Why Do Craft Beer and Food Work So Well Together?
In general, there are four main ingredients in craft beer: malted barley (or malted wheat or other cereal grains), hops, yeast and water. Malt and hop flavors tend to be the most prominent and can easily be paired with foods. Additionally, beer's carbonation plays a role in food pairing. Let's take a closer look...
The sweetness of malt reduces the heat of spicy food. Try it out. Sip malty brown ale with a spicy Thai dish or try a Scotch Ale with some spicy Mexican food. Intensely spiced foods, which have become a popular component of today's American diet, are complemented by craft beer's ability to diminish heat. In comparison, wine's higher alcohol actually accentuates the warmth from many spices which can be undesirable.
Malty Styles to consider with fired up foods include: Brown Ale, Bocks, Porters, Red Ales, Scotch and Scottish Ales, Stouts, Vienna Lagers and more! Malt bonus: The flavors of malt (caramel, chocolate, graham cracker, roast, toasted, toffee) harmonize with grilled, roasted and smoked foods because malt contains many of these flavors.
Much of what we eat today has rich sauces with added fat or butter. Hop bitterness can counteract with rich sauces resulting in desirable results. Hops bitterness cuts through the fat in food thus lessening the dense heavy feeing in your mouth. This is pleasurable as it allows you to more fully taste the ingredients of your dish and enjoy the true flavors of both your craft beer and the food. Hops' balance malt's sweetness and is the soul of many craft beers. Be careful. Hops may intensify spices and heat so a good rule of thumb is to pair malt forward beers with spicy foods and hop forward beers with rich or fatty foods. However, don't be shy. Experiment, experiment and try out some more highly hopped beers with spicy foods, such as with curry, and taste what happens.
Beer's carbonation (bubbles) scrubs the tongue of fat and prepares it for the next bite. This is a good thing!