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Mar 8, 2011 07:53 PM

Beer with sushi

I prefer wine to beer, and pretty much limit my beer consumption to sushi meals and occasionally Chinese food. When I do drink beer with sushi I prefer Asahi Super Dry or Sapporo. I'm not so keen on Tsingtao, maybe because it tastes kind of bitter to me.

Anyway, I'm in the market to buy some beer for a sushi dinner party coming up. SmuttyNose (a sampler), Heineken, Amstel and Yuengling are all on sale at the local grocery store. Would any of these work with sushi and other Japanese food?

I'd also be interested in ideas for lower-priced recommendations to Asahi or Sapporo. On the other hand, if 'Hounds think Asahi and Sapporo are really unmatched when it comes to Japanese food, I'd like to know that too.


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  1. IMO, with sushi, you should always go with a good lager or a good wheat beer/weizen. Your basic Yuengling Lager works nicely in this regard, and is dirt cheap.

    Also hefeweizen plays really well with sushi and sashimi.

    Kirin, Sapporro and Ashai brand lagers are all popular brands for sushi munching, and they were all derived from German lagers and pilsners back in the 1800's, so you can't go wrong with any variation on them.

    Tsintao's a pilsner, so it'll have a bit of a bitter bite. Most pilsners aren't that good to combine with sushi due to the bitter bite. IMO, it's a distraction from the flavor of the sushi.

    23 Replies
    1. re: deet13

      deet13, your reply is really helpful and packed with lots of information :) I've actually had wheat beer in the past and now that you mention it, I do recall liking it

      Okay, so I think I'll probably go with the Yuengling. The price can't be beat: $9.99 for a 12-pack! One last question. Serving Yuengling to my guests won't be like serving Pabst Blue Ribbon or anything, will it? I mean, what's Yuengling's reputation? These are good friends I'm having over, so I don't need something super-fancy or pretentious, but I also don't want them to think they're getting served a cheap beer, either (even if it is well-priced).

      1. re: uwsgrazer

        IMO, if you're able to keep in budget, grab a couple of different 6 packs of lagers, and a decent and inexpensive hefeweizen/wheat beer like Paulander or Sam Adams Coastal Wheat to serve along with the Yuengling.

        As to whether or not Yuengling is like PBR? I don't think so. Yuengling sets up regional brewerys, and the company has a pretty good reputation. While my selection might send some of the micro-brewery beer puristas into a snit, remember that inexpensive doesn't always mean low brow, nor low brau.

        Remember that this is about the flavor, and not the label. So drink what you like.

        1. re: deet13

          That's a good idea, to get a selection. I'm not familiar with Paulander or Sam Adams CW, so I'll try to check them out as well. While I am trying to contain costs, what's also making it tough is that I just don't really like to drink beer and so it makes spending the bucks harder, if that makes sense!

        2. re: uwsgrazer

          A lot depends on your audience. If your guests are "good" beer drinkers, Yuengling is probably not a favorite. It is a step up from PBR, but not really a good beer. I would recommend sticking with Japanese beers for a sushi night. At least everyone will appreciate the theme. Or, if you have a good beer/wine place near you, go visit them and ask what is available at a good price.

          ETA: Gotta say, I'm a beer drinker and I'd rather drink PBR than Yuengling. The Y aftertaste really turns me off.

          1. re: mojoeater

            I don't think they're "good" beer drinkers, but I take your point about sticking with Japanese beers. I think I know what you're referring to about aftertaste. In fact I think that's one of the things I dislike about beer, in addition to a generally "bloated" feeling. But now I'm getting curious about what Yuengling actually tastes like. Maybe I'll have to buy some after all.

            1. re: uwsgrazer

              Yuengling is my favorite non-craft beer. After a few of them it becomes Yingling and after a a few more Yungling.

              I like the idea of going with the Japanese beers.

          2. re: uwsgrazer

            Price of beer is not necessarily an indicator of its quality. Prices of some beers are purposely set high to make people think they are buying a quality product (ie. Corona) and some $10 bombers/750ml craft beer is just plain undrinkable. deet13 has it correct, its about flavor, not a brand's label (or marketing).

            If you want a clean lager with no bitter aftertaste go with PBR (or Coors, Miller, Bud, Sappora, Kirin, et al - all pretty much the same beer imo) - and pour into a nice pilsner glass or small diameter cylindrical glass.

            But Yuengling should satisfy your anti-bitter palate as it is pretty sweet for a lager.

            That said, I go against popular convention and like a nice golden IPA or DIPA with sushi. Many will say that hop flavor will overpower the sushi - if that;s true than so would the wasabi and ginger it is served with. Stone IPA or Ruination fits perfectly here.

            1. re: LStaff

              Heh, I was thinking about suggesting an IPA; but I've never had them with sushi or sashimi, so I decided to hold my tongue on it.

              A 6-pack of the Stone IPA would probably be a nice brew to get, or if that's not available, the regular Stone Pale Ale would hit the mark.

              1. re: deet13

                I saw an IPA when I was shopping at Trader Joe's tonight. Anyone know how their IPAs are? For that matter, can someone recommend a TJ's lager as well?

                1. re: uwsgrazer

                  Do not buy IPA - the hop levels are generally too high for a good pairing with something delicately flavored like sushi.

                  And, FYI, if the sushi is good, dipping it in wasabi is a cardinal sin. The itame will apply the correct amount of wasabi when preparing the sushi so that it doesn't overpower the flavor.

                  And the ginger isn't there to be a complement to the sushi, it's there to cleanse the palate between different fish varieties, hence it's overpowering by design.

                  1. re: Josh

                    Though I often will follow my preference for big hoppy IPAs and enjoy them with more foods than Josh would, I could not agree with him more on this one. Especially, for people who do not drink a lot of that style of beer. (For what it's worth - he's right about the wasabi and ginger too.)

                    1. re: Josh

                      Why couldn't an IPA be used to cleanse the palate just like ginger?

                      I don't know about anyone else, but I usually chew and swallow my food before taking a drink, so the "overpowers the flavor of sushi" argument doesn't hold water imo.

                      FWIW, Garret Oliver who has been at forefront of beer and food pairings agreed with me that a floral IPA can go good with sushi when I posted the same thing on BeerAdvocate.

                      Just wondered, have you ever tried it yourself, or are you just promoting a theory (or popular thought) that it won't work?

                      1. re: LStaff

                        I wouldn't be adverse to trying it myself, but the thing to consider is that the ginger is pickled and your palate is being cleanse by the herb and the vinegar. It washes away pretty easily. In hoppy beers, you have the hop resin and oil that can coat your palate, tongue, even parts of your lips. So it's not exactly clearing the entire taste mechanism. It may be more of a question of whether the taste of an IPA complements or at least does not adversely affect what you are eating. But it is doubtful it is a palate cleanser.....And I'm a big fan of Mr. Oliver and certainly am interested what he has to say- but it is usually that beer goes with everything!

                        1. re: LStaff

                          I do not doubt that *some* IPAs could work with sushi - the problem is if you don't know much about beer, as is the case with the OP, how would you even know what kind of IPA you're buying?

                          I've tried a variety of attempts at IPA/food pairings, and I find it varies wildly depending on the IPA. For example, a friend of mine and I paired a mid-'90s, English-style malty IPA with a Thai dish, and it worked really well - but a super-hoppy astringent West Coast-style IPA certainly wouldn't have.

                          If an IPA is aggressively hopped in terms of bittering, I'd think the lingering astringency would be problematic for the delicate flavors. I can see a more floral, less bitter IPA, working well.

                      2. re: uwsgrazer

                        if you saw Mission Street IPA and Pale Ale, they're very good. I believe they're contract brewed at firestone walker.

                        1. re: uwsgrazer

                          Simpler Times lager at TJs. Don't be scared by the low price point ($2.99/ six pack in my neck of the woods) or the fact that it is in a can. Tasty without having an offensive aftertaste.

                          I love IPAs but wouldn't want even a really good one with sushi.

                          You're right about the origin of the Mission Street beers. The Brown Ale is amazing w/BBQ and other hearty/meat- heavy dishes and the Anniversary edition that comes out around the winter holidays was a work of art this year.

                          1. re: bbq babe

                            Thanks, babe. I'll check out TJ's Simpler Times the next time I'm in the market for some beer.

                            1. re: uwsgrazer

                              We tried TJ's Simpler Times lager the other night; it cost $3.99 / six pack in NYC! We drank it with a reasonably hot Chinese dish, not sushi.

                              I'd certainly be up for buying it more regularly, given the attractive price. I actually thought it was a bit sweet for my taste, and I tend to like sweet things. My dining companion was quite satisfied with the beer. He's more of a beer drinker than I am, though we both prefer wine. I was surprised that he didn't seem to find it too sweet.

                              1. re: uwsgrazer

                                My last sixer was sweeter than previous ones. If this is a purposeful change it's not for the better. Glad you liked it enough to repeat the experience.

                                My current in stock beer is something called "Game Day Ice". It's quite sweet but I will forgive that because it was $2.99/12 pack. I wouldn't want either of these with sushi but they are good enough to go with chips, etc. Still better than Bud, IMO.

                                1. re: bbq babe

                                  Wow, what an amazing price! I don't drink beer enough at this point to succumb to "Game Day", simply for the great price. But I am curious to see if it's on offer at my local TJs. I do know a Yuengling drinker who would likely gladly switch to save a few bucks!

                                  1. re: uwsgrazer

                                    The "Game Day" brand is a private label of 7-Eleven, not Trader Joe's.

                                    Brewed by either Minhas [La Crosse, WI] or Genesee [Rochester, NY], probably depending on region.

                                    1. re: JessKidden

                                      Wow! 7-11 brand, I really am slumming. Thanks for the info. Guess I should have mentioned that this was a bite the bullet and take your chances deal at Grocery Outlet (a discount store), not TJs. They also had Game Day Light but even I'm not going there.

                  2. While not as cheap as some of the others mentioned, Unibroue(Montreal) brewery's Blanche de Chambly makes a nice pairing with sushi. My wine snob BIL even said it was a perfect match for a beer dinner we did, and he picked the wines

                    1. I think witbiers are very well-suited to sushi pairing, more so than lagers. Allagash White, Unibroue Blanche De Chambly, or Avery White Rascal would work well. You could even go with Schmaltz Brwwing's hybrid lager/witbeir style, Albino Python lager.

                      Another good option is Asahi Black - this one is actually brewed in Japan, and is a great complement to sushi.

                      1. I would steer completely clear of IPA due to hoppiness which would overwhelm most sushi/ sashimi.
                        I agree with others suggestions of American Adjunct lager and wheat beers and would also add styles like Gueuze for their Champagne like qualities.


                        1. Um, you're having sushi, so why not sake? A party would be the perfect occasion to get some of the big bottles of Japanese sake that are out there. Serve cold. The big advantage (at least for me) is that sake is less hangover inducing than beer these days.

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: ted

                            Because it's more traditional to drink beer rather than sake with sushi.

                            1. re: Scott_R

                              If I counted the ways I break with custom according to that FAQ, it's a wonder I get served sushi at all. Fortunately, this gaijin lives in the 'sticks,' so expectations must be very low. Will have to brush up for when I make it to the big city.

                              Seriously, though, most of my Japanese meals consist of a variety of dishes (hot, cold, sushi, sashimi, etc). If I can't drink sake then, I'm not sure I have a time that I can.

                              1. re: Scott_R

                                Just why do you think that beer is more traditional with sushi than sake? I believe the bitterness in good beer interferes with sushi, while the flavor profile of good sake is virtually ideal.

                                1. re: Tripeler

                                  Not all "good" beer has significant bitterness. Hefeweizen is an example of a beer style usually offered at sushi bars which has no significant bitterness.

                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                    Yeah, but the phenolic aromas and flavors do not match raw fish well I believe.

                                    1. re: Tripeler

                                      Yeah if that doesn't suit you there are low hop styles such as Kolsch, gueuze, Helles lager, pale mild..

                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                        Of those, Kolsch is a possibility. But with Gueuze and sushi, you must be kidding.
                                        I have always maintained that hot green tea is best with sushi, and if you want something with alcohol, a good sake works very well. I think that many people having sushi gravitate towards beer out of habit.

                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                          What's wrong w/ gueuze?

                                          Edit: Why won't gueuze work w/ sushi?


                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                            Gueuze is far too acidic, and will wipe out the taste of well-seasoned shari, not to mention destroy delicate fish flavors.

                                            1. re: Tripeler

                                              With an oily fish like salmon, super white tuna, mackerel, the acid from the gueuze nicely counters the fat and cleanses the palate for me. Sake is not unpleasant and I really enjoy it I just find it doesn't cut the fat or cleanse the palate as well as beer or certain wines.

                                          2. re: Tripeler

                                            I think you're having the wrong beer with your sushi.

                                            There are many styles that work well, and not all styles of beer are aggressively hopped. There is more to beer than IPA and pale ale.

                                            Asahi Black is a great beer for sushi. It's got a subtle, soy sauce-like component to its flavor profile, and is refreshing and palate cleansing.

                                            I've had both sake and beer with sushi, and I prefer beer for its palate-cleansing effects. I think it's a little insulting to imply that a preference for beer is unconsidered.

                                            1. re: Josh

                                              Your point about it being insulting to imply that a preference for beer is unconsidered is well taken, particularly in the case of beer enthusiasts.
                                              However, I think that many people just do not like sake, and will choose beer for that reason.

                                            2. re: Tripeler

                                              I don't follow this myself, and it's not hard and fast, but I noticed many Japanese will start with a beer, move on to sake with appetizers and then switch to green tea with sushi. There is a thought that sake does not go well with the sushi rice.

                                              This is in a meal that includes a sushi course (after starting with appetizers and sashimi).

                                              I'm OK with sake and sushi. And, I've quizzed my Japanese dining companions who agree that it's up to personal taste.

                                              1. re: jman1

                                                By traditional, banquet/ kaiseki, dining convention, sake is not to be taken with a rice course being that it is made from rice itself. Sushi is not a traditional dish that dates back to that practice, but many sushi restaurants and chefs may adhere to this on principle. I've seen sushi chefs in Japan mildly scold diners on drinking sake with sushi and some chefs may not even serve it. Not a hard and fast rule, but this is the conventional wisdom. It would be nice to see this broken and explored. But for me, sake is a bit too floral and delicate for sushi. Personally, I prefer beer or shochu-oolong tea cocktails with sushi as I feel the bitterness is a nice complement and there's a sense of palate cleansing as well.

                                  2. re: ted

                                    Carbonation is one reason beer works with sushi, and saki is not carbonated so far as i know. Al things being equal, hitachino nest white would be a good choice or a saison like hennipin or dupont