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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Different beers for different foods

For a gastronomic experience, learn how to pair your favourite beer with your food
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - May 28, 2010
By: Wong Wei Chen
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Different beers for different foods

Oh, I love pork chop! One of my all-time favourites, and for more than one reason!

First, this succulent cut from good ol’ piggy brings back fond memories of childhood. Second, at some point in time – while I was bulking up with a vengeance in a bid to become the gym’s strongest man – pork chop and I bore a striking resemblance. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, I like to eat it.

After hearing me fire off such unequivocal acclaim, you might expect me to be stupendously gratified when I get to wash down a tenderly barbecued piece of the meat with chilled cream stout, another favourite of mine in the beverage category. Favourite plus favourite equals “totally awesome”, right?

Unfortunately, the formula’s not that simple. Truth be told, pork chop and cream stout make a horrible combo. Food and beer don’t pair up so easily, unless you’re an absolutely indiscriminate eater. Let’s get some facts on the table first.

General guidelines

Start by thinking about the beer that you’ll be drinking. What are its dominant characteristics? Is it rich and creamy, light and dry, or even astringent? Is it mainly malty, embellished with scents of coffee, roast and caramel; or hoppy with aromas of citrus fruits, flowers or pine?

Next, think about how you’ll want the beer to relate to your food. The keywords here are “cut”, “complement” and “contrast”. You may want to cut (or attenuate) the flavours and aromas of a dish that’s rich and oily with a light, hoppy beer such as a Pilsner. A vigorous stout, on the other hand, is often a good complement to a variety of nutty or chocolatey desserts. And pale ale, sporting light citrus or floral aromas, will form a neat contrast to the hearty flavours and smoked aromas of barbecued food.

Maybe you’ll now understand why barbecued pork chop and stout don’t go well together.

The specifics

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. Here are some suggested pairings of beer with food. But remember that taste is subjective, so feel free to vary them.

Wheat beer

The main varieties of wheat beer include the Berliner Weisse, Dunkelweizen, Weizenbock, Belgian witbier, and – of course – the original and most famous wheat beer, the Hefeweizen. This type of beer exhibits yeasty flavours; to appreciate these, stick to light foods such as mildly flavoured white meats, pasta or vegetables. Light varieties of cheese are all right too, but stay away from the pungent kinds.

Bitters, India Pale Ale, pale ale, Pilsners

These are the relatively hoppy beers, and their bitterness can actually be a good foil for greasy stuff which can overpower when eaten to excess. Think fried seafood, red meats swimming in gravy and the like. Nothing can cut these better than a classic Pilsner designed to make a beginner cringe!

Cream or sweet stout, Imperial stout

These guys are ideal for desserts and candies that reek of nut and chocolate. The Imperial stout goes especially well with dark chocolate.

Golden ale, lightly hopped lagers

This group of beers does not exhibit strong malt or hop flavours. Such beers are therefore good thirst quenchers. Pair them with spicy stuff (Buffalo wings, for example), and see how they bring down the temperature. Since your taste buds would have already been “pulverised” by the spices, there’s no point in going for an intricately crafted beer.


Overwhelmed by your beer?