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Jan 28, 2009 10:27 AM

Beer vs. Wine (Round 2)

There has been an interesting conversation going on on a couple different boards and I thought I'd try give this discussion its own space.

Is beer as suitable to be paired with food as wine has been traditionally paired with food?

If so, is beer more suitable for some foods than wine and is wine more suitable for some foods than beer?

(Where does saké -- technically closer to beer than wine -- fit into this equation as well??)


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  1. 1 - Yes
    2 - Not necessarily
    3 - Depends on the dish

    1 Reply
    1. re: Josh

      I almost got in a fist fight with my older brother about this.

      The only things beer has on wine is:

      1.) beer's ability to incorporate just about anything without being a cardinal sin (think raisons, white fig, sage, whiskey barrels versus the pitiful apple cranberry wine, etc.) and

      2.) the fact that "bitterness" is not something you'll find in wines.

      That being said, there's not a single dish that some beer cannot handle easily. That's not always the case with wine (artichokes? where's my sommelier?)

    2. Yes, beer is as suitable to pair with foods as is wine.

      Yes, beer fits more with some foods than with others, and wine fits better with some foods than with others, and some beers work great with some foods, while other beers belong nowhere near the same foods, and the same goes with wines. Isn't getting a good match between food and beverage the whole idea of pairing.

      Which foods go better with what? That's all a matter of opinion.

      As examples:

      I would never consider drinking wine along with chili. The right beverage for me is beer. But some beers, like Guiness don't work for me. An amber beer with a fair amount of hops fits for me.

      A good steak can fit with either beer or wine, depending on my mood, and accompanying dishes, etc. I might enjoy any number of beers or red wines with a steak.

      A plate of German sausages and food would not normally fit well with an English bitter, but a Kostritzer Dark Lager works well.

      A Swiss fondue for me really does not work with beer, it calls for a wine.

      Generally, pairing a type of cuisine with beverages that have the same origins works for me. But, in some circumstances things can be mixed.

      I don't know enough about sake to opine in that regard.

      In the end, eat and drink what you like.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Captain

        Vinho verde would be a brilliant pairing with chili.

        Swiss fondue would be great with gueuze.

        1. re: Josh

          Not for me, but if you enjoy those pairings, then ENJOY!

          1. re: Captain

            Forgive my skepticism, but I doubt you've tried either one of those pairings.

            1. re: Josh

              I haven't, and I admit that I am unlikely to do so. Perhaps I am close-minded, but I've had both vinho verde and gueuze. Neither tastes anything like what I want to drink with the respective dishes. If you do, that's great. I'm not fighting you on it. It's just not for me.

              Gueuze could work for me with some cheeses, but if someone made me pick a beer to have with fondue, I'd probably go for something like a doppelbock, maybe Aventinus. If I had to have wine with chili, it would definitely be a red, a big fruity Malbec.

              If you want to find the perfect wine to serve with chili, or think you have done so, awesome.

              1. re: Captain

                Vinho verde works very well with anything that is fatty and/or spicy. The light effervescence, low alcohol, and high acidity would make it a great match for chili - much more so than a red wine, IMO. I haven't actually tried it, but I think it'd be an inspired pairing.

                This is the same reason I'd pair gueuze with fondue - light, effervescent, low alcohol, and bracing acidity to cut through the richness of the cheese. Again, not one I've tried, but I think it'd be very good.

                1. re: Josh

                  I guess your respective pairings have different objectives. The doppelbock is more about matching rich, nutty flavors, for a cohesive pairing. The gueuze is more of a contrast, cleaning the palate and hopefully making the next bite taste as good as the first.

                  I've wanted to try gueuze with my fondue before, but the problem is that I've already opened the wine I used in the fondue, and might as well drink it. I suppose I could solve that by making the fondue with gueuze, but then I've changed the game.

                  1. re: nfo

                    Invite more people to share the fondue, and either give them the wine, or drink the wine before the fondue and have the gueuze with it after.

                    1. re: nfo

                      "The doppelbock is more about matching rich, nutty flavors, for a cohesive pairing. The gueuze is more of a contrast, cleaning the palate and hopefully making the next bite taste as good as the first"

                      Exactly! I think that it comes down to personal preference. I prefer the later and have difficulty finding many pairings in the beer world that satisfy it. Again for me the higher the malt and richness of the beer (or the oak and or residual sugar of wine) the more it starts to "compete for minutes" (to use a sports analogy) with the meal. Some like that. I don't.

                      1. re: Chinon00

                        I think this is right, and it also seems to fit how I eat and drink. I tend to eat when food is in front of me and rarely lift the glass in front of me, until I am done with the food. My habits, good or bad (I realize that many may criticize), don't really create a place for cleaning out my palate. So, for me, it's all about a cohesive pairing.

                    2. re: Josh

                      I was thinking about making fondue the other day so I was looking at a bunch of recipes and pretty much all call for Kirsch, a sour cherry aperitif. Which leads me to think hat gueuze could pair really well with fondue and you could maybe even make it with the gueuze instead of kirsch.

                      1. re: DougOLis

                        Yum, sign me up. Get Blair to do it at Hammy's.

          2. So, to add my general agreement with those of the others, we have our unscientific survey of four posters saying that beer can be paired and it depends on the dish and one's palate as to which is "more suitable."

            I wonder if you would get as generous a reply if you posted your question on the wine board...

            Several years ago I had an omakase (chef's choice) tasting dinner at Morimoto in Philadelphia. He offered a "beverage pairing" that included wine, beer, and sake throughout the courses; selecting the particular drink as he would another ingredient on the dish: to create a particular taste experience. And to good effect.

            1. I’ve had some good experiences pairing beer and food. The only difference that I see with beer is that it takes up more room on the palate than wine generally. And often I find that it can act almost like an equal player on the palate with the meal, where many wines act almost as a condiment would. So it depends on what you prefer I guess.

              10 Replies
              1. re: Chinon00

                I agree in a lot of instances, especially with modern craft brewers' tendency towards excessive hopping. That's why I generally prefer witbiers, nut browns, and gueuze for food purposes. They are less obtrusive, IMO.

                1. re: Josh

                  there are quite a few foods that saisons pair nicely with too. IMO

                  1. re: DougOLis

                    I've heard that. I have yet to find the pairing that does it for me. Something about the phenolic flavors in most saisons make it tough for food pairing to me.

                    1. re: Josh

                      I think Saisons are extraordinary with Thai food.

                2. re: Chinon00

                  Josh - I mostly agree with staying away from the big hoppy and big alcohol brews. Although, that being said, there some great desserts that would pair well with some bigger, heartier brews and I'm sure if you had some BBQ in front of you, you wouldn't turn down a double IPA... well, at least I wouldn't.

                  That being said, for every one "excessive[ly] hopp[ed]" beer a brewer makes, they'll typically make a handful of sessionable beers. While it was a very general trend to go big with hops, I'm a bit dubious of lumping all "craft" beers under that blanket. Plus, there's been a growth in properly integrating that hoppiness by more carefully choosing the varieties and when during the brewing process they get used. Thus, "hoppiness" isn't just going to be about bitterness.

                  Chinon00 - you've just hit on a common misperception about beer and food. There's beers that are lighter than a Sauv Blanc and as rich and hearty and deep as ports and sherries. A perfect example: with spicy asian food, a hearty white like a gewürtztraminer would be a common choice. I find it too heavy and lacking in refreshment and would instead go for a dry and crisp lager.

                  1. re: mrgrotto

                    I personally consider guenze to be a great food friendly beverage so I'm aware of the diversity. For me if you can keep the malt character down in beer (e.g. German Pils, Gueuze) it can be as food friendly as anything else. But therein lies the rub.

                    1. re: mrgrotto

                      Floral hop character can be nice with certain kinds of foods.

                      Best pairing I've had with spicy Asian food was actually a bottle of Etienne Dupont's Cidre Bouche du Normande. It's an unfiltered, unpasteurized hard cider, with a really funky wild yeast character. It's light, crisp, earthy, and paired amazingly well with some super hot szechuan food.

                      1. re: Josh

                        Josh, do you know where I can find Etienne Dupont in San Diego?

                        1. re: DougOLis

                          Holiday Wine Cellar for sure. Whole Foods has had it sporadically.

                        2. re: Josh

                          Mmmm... Good thinking. There's a spontaneously fermented Basque cider called Isastegi that's got kind of a wild-yeast funk and gueze dryness to it that I'munna try next time. It's mostly still but the traditional super-long pouring method works some bubbles into it.

                          Great suggestion on the cider front.

                    2. >>> Is beer as suitable to be paired with food as wine has been traditionally paired with food? <<<

                      >>> If so, is beer more suitable for some foods than wine and is wine more suitable for some foods than beer? <<<

                      >>> (Where does saké -- technically closer to beer than wine -- fit into this equation as well??) <<<
                      It depends upon the specific saké and the specific food.

                      True bottom line: it's ALL about what YOU (the individual with the glass in his/her hand) prefer.