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Feb 9, 2011 11:52 AM

Beer with Italian food

This could be too vauge or not even possible.. I am going to eat for my friends bday who is a avid beer geek and wanted to bring something to the table.. It is a BYOB italian place and want to make sure the beer wont screw up the food. any suggestions on style or specifics

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  1. How about Italian beer like Peroni or Moretti?

    14 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      If the friend is a "beer geek", they probably wouldn't want the mass produced Itialian beers that aren't much different than Bud. There are some good Italian beers, but I don't see a reason that they should be required. From what I've seen, they seem to be expensive in North America too. If you do want to go for large format Italian beers, ones from Baladin or Panil are nice.

      I think something like Chimay Premiere (the red one) would work nicely and that seems to be available everywhere. I also think IPA's work with Italian, but I think IPA's work with everything.

      1. re: kwjd

        As an avowed beer geek, I can tell you that if I go somewhere that has a fresh keg of Peroni on draft I will happily order and drink it, because that beer when fresh is very, very good.

        The biggest problem with Italian beers in the US (whether it be Moretti, Peroni, or Baladin) is freshness - the beer takes a long time to travel a long distance, and because of the expense (particularly the small production craft brews like Baladin) the beers sit on the shelves for a really long time.

        Lastly, shouldn't it matter what the specific food is? Italian food is extremely diverse, and to say that "IPA goes with Italian food" is to ignore anything and everything we know about pairing beer with food.

        1. re: Josh

          I've had fresh Peroni cans (just as they got to Ontario) and it was still pretty meh. It really doesn't take that long to get here, it was probably as fresh as local pilsners that are 100 times better.

          I did say I think IPA's go with everything... but I'm going to assume that if beer is for sharing and not everyone is getting the same thing, you aren't going to be able to pair everything perfectly.

          1. re: kwjd

            I've done a lot of beer/food pairing and I'd say the opposite - I think IPAs generally do not pair well with food, with a few exceptions.

            1. re: Josh

              I'd agree with Josh here. The dominant flavor component of IPAs is bitterness from predominantly west coast hop varieties. I can't think of too many foods where you would intentionally add a bitter component to supplement the inherent flavors of the dish. There are, of course, exceptions, like burgers and fries, or other deep fried foods where the IPA would cut through the fat and grease. I'd also concur that it's impossible to suggest a beer (or a wine for that matter) without knowing what's going to be served. Pasta in a tomato sauce, for instance, would require a beverage that's quite different in its flavor profile than say pasta with clam sauce. I will say that Belgian and German beers, or their American variations, in particular are more amenable to food than hoppy American or even British ales. Domestically, you should be able to find a beer from Ommegang or Allagash that would complement most food styles. I'm not a slave to beer, though, and if a great wine is available, that's fine by me too.

              1. re: chuckl

                I still disagree. I drink a lot of IPA's with food and (except for the rare occassion) I don't eat anything deep fried or with tons of grease. I think hoppy flavours work great with anything tomato based.

                Typically Italian restaurants do not have very good beer (here at least), so I do not order beer there. I go with wine typically.

                1. re: kwjd

                  "I think hoppy flavours work great with anything tomato based."

                  Do you have a rationale to support this statement?

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    My preference? I don't know how to prove something subjective like taste.

                    Edit: This came from Sam Adams website on Pastas & Sauce Pairings:
                    "Hoppy beers can help balance a tomato’s astringency and acidity, as well as lift any heavy richness in a sauce."


                    I'm not saying they are the authority on beer and food pairings, but I'm clearly not out by myself with this opinion. You can disagree, fine, but I really thought this was a fairly common opinion that tomato sauce and IPA's work together.

                    1. re: kwjd

                      Typically pairing involves like flavors. A surprising pairing, until you really analyze it, is carrot cake with malty IPA. But there you can point to the malt working with the sweetness of the dessert, the hop flavor with the spicing and astringency from the nuts, and work out what's happening on your palate.

                      When pairing wines with tomato sauces, astringency (like you might find in a young Cabernet) is very bad. Wines like barbera, which has no tannin to speak of, are much better. Given that IPAs tend towards astringency from the high alpha acid content, to me they seem like the exact thing one doesn't want to pair with tomato sauce.

                      1. re: kwjd

                        I was curious as to WHY you felt the way you did about this pairing. Clue us in on HOW it works for you ya know? No too much to ask on a food obsessed website I hope;) Anyway thanks for providing a rationale from another source. Do you agree with their rationale (i.e. hoppy beers balancing out astringency and acidity)?

                        1. re: Chinon00

                          I really can't give you a satisfactory answer. I agree with the conclusion that I quoted, but I'm not sure if I agree with the rationale. I probably shouldn't be a beer sommelier because I'm horrible at trying to describe these things.

                      2. re: Chinon00

                        I think that kwjd's affinity for hoppy ales and Italian food is simply a matter of preference. There isn't need for him/her to provide supporting documents or to cite prior research.

                        Beer is beer. It tastes good, fills you up and brings on that warm, tingling glow of being slowly and carefully poisoned. My taste for British Ales will be snubbed by those who enjoy picking hop cones out of their teeth after each 6oz. snifter of "Tooth-Chipper Imperial IPA."

                        Suggestions have been made but I don't think that quoting beer pairing guides will change one's opinion in matters of taste.

                        1. re: Ernie Diamond

                          If someone can present an explanation for why something works, that's persuasive. I was initially very skeptical of the IPA/Carrot cake pairing, but once I tried it for myself I could see why it worked. Frequently in beer/food pairing discussions people will retreat to the position that it's simply a matter of preference, but I think one ought to be able to explain what it is that's happening in their mouth that leads them to their conclusion. Some of us are pedants. :-)

                          1. re: Josh

                            Well said.

                            I admit that I find the pairing argument a little tough to appreciate. I love the idea of drinking something that developed alongside my chosen meal but beyond that, it strikes me as being somewhat fussy.

        2. I'm not sure where you're located, so your ability to actually get any of these beers is likely predicated on that, but check out this fun article (now 3 years old, hard to believe!) about Italian craft beers: They are becoming easier to find in some US markets, and I would think that a "beer geek" would enjoy something that is rather novel.

          Also, there are a couple of threads on this topic over at the beer advocate:

          There are some interesting beers being aged in wine barrels or even made with some wine these days, and a couple that come to mind are the Victor and Victoria from Maine's Allagash brewery. They have a fairly wide distribution, though these two are tougher to find than some of their other flagships.

          I personally like some of the lighter Belgians (or Belgian style) and Farmhouse Ales when I make my homestyle, Italian-American food, but that might just be my personal palate- some that come to mind right away are LaChouffe, Goose Island Matilda, Castillion's Blonde Bier de Garde, and the Unibroue Blanche de Chambly. But I am definitely not a pairing expert!

          Finally, I just want to say I think it's great that you're getting into your friend's love of beer for his/her b-day. So many people roll their eyes when I say I enjoy good beer much more than wine, particularly with a cuisine such as Italian. If I can convince those wine drinkers to try a really special beer, they're often pleasantly surprised.

          1. It's very tough to give any advice without knowing what kind of Italian food it is. If you're talking about the standard Americanized southern-Italian red-checkered tablecloth type of place, with lots of red sauces and pizza, then I don't know if there's really a good beer option out there for you. I've actually enjoyed simple lagers with pizza - the grain character of the beer matches well with the sweetness of the dough, and a little hop crispness gives some refreshment.

            If it's something more like Northern Italian then I'd second erin_grogan's suggestions of lighter Belgians like witbier or saison.

            Italian food isn't really an easy thing to pair with beer, IMO, especially when tomato sauce is involved.

            1. Italian wines tend to be food friendly due to acidity. Therefore I'd choose a Flanders Red Ale or Oud Bruin which are very sharp and acidic. Flanders for red meat and pork and a lighter dryer Oud Bruin for fish, fowl or vegetarian.

              1. If your friend is like most (some/many/any/ all) beer geeks, the sorts of beers he favors are not complimentary to Italian food. I second Josh (no huge surprise) that a high quality, clean continental pilsner or lager would go admirably. That is, of course assuming that you are doing the "red sauce" thing.

                As you get farther north, I think that your options expand to include anything from German alts to Belgian wits and browns. Traditionally made roggenbiers could pair quite well with the cuisines of the Italian alps, but I don't think there are many restaurants that specialize in Lombardian food.

                I think that you should throw pairing out the window and just bring a bottle of something for dessert or that is otherwise hard to come by. If you really want to go Italian, look for bottles by Birra Montegioco; very unique, very fun.