Craft Beer and Food Pairing Cheat Sheet

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As many of you know, we recently attended BeerNow, a conference geared towards craft beer journalists and bloggers. While beer was definitely the focus, the cheese came in a very close second, as in a beer and cheese food pairing event.

Beer and Cheese Pairing – Yum!

Sounds a bit uppity, right? That’s what I thought at first, too. Like, seriously why not just eat the food you want while drinking the beer you want, and leave the food pairing to the wine geeks out there. Well, the wine geeks out there actually know a thing or two about alcohol and food pairing, so the beer geeks out there should listen up.

BeerNow Conference 2019 beer and food pairing a saison with cheese

Picture this, a hotel conference room set up with hotel conference room tables, chairs, water pitchers, the ever important podium up front with the projector to show off the Power Point presentations that the presenters worked so hard on. That’s where the normalcy stops.

The trays of cheese come marching in as though by their own forces. With god-like power, they stop conversations mid-syllable. iPhones are whipped out of pockets with lightning speed – these brilliant colors need to be shared on social media immediately.

BeerNow Conference 2019 Beer and Food Pairing - bloggers taking photos of cheese

Then comes the beer; you thought the cheese had power. The mops, brought in soon after, couldn’t keep up with the drool. We were kids in a candy shop, except this candy was beer and cheese, and the shop was offering it to us for free. Barely containing our excitement, we forced ourselves to wait for instructions. Yes, if you want the proper pairing experience, you must know two things: how to taste and how to pair.

BeerNow Conference 2019 Beer being served to pair with food

How to Taste Paired Food and Beer

Relax, it’s not as difficult as it sounds.

  • Taste the beer.
    • Like any good craft beer lover, smell it first. Swirl it around in the glass. Breathe it in. Take a sip. Relish and take note of the flavors.
  • Taste the cheese.
    • Soak in the colors. Notice the textures and the feel of it on your fork. Take a taste. Relish and take note of the flavors, just like you did the beer.
  • Now taste the beer and cheese together.
    • Take a bite of the cheese again, and then immediately take a sip of the beer. If paired properly, the flavors will enhance each other while providing a perfect balance. Who am I kidding, if paired properly, the beer and cheese kick ass!
  • Example
    • One pairing that stood out was a Camembert Cheese from Cheeses of Europe (a soft and creamy cheese made in Normandy from cow’s milk with mushroomy, earthy flavors and a silky texture) paired with a Bramble Berry (tart, ripe blackberry flavors) Sour from Mighty Mo Brewing Company in Great Falls, Montana. The flavors of the cheese cut through the kettle soured ale perfectly balancing the tartness of the beer with the earthy flavors of the cheese. I am not a sour fan, and this pairing was heavenly.
BeerNow Conference 2019 soft white cheese on a fork with beer in the background

So how do you properly pair beer and cheese together? Or beer with other food? Sanjay Agnihotri from Lakeshore Convention Centre put together this lovely cheat sheet just for you.

How to Find the Best Food Partners for Your Beer

By: Sanjay Agnihotri

Many of us are familiar with the concept of wine and food pairing, but beer can go equally well with just as many flavors. In fact, some beer-tasting experts (or, cicerones) contend that the bread-like taste of many brews means it is an easy partner with many dishes. With over 150 recognized craft beer styles to choose from, it can be hard to find the right drink to match your meal. 

burgers and fries and beers paired together perfectly at City Acre Brewing in Houston
Burgers and Beer – Best Food Pairing Ever!
Check out City Acre Brewing – A Stout Life Approved Brewery

The 3 C’s of Pairing Beer & Food

If you already have some experience with wine pairing, you will find that beer pairing shares some of the same general principles. If, however, you are completely new to beer and food pairing, there are several tried and tested rules you can refer to for guidance. Perhaps the most important of these is the “Three C’s”. 

  • Cut: A refreshing, acidic brew will cut across strong or overpowering flavors (for example a spicy curry or a rich stew) for a cleansing effect. 
  • Complement: This refers to when you match the flavors of the beer with the flavors of the food. For example, pairing light beers with light foods (e.g. pairing Pilsner with a seafood dish). 
  • Contrast: This is when you put together opposing flavors in such a way as to enhance the unique flavors of the beer and the food. 

Craft Beer & Food Pairing Cheat Sheet

If you would like to learn more about how to use beer to enhance the flavorings of your food (and vice versa) then check out this handy guide from Lakeshore Convention Centre. This super informative “cheat sheet” contains lots of great information about the different types of craft beers, tasting terminology, as well as some top tips on food pairings.

craft beer and food pairings the essential cheat sheet infographic

Now that you know what beer type goes with what food, click below for some specific beer examples.

And be sure to check out our Stout Conversation with Allo from the Craft Beer Concierge. He’ll keep your education going.

Now that you have surrounded yourselves with experts such as Sanjay from Lakeshore Convention Centre, Allo from the Craft Beer Concierge, and the likes of us from Living a Stout Life, if you weren’t a beer geek before, you most definitely are now!

Let us know what you pair together. While there are rules, we all know rules are meant to be broken. Happy pairing!


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Michelle Catapang
2 years ago

Wow! This article is awesome. I really love to know what food pairs with beer and this article is really helpful. Thank you.