The Everyman’s Guide to Pairing Food with Beer

While you may think of wine as the companion to food, the depth and versatility of beer cannot be oversold. In fact, a good beer a can bring out the best in any dish—if you know which kind to choose. From amber ales to hearty stouts, here’s a handy guide to arranging the perfect match.

The Basics

At its core, beer pairing is a very practical skill. Well-carbonated beers—like a German pilsner—are naturally refreshing when served with rich food. Likewise, a crisp IPA can cut through the heat when you’re tackling spicy cuisine. All in all, it helps to remember that light beers go with lighter dishes (pilsner with seafood), and heavy beers go with heavy dishes (stout with beef stew). Here are a few pairing suggestions for the most commonly-found beer types:

India Pale Ale

A sweet, citrusy beer with an abundance of bitter hops. Pairs best with spicy foods like curry and kimchi, or rich, sweet desserts like crème brulee and carrot cake. (Our Pick: Green Flash IPA)

Amber Ale

A milder ale that still retains its hoppy flavor and caramel top notes. Goes well with smoky, moderately spicy foods like barbecue, smoked bacon, jerk chicken, and chili. (Our Pick: Lagunitas Censored)

Belgian Ale (Dubbel, Trippel, Quad)

Rich, spicy beers with varying levels of bitterness, and a subtle fruit aroma. Much like amber ale, these pair well with barbecue, meat stews, and any smoked foods. (Our Pick: Ommegang Three Philosophers)

Pilsner

A hoppy, bitter beer with a light body and a refreshing finish. Complements fatty fish like salmon and tuna, along with lighter meats like chicken and sausage. (Our Pick: Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner)

Lager

The quintessential beer. Light, crisp, and supremely refreshing. If you’re in the mood for beer, it pairs well with anything, though it goes best with garlic-heavy foods (Italian, Spanish), as well as Mexican and South Asian cuisine. (Our Pick: Weihenstephaner Original)

Kolsch/Cream Ale/Blonde Ale

Smooth, malty beers that balance sweetness and bitterness. Complement foods that blend sweet and spicy flavors, like Thai cuisine, mango salad, and a wide range of sausages. (Our Pick: Captain Lawrence Captain’s Kolsch)

Bock

A richer, sweeter lager with warm toasty undertones and minimal bitterness. Pairs well with any spicy food, along with sharp, bitter flavors like white cheddar cheese. (Our Pick: Samuel Adams Winter Lager)

Wheat Beer/Hefeweizen

Light, unfiltered beers with undertones of banana and clove, and almost no bitterness. Pair well with lighter foods like salads, sushi, wiesswurst, and anything consumed on a porch. (Our Pick: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier)

Porter

A hearty beer with a strong nutty flavor and undertones of toffee. Goes well with anything smoked or roasted—chicken, burgers, bacon—along with chocolate-flavored desserts. (Our Pick: Smuttynose Robust Porter)

Stout

A dark, bitter beer with strong notes of chocolate and coffee. Goes well with rich, savory foods like stew and stroganoff. The more coffee-like varieties are great with ice cream. (Our Pick: Victory Storm King)

Barley Wine

A dark, hoppy beer with low carbonation and a sky-high ABV. Truly unique. While its flavor will overpower most complex dishes, it makes an excellent counterpart to strong cheeses and chocolatey desserts. (Our Pick: Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine)

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