Category: Dining

Match Food to Your Favorite Brews

The rise of craft and home brewing has created more beer flavor profiles than ever before. In fact, there’s likely a beer for everyone, whether you’re a novice or connoisseur. The Brewer’s Association, a trade association that represents small and independent American craft brewers, reports that, in 2018, small and independent brewers collectively produced 25.9 million barrels and experienced a 4 percent total market growth. The BA also states that these small brewers achieved a collective retail dollar take-in of $27.6 billion.

While wine will always have its enthusiasts, beer is fast on its heels as a popular mealtime beverage. Much in the way wines are paired with certain foods, it has become the natural course of action to pair certain foods with particular styles of beer.

“Beer is a great match for food because of the complexity of its flavors, its ability to provide refreshment and to interact with many food flavors,” says Marc Stroobandt, a master beer sommelier for the Food and Beer Consultancy, UK. Although each person has his or her preferences, here is a brief listing of generalized pairings, courtesy of the Brewer’s Association and CraftBeer.com.

• American Amber Lager: Creamy risotto, wild rice, polenta

• American Pale Ale: Game birds, such as duck and quail

• Belgian-style Dubbel: Pork chops, sausage, tenderloin

• Belgian-style Flanders: Grilled ribeye, root vegetables

• Blonde Ale: Chicken, salads, salmon, nutty cheese

• Dark Lager: Barbecue, sausage, roasted meat

• Hefeweizen: Weisswurst, seafood, sushi

• Imperial Stout: Smoked goose, foie gras, strong cheeses

• IPA: Spicy foods, curries

• Porter: Roasted or smoked foods, blackened fish

The Brewer’s Association recommends matching delicate dishes with delicate beers and strong dishes with assertive beers. Commonalities, like aromas and sub-flavors, also work together. A beer with roasted notes may pair well with chocolate, for example. Opposites also attract, in that a spicy food may taste best when paired with a sweet beer. Pairing might once have been limited to matching wines with certain foods. But the booming craft beer business has popularized pairing flavorful beers with foods to make meals even tastier.

Local Dining Spots Foster Community

Dining out is a great way to celebrate life’s milestones or simply reconnect with friends and loved ones.

Research firm NPD Group found that, by the end of 2015, restaurant visits by consumers increased by 700 million compared to just five years prior. While chain restaurants invest heavily in advertising, independently owned restaurants do not have those same resources. Multi-unit chains also have more pull with suppliers and might be able to negotiate better deals, or can spread operational costs across various locations.

Too often diners are not aware of the vast array of tasty, well-priced and artisanal foods awaiting them just down the street. But dining out at local eateries can be beneficial in various ways.

• High-quality food: Many local establishments have complete control over their suppliers and menus. As a result, they can be picky with regard to the vendors they use and the produce, meats, dairy, and other ingredients that they select. Many small, independently owned restaurants team up with local organic farmers and distributors to supply a farm-to-table experience that many diners now enjoy.

• Freedom of experimentation: Although chain restaurants may have to meet approval from administrative boards and marketing departments before they can introduce new fare, independently owned restaurants can let their diners decide which foods remain on the menu and even adapt to community trends. Local restaurants may take pride in serving cultural or regional foods.

• Ability to customize: Independently owned restaurants may be more amenable to adapting recipes or making substitutions to meet diners’ requests. Skilled local chefs can think on the fly and modify recipes, which may not always be possible in chain establishments.

• Crowd control: Local restaurants tend to be smaller and more intimate than many chain restaurants. This can translate into a calm dining experience. When crowds are small, the noise level inside the restaurant may be muted and service may be fast because there aren’t as many tables to serve. Furthermore, local establishments, although concerned about making a profit, may be less worried about table turnover rate, preferring to let diners linger if it means repeat business.

• Familiar faces: Some diners enjoy being a “regular” at their favorite local restaurants. Local dining spots also become gathering locations for residents in the know, instead of passing-through tourists or commuters.

Much can be said about the advantages of patronizing local eateries. Men and women who want unique dining experiences can give local, independently owned establishments a try.