch.  If you are beer geek at some point you’ve drunk this beer from Cheswick, England.

Anyway, Sacrilege is a cider using 100% Granny Smith apples and Montmorency and Morello sour cherries with a hint of red pepper to add a spicy dryness.

The cherry flavor, the sourness, and the touch of dry spiciness makes this a great drink to pair with a nice decadent chocolate cake.  I highly recommend it.

Beer and Food Pairing: Twin Leaf Rosemary IPA and A Bunch of Vegetarian Food

What makes a good beer and food pairing?

For me, it starts with the abiding thought (THE abiding thought when it comes to beer) that beer is fun and should be enjoyed.  As long as you are drinking beer, there are no “bad” pairings.  There are pairings that are less successful than others, but if the beer is good, everything will be OK.

Another thing that makes for a great beer and food pairing is the people with whom you are eating and drinking.  Again, the overriding beer thought must be that beer is to be enjoyed with people you like and care about around you.  That makes every pairing worthwhile.

Enough with the philosophical aspects of beer and food pairings, let’s get to what makes a particular beer work with a particular food?  Why does beer work so well with food?

First, beer is a cooked product.  From the malting to the boil, beer is affected by heat the same way the meal you are preparing is (unless of course, you are eating a salad).  Many of the ways you describe food are also how you describe the ingredients of beer.

Also, the natural carbonation of beer helps clean the palate between sips and between bites helping make each bite a separate experience.

So, how do I use all that philosophy and technical/physical aspects of beer to make a beer and food pairing?  First, I try to match intensity.  I don’t want either the food or the beer to overwhelm the other.

If I’m doing a beer tasting I try to pick foods that either merely clean the palate or allow the beer to shine through with no interference.  In a beer and food pairing, you are going for the opposite.  I want both parts of the pairing to highlight and complement each other and help each other bring out their best parts.

Once I’ve decided on the intensity, if I start with the food, I then think about the characteristics of the food and what beer characteristics would highlight the food best or vice versa. Is the food savory/sweet? Does it have an herbal/vegetal taste?  Is it spicy? Is it creamy? I consider all that as I decide what beer I pick.  Not only am I looking to resonate the food and beer, I’m also looking to contrast the food and beer.

Mouthfeel is my favorite way to get a contrast.  If I have a food that is creamy I usually like to hit it with a beer with good carbonation and crispness. Think Belgian Tripel.  Another place I like to find contrast is spiciness with creaminess.  One of my favorites is to drink a stout or porter with spicy food like Mexican or Thai.

The one place I always have trouble with is pairing beer with sweet foods.  This is another place where dark beers come in handy.  You can either go with matching sweet with sweet or what I prefer is to match dry with sweet.  A good Irish stout comes in handy.

For the initial beer and food pairing that spawned this post, I paired the Twin Leaf Rosemary IPA with a meal, my girlfriend made. The meal consisted of tofu seared in a Marsala rub, sautéed mushrooms, and roasted Brussel sprouts with balsamic vinegar.  If you can’t tell, I’m a vegetarian.

What I liked about this pairing is how the rosemary married with the hops in the IPA in a great way.  Sometimes, rosemary can be very overpowering, but in this case, just the right amount was used allowing the rosemary and hops to play well together and complement one another.  The other thing I like with this dish was how the rosemary harmonized with the spices in the rub and with the sautéed mushrooms.  Then the hoppiness and crispness of the beer cut through the creaminess of the tofu and balanced out the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar.

This the kind of everyday beer and food pairing that makes life more fun.  Not every beer and food pairing should be an attempt at a 7-course meal where you are trying to recreate a Henry VIII feast.  It should be good food, good beer, and good company all harmonizing together to let you have a good time.