food.pairings: Pairing Categories

food pairings

In an effort to expand on the “education” part of my “Beer Reviews, Education and Nonsense” motto, I am continuing my beer and food pairing series.  Specifically, I will be focusing on particular beer styles and discussing why certain types of food pair well with that style.  The great thing about writing about beer and food pairings is that they can be very subjective and are a matter of personal preference. In short, there is no one right answer. I love all kinds of food and I love all kinds of beer so I will be writing with an all inclusive attitude.  If you are a little pickier about your food and beer then I encourage you to comment on the posts and make your own suggestions. Remember, there is no one right answer.

Before we start talking specifics, it is important to understand some basic concepts and this week I will introduce basic pairing categories. Beer and food pairings will likely fall into three different categories: complementary flavor pairings, contrasting flavor pairings and complex flavor pairings.

Complementary flavor pairings occur when the beer and food share a similar taste profile and build upon each other to create a more intense flavor. An example of a complementary food pairing would be pairing an American wheat ale with Buratta cheese. The subtle hops, fruity esters and creamy texture of the beer enhance the cream filled Buratta’s texture and flavors.

Contrasting flavor parings occur when the beer and food flavors work against each other and keep any one flavor profile from dominating.  A good example of a contrasting flavor pairing is hoppy flavor pale ale with savory foods like pizza or burgers. The hops and the carbonation cut through the grease and cleanse and refresh the palate.

Complex flavor parings happens when the beer complements and contrasts with the food.  A good example of complex flavor pairings would be pairing an American amber ale with a spicy meat chili.  The contrasting malty amber ale will tamp back the spices while the toasty malt accentuates the browned meat. The is example is all the more complex because the carbonation will cut through the chili spices and savory oils and lift them off your tongue refreshing your palate before the next bite.

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