How to pair food and beer - part two
My last blog post certainly seemed to arouse a great deal of comment, and I look forward to reading the feedback for this one with interest. In this second post I’m considering golden beers, and in particular two styles, wheat beers and lagers.
Once again we are for looking to see if a beer complements, contrasts or cuts the flavour of the food.
So first I’ll look at wheat beers, which includes weissbiers and witbiers. A good wheat beer is a very flexible partner to a great many different foods, from omelettes to couscous. Refreshing in nature with good carbonation levels, wheat beers will help lift and cut through a whole range of dishes.
Wheat beer goes well with many spicy Indian dishes.
Belgian wheat beers tend to display what are known as “phenolic” notes, slightly spicy and “clovelike” in character. German versions can elicit a fruity aroma, sometimes a bit like banana. Both types are a great partner to spiced foods, so think Asian cooking.
Indian dishes, particularly spiced meats, such as tandoori chicken or lamb, and lightly spiced foods like biryianis, dhals and bhajis, all find their perfect partner in a wheat beer. The subtle spiciness and slight malt sweetness of the beer can contrast or complement the dishes nicely. Mild creamy kormas, on the other hand, can actually be more suited to a darker, richer style of beer. But if you want something to cut through their richness then a clean, sharp wheat beer will do the job.
Thai cuisine has more delicate flavours, such as lemongrass, and often offsets sweetness against pretty fiery chilli action. Once again the wheat beers cope well, enhancing the delicate spice notes and taming some the heat. Belgian wheat beers work well with fresh crab cakes and a crunchy salad, or seafood pad Thai noodles, and seared ribs.
With Chinese food the increased carbonation level of wheat beers really does come into its own, cutting through rich, sweet and salty sauces, allowing the subtle meat and vegetable flavours onto the tongue. Try dim sum or crispy duck, washed down with a cool glass of German weissbier. Wonderful!
Now, onto lager, the most popular beer style in the world. It’s also the simplest in many respects, though the range is huge, from the Czech pilsners, with their slightly sweet bready notes, to thinner, crisper north German versions, through to the Japanese super dry styles, and many other variations on the way.
Good quality pilsners are excellent with everything from Mexican salsa to battered squid or seafood, where the slight mineral accents in the beer accentuate the more delicate flavours of the fish. Pilsners are able to compete against chilli heat and strong spices. And they can cut through oily, fatty dishes too. This makes them perfect for many Asian dishes, like Chinese sweet and sour, or hot and creamy Thai curries, or spicy Indian food. And of course, you can have a lot of fun finding out what works best for you.
Nigel Sadler is one of the country’s first accredited Beer Sommeliers.