Pairing beer and food together isn’t all rules and science. That would make for a terribly boring dinner party! Instead, it’s the art of taking a good beer, some good food and partnering them together to make something even better. It’s the adventure of discovering what works, what doesn’t and what you like. It’s you taking a bite, taking a sip and then declaring your undying love for that imperial stout and chocolate cake.

Who knew that your dinner could combine the best of art, adventure and undying love? It’s easy to remember the very basic guidelines to help you in your search for your Moules Frites’ beery soulmate (hint: it’s a witbier). Just remember the three C’s: complement, contrast and cut.

The 3 C's of Food & Beer Pairing

1. COMPLEMENT

One of the simplest ways to create a fantastic food and beer pairing is to find complementary flavours in each. Does the beer have notes of chocolate and vanilla? So do profiteroles! How about a raspberry fruit beer? That’d be fantastic with raspberry cheesecake. Basically you’re looking to find a bridge connecting the beer and the food to find a harmonious exchange between the two.

2. CONTRAST

Here’s where things get a little bit more artsy. When you’re looking for an interesting contrast between the two components you’ve got to consider a few things. What is the overall flavour of the beer? Is it sweet? Bitter? Tart? Find an equally intense but different flavour profile in your food and see how they interact with each other. You’re looking to either quell or enhance a particular characteristic. Think of the aggressive bitterness in an IPA intensifying the spice in a vindaloo or a sweet crème brûlée being tamed by an acidic gueuze. Opposites do attract!

3. CUT

A better way to remember this food-beer interaction would be ‘cleanse’. This principle looks to the carbonation, bitterness, acidity and even the warming character of alcohol in some beers to cleanse away the oily, rich feeling that some foods can have in your mouth. It’s this alone why cheese is such a fantastic partner to most beers. So go ahead and cut the Gouda with a balanced brown ale.

Food & Beer Pairing Starter Chart

Light & Commercial Lagers

To be honest, you can pair light beers with nearly anything and they'll go down easy. Think "beer and pizza" or "beer and wings", and you'll usually picture a light, refreshing beer to go with these indulgent, party-centric foods. Light lagers are a great cleanser for spicy or fried foods. So grab a case of Budweiser, order a pizza, and invite over some of your best mates to watch the game.

Hefeweizen, Witbier or Weissbier

Another versatile beer - German Hefeweizens. The yeast used to make this beer style often produce incredible flavours like banana, cloves, spices, bubblegum and vanilla. These characters can be both a complement and a contrast to foods like rich seafood dishes, barbecue, Thai foods, and curries. An excellent beer to try today is the Franziskaner Weissbier, one of the most highly-rated Hefeweizens on the market today.

Flanders Red or Scotch Ale

These styles pair well with grilled red meat, as well as gamey meats like pheasant, lamb and quail. Scotch ales also pair well with smoked cheeses, and its strong notes of caramel and dark chocolate complement rich desserts with similar flavours quite nicely.

Baltic Porter or Doppelbock

These strong, dark lagers showcase the beautiful malt characters used to brew them. Pairs well with hearty meat stews, smoked meat, chili, and cheeses like Asaigo and Gouda.

IPA

Arguably the most popular craft beer style, IPAs, are big beers packed with hoppy, citrusy, happily bitter flavours from a wide variety of hops. There are lots of varieties of IPAs and they tend to vary in intensity. Some juicy, NEIPAs or some sessionable citrus IPAs can pair well with fish tacos while more intense IPAs could pair nicely with spicy dishes and curries. The goal with IPAs and food pairing is to try to match the intensity of the food with the intensity of the beer. It can be a tricky challenge to conquer, but it's worth it when you find the right pairing! Pick up this fan-favourite IPA mixed case, or learn more about this style in the IPA style guide.

Helles Lager

The German-style Helles beer is light and crisp with lovely, bready malt flavours without too much hop bitterness.This balanced beer style complements lighter dishes like salads and fresh shellfish. Recommended: Augistiner Helles and Camden Helles.

Sour Beers

The strong, fruity flavours in sour beers make an excellent complement to charcuterie boards with strong cheeses, cured meats, and fresh fruit. These flavours can be acquired tastes, but once you train your palate, you'll be enjoying these strong flavours and can start trying more experimental beers and food combinations.