A great way to introduce your customers to craft beer is by pairing it with your food menu, which can enhance both the dining and drinking experience and change perceptions of beer's place at the table.
Craft Beer fans regularly attend beer pairing dinners and seek out opportunities to taste different combinations so this is a great way to make people aware of your focus on craft beer.
If you don't serve food, you can still suggest pairings to help give customers ideas on how different beer styles can complement their favorite foods and increase their enjoyment of them.
Here are some simple tips to keep in mind when creating craft beer and food pairings:
1) Match Intensity - Light, delicate dishes work best with similarly crafted beers and strongly flavored foods go better with assertive beers.
Salads, light appetizers, and sushi are great with a Kölsch, Pale Lager or Pilsner. Smoked brisket, aged cheddar and chocolate soufflé go nicely with a Robust Porter, Belgian Dubbel, or Oatmeal Stout. The key is to shoot for balance.
2) Look For Harmonies - Another way to find beer and food that complement each other is to look for similar flavor profiles or aroma elements.
For example, the nutty toasted flavors of a Brown Ale and aged gouda or maple walnut cake. The deep roasty flavors of an Imperial Stout with dark chocolate truffles. The earthy spice of an IPA with Indian curry or gorgonzola cheese.
3) Opposites Can Pleasantly Surprise You - Don't be afraid to pair contrasting flavors or elements. This can serve to counterbalance or enhance what each item brings to the experience.
Hop Bitterness and carbonation can cut sweet, rich flavors and make for a more balanced dish. A good example of this is a Double IPA with crème brûlée. One of my favorite contrasting pairings is a Sour Flemish Brown Ale with banana pudding, graham cracker crumbs and fresh whipped cream. The sour helps to balance the sweetness of the pudding while enhancing the vanilla, toffee, and biscuity elements of the dessert that would be much less prevalent otherwise.
4) Keep Your Map Handy - When in doubt, consider pairing beer and cuisines from the same region.
Oktoberfest Lagers or Märzens are perfect with bratwurst and sauerkraut, as are Belgian Saisons with farmhouse goat cheese.
5) Consider Seasonality - This one's pretty straightforward, though not foolproof. If in doubt go for lighter beer with summer fare and heavier beer with wintry grub.
Think Hefeweizen with grilled mahi mahi or Scotch Ale with beef stew.
6) Read the Label - As craft beer has become more popular, brewers and breweries are starting to offer suggestions on what foods go with the flavor profile of their beer.
Take a minute to read over the label and you may find a great pairing idea from someone who knows the beer better than anyone else - the brewer.
7) It's an Art, Not a Science - the best part about finding the best beer and food pairings is that practice makes perfect.
There are no hard and fast rules, so feel free to experiment with your menus and do tastings with your staff until you find your favorites.
Here's an example of a simple beer pairing Jimmy's No.43 did:
If you're interested in learning more about craft beer and food pairing, here are some books and links to get you started:
The Brewmaster's Table
Tips for Pairing Beer and Food
Put Together A Beer And Food Pairing Print Menu
Step 1: Input your business name and address.
Step 2: Add the beers you currently have.
Step 4: Add food pairing recommendations.
Step 5: Print!
About The Author
Will Stephens is the Co-Founder of BeerMenus. He's a Certified Cicerone®, regularly proctors Certified Cicerone® exams, is the co-organizer of the Road to Cicerone Q&A series, is a regular homebrewer whose beers frequently pop up on the BeerMenus HQ page, and a huge proponent of dry-hopping cold-brew coffee.