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Dec 13, 2010 09:17 PM

Good Food Pairing Beers?

I was reading a top 25 beer list: and it made me want to do more good beers with meals because I'm not a huge wine guy.

Have you had any of the beers on the list or any suggestions for beers that are great with beef or fish dishes?


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  1. In general, Belgian and German styles are very food friendly. In my opinion, hoppy American IPAs are not the best complements for food. Specifically, it all depends on what you're having. Beef, I might go for a weiznbock or a Belgian dubbel. Fish, it depends on the fish. I've had about half the beers on the list, and I can attest to the quality of the pils, Victory Prima and Trumer are both excellent. Victory is hoppier and in my opinion, a more extreme version of the pils style. DuganA is an outstanding ale. Temptation is also very good. Curious to see that they did not include any Dogfish Head at all, or the iconic Pliny the Elder from RR Brewing, but no list will be perfect. For more specific discussions check out

    1. There's no short answer to your question. My suggestion would be to read this book:

      I will say that the question you asked (beef and fish) comes down to preparation. I wouldn't drink the same beer with fish and chips as I would with poached salmon, bouillabaise, or waterzooi.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Josh

        Agree with Josh here. Pairing is going to be more dictated by the preparation and spicing than the main ingredient, per se. I think much education and experimentation is in order!! One good beer pairing that I've personally fallen upon is West Coast IPAs with spicy Asian food. Sichuan in particular. Your mileage may vary!

      2. I agree with chuckl about it depending on the food you're having, but I disagree about hoppy IPAs not being good compliments for food. I think a good IPA, especially one using citrusy hops, compliments oily foods very well (such as skin on salmon and well-marbled rib-eyes). I've read reviews on about 12 beers on the list, yet I've only had Loose Cannon, and that pairs very well with fish and chips.

        +1 with Josh, preparation will change the pairing. Poached salmon is a candidate for an IPA whereas cherry smoked salmon would be well paired with a stout.

        I think that pairing beer with food is almost like adding one more ingredient to the dish. An oily dish deserves a citrusy IPA for additional contrast, a hearty stew or soup is easily complimented by a stout or porter, and a rich dessert can be better with a lighter wheat beer.

        1. The really hoppy IPAs are great for spicy hot foods, though a very strong sweet beer (think of a Belgian Tripel) often works well with Thai-spicy Thai foods.

          1. It's funny, the big, hoppy, West Coast IPAs frequently are labeled as "tough" to pair with food. Yet, I love them with good, spicy, Asian foods - especially preparations with plenty of fragrance. It's nice to see others here with similar inclinations.

            29 Replies
            1. re: MGZ

              What DON'T you like IPA paired with? What would you say it DOESN'T work w/ and why?


              1. re: Chinon00

                Well, to me, they're generally too big for sushi or other, more subtle Asian offerings. (Although, I admit, I've enjoyed some with raw oysters.) I'd also exclude Italian food from those I enjoy with IPAs - but, then again, I'm not sure any beer really works with tomato based dishes. Can't say I've ever tried a hoppy IPA with classic French fare, but I suppose the preparation would really determine appropriateness.

                I suppose a general thread, for me, seems to be big flavors go together well. A big nosed IPA with a thick, charred-rare steak is what I'm thinking about right now.

                1. re: MGZ

                  Hoppy beers like IPA and DIPA paired w/ spicy food seems to ALWAYS be suggested for pairing here and other places. I'm a fan of both but have never found them to pair very well. Having said that I won't hesistate to order an IPA/DIPA w/ my hot wings. But not because I think that they pair well (I actually think that they're a bad pairing) but because I like both things. So I almost enjoy them separately. What I think does pair well with hoppy beers is greasy food like french fries, fried fish, tempura, etc because the hops scrub and lift the grease off the tongue while overrall the weight of the flavors are equal.
                  I'm not going to tell you that you are not enjoying what you are eating I just wonder do you like the pairing or are you just enjoying two of your favorite things.

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    I can't speak for others but in my experience, I definitely experienced a pairing effect a West Coast IPA with Sichuan i.e. the beer complimented the food and vice versa. That said, I think this was a pretty specific pairing. Sichuan foods like Kung Pao, mabo tofu, dan dan, etc. typically draw spice from chilis, garlic, ginger, bean paste, etc. "Spicy Asian food" is a fairly broad category in itself. I'm not sure an big citrusy IPA would go well with a Thai curry or pho or other foods in that category. But I'm willing to give it a try!!

                    1. re: steveprez

                      You left out Sichuan peppercorns. Hey I love Dan Dan noodles, Tripe in Chili oil, hot pot and all the rest but having that quantity and quality of spicy heat in my mouth and then introducing potent hops to it as well did not work for me and I just really fail to see how it could. Even though many IPA have some herbal and floral characteristics they wouldn't be IPA without bitterness though. And I don't care how much floral character an IPA might have because when that significant bitterness meets a blast of chili paste and sichuan pepper I don't see magic happening. I see uncontrolled pain.;)

                    2. re: Chinon00

                      I completely agree with you about fatty foods. I think that's probably why I enjoyed a Racer 5 with a piece of prime ribe recently. I will also admit that sometimes I will drink what I like/want with anything. I mean, I've got no problem with a "thinner" Rhone blend with roast lamb.

                      As to, say, good Thai, I find it matching with the floral, herbal freshness that is essential to many dishes more so than the capsicum heat.

                      1. re: Chinon00

                        Agreed 100%. A friend and I have put together a couple of beer dinners with an emphasis on spicy food and we've never used an IPA. The closest was a moderately hoppy pale that had a hop profile leaning heavier on floral/citrus notes, with very little bitterness.

                        Hop bitterness + spiciness is a very poor pairing, IMO.

                        1. re: Josh

                          It certainly works for me. Like most things dealing with food, it's a matter of taste.

                          Enjoy your holiday food and beer (and wine) pairings everyone! I'm off for a week of skiing in Whistler.

                          1. re: steveprez

                            You stated above that you definitely experience a pairing effect. But you sort of stopped there; not really fleshing out any details of how they compliment each other. I understand that it "works" for you. I just wanna know how specifically. It might be a case where you enjoy the amplification of spiciness that hops are known to provide spicy food. Or maybe it's something else.

                            1. re: steveprez

                              Usually successful pairings have a reason why they work. For example, malty brown ales often work well with charred or grilled meat because of the melanoidins found in both. LIght lagers often work well with spicy foods because of their palate refreshing qualities.

                              Having tried a number of hoppy beers with spicy food, and almost always finding nothing to like about the combination, I'd be curious to know what you like about the match.

                              1. re: Josh

                                Fair questions, gentlemen. I did want to comment on the "Why" of the pairing but it's been a couple of months since I engaged this particular pairing and didn't want to rely too strongly on (my fading) memory. But since you asked.....

                                What I remember best about this pairing was the ability of the IPA to simultaneously knock down the heat and cut through the oiliness that often accompanies Sichuan foods. Thus, the IPA came across as very refreshing and palate cleansing. Capsaicin is soluble in fat and cutting the oil seemed to prepare me for the next bite with a clean tongue. I find when I eat spicy food if I don't knock down the heat intermittently I become numb to the spice and other flavors as well. The IPAs seem to do this. Others have claimed that big IPAs go well with spicy food because they're bold, though I don't personally subscribe to a like+like pairing philosophy.

                                On a related topic. IPAs were originally developed to serve the India export market, hence the name, and the hops were purposely increased. I wonder how much this was based on spicy Indian food??? Thoughts?

                                Thanks for engaging on this fun topic!!

                                1. re: steveprez

                                  First the export to India topic. The legend is that a beer with increased hoppiness would survive the long journey from England to India since hops are a preservative. It had nothing to do with pairing with Indian cuisine. As for IPA knocking down heat I don't know what to tell ya. If that's what you experience so be it.
                                  Again it's my conclusion that it's a case of people liking certain foods and liking certain beers and being convinced that it's a pairing when it's actually two things being appreciated seperately.

                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                    The only thing I can think of is that if you had a maltier IPA, with low bittering, then I can see it working. For example, Grand Teton's Sweetgrass IPA.

                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                      Stimulated by this topic I've done a little more reading on the topic and apparently the 'legend' that the additional hops was a preservative is just that,a legend. Other lower hopped beers were shipping to India just fine. That doesn't mean that the popularity of IPAs was based on food, tho.

                                      WRT your theory on pairings versus enjoying things separately, perhaps an alternative explanation is that peoples sensitivities to various taste and flavor sensations vary widely and what is a good pairing to one may not be obvious to another, I.e. there's no objective definition of a good pairing.

                                      Happy Holidays!

                          2. re: MGZ

                            A "big nosed IPA with a thick, charred-rare steak" sure does sound tasty.

                            While not all Italian food is tomato based, I think beers that compliment Italian and tomato based dishes include the wheat and stout (possibly porter) styles. Generally, a beer style that is more malt than hop which will offer a sweetness that will counter the acidity of the tomato.

                            However, since many Italian dishes call for the use of olive oil, a citrusy IPA is the perfect beer to offer an acidic counter to the oil.

                            I agree that an IPA might be too big to serve with sushi, but for that reason I think an IPA would be good to serve as a palate cleanser while eating sushi. But then there's the big nosed IPA with a thick, charred-rare, mm, good..

                            1. re: HeBrew

                              "I agree that an IPA might be too big to serve with sushi . . ."

                              Depends on the sushi. I could imagine IPA working w/ a tempura roll. The rich greasiness of the roll countered by both the weight and hoppiness of the beer.

                              1. re: Chinon00

                                Of course, and IPA would be a disaster with sushi.
                                For a tempura roll, I would stick with a good, stiff green tea which has some bitterness that is very clean, but no flavors that would be out of place with sushi. By the way, you would never find a tempura roll in Japan.

                                1. re: Tripeler

                                  Agree with IPA not being a good pairing for sushi. Not "clean" enough. But disagree about not finding tempura rolls in Japan. I've been twice this year and have seen tempura rolls a few times. Apparently, "American style" sushi is becoming popular in Japan.

                                  1. re: steveprez

                                    But would you describe the flavor of the tempura roll as clean? I would not.
                                    What I like about sashimi (cleanness) is far different from what I like about tempura rolls.

                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                      Last New Years Eve I did a 8 course tasting menu (never again), but the tuna sashimi paired with Unibroue Blanche de Chambley was, as my wine and spirits snob BIL said was "perfect".

                                      1. re: niquejim

                                        Blanche de chambly is a great beer, nice job on that pairing.

                                      2. re: Chinon00

                                        Frankly I've never had a tempura roll as they're typically made with shrimp tempura and i have a shellfish allergy. I suspect the flavor could range from clean and crispy to greasy depending on how well the tempura is made.

                                        1. re: steveprez

                                          Tempura being fried wouldn't readily be described as "clean tasting" by me; particularly when eaten along side something like sashimi. It's a fried and therefore rich tasting item.

                                      3. re: steveprez

                                        Yes, you are right. Sushi containing tempura is occasionally seen in supermarkets and convenience stores, but I don't think you could get a serious sushi shop to make one if asked. However, I read about a sushi place in the Azabu neighborhood that specializes in U.S.-style sushi like those multi-fish rolls and the abominations that i call Monster Truck Rolls.

                                        Still, hot green tea is best with sushi. For me, at least.

                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                          Not sure what your definition of a 'serious' sushi shop is but I've seen tempura rolls in a fairly high end sushi restaurant near the Shirokenadai neighborhood in Tokyo. The place was very popular with Japanese and global celebrities as the place had pictures of the owner with many celebs. I don't remember the name of the place (it also had a Romanji sign) having written it down but some how lost it as I was on a three country business/pleasure/family visit trip to Asia.

                                          I also saw shrimp tempura rolls at a private business dinner at a hotel in Osaka. It was served futomaki style.

                                          I believe the place in Azabu that you are referring to is called Rock n' Roll Sushi. It focuses on American style sushi. Places like this ar proliferating in Japan as American style sushi is becoming very popular.

                                          1. re: steveprez

                                            The place in Azabu with U.S. style sushi is called Rainbow Roll, and I haven't heard of Rock n' Roll Sushi, but times are right for a place like that. I still don't think American style sushi is that popular or widespread yet, though with more Japanese visiting and living in the U.S. there is bound to be some crossover. For me, I just stick to the old-school sushi bars and izakaya where things are fairly old-fashioned, so likely American-style sushi is more popular than I realize. However, in my local sake bar (Sasagin in Yoyogi Uehara) they have been serving a few gorgonzola-ae and blue-cheese sauce dishes in recent years. Oddly, those go really well with yamahai style sake. Fortunately, the house beer is the draft-only Edel Pils from Sapporo, which really packs a hop wallop for a pilsener style.

                                  2. re: HeBrew

                                    IPA, a "palate cleanser"? more like a palate coater.
                                    for sushi or even tempura sushi, a strong pale Belgian like Pranqster would be a good choice

                                    1. re: chuckl

                                      I would think that the distinct Belgian yeast character would destroy the delicate flavors of raw fish and vinegared rice in sushi. A good mildly hopped lager may be better.

                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                        Exactly, the yeast forward fruity Belgian I'd think would further cloud the issue.