The Perfect Pairing
How to Choose The Perfect Craft Beer for Your Dish
When you think about food pairings, you probably think of a nice Cabernet and black pepper steak; however, there is a new trend emerging – coupling food with craft beer. With more than 3,000 breweries in the US, today’s brewers are creating beers that are as sophisticated and innovative as wine, with more ingredients to work with.
“Breweries are able to produce small batches of beer, using seasonal flavors that are fresher and tend to pair better with food,” said Will Hayes, Co-Owner of The Grill House of Redwood Shores. “We have seen a definite trend with our guests pairing food with craft beer, instead of wine.”
Beer has certainly evolved over the past 10 years from a watery, pale drink to a beverage of substance that comes in wide range of styles – from light and refreshing to heavy and bold.
Brewers begin with a pure water source, such as Anchor’s California Lager, which uses water from snowmelt in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park, rated among the top in the country. From there, the brewmaster mixes ingredients such as yeast, hops, and grains such as wheat, barley or rye. Sometimes spices such as coriander, cloves or nutmeg are added for more depth, or seasonal ingredients such as pumpkin or watermelon. The result is an extensive range of beer styles that will pair with anything from a light salad, to a hearty steak, to a savory desert.
Just as with wine, there is a general rule of thumb when pairing food with beer. Paler beers pair best with lighter fare, while darker beers pair well with rich and intensely seasoned foods.
“Balancing the intensity and flavor profiles of the beer with the subtle flavors of the food is key,” said James Hayes, executive chef of The Grill House. “Some of the best pairings are the unusual ones, such as our Drakes Nitro, which is a dark beer, paired with our skillet cookie and vanilla ice cream.”
Also similar to wine, beer can be defined by its bouquet and body, and temperature plays an important part. Serving a beer too cold will mask flavor notes, while too warm will enhance bitter notes.
“That is one of the main reasons we were so particular about our tap system,” said Will. “Our custom glycol system keeps the beer at the perfect temperature from the keg room all the way to the tap, which allows the right flavors to come across.”
California is home to more than 400 craft brewers — the most in the country, giving The Grill House a large local selection to offer guests. Many of these breweries are starting to create new flavors and introducing seasonal specialties as well, which tend to pair well with the seasonal flavors offered in many restaurants.
Experimenting with beer and food pairing is often more affordable than wine, and for some, more fun too. Some basic principles to follow: The light lager or pilsner will pair well with a lighter vinaigrette in a salad or a white fish. Amber beers tend to have a slight nuttiness to them that goes well with nuts, cheese and slightly sweet deserts. Pale ales, including the IPAs have more bitterness to them and tend to go better with saltier and richer foods. The extreme bitterness of some double and triple IPAs can actually cut an overly sweet dessert as well. Darker beers like porters and stouts tend to have more of a malt backbone that produces sweeter flavors that aren’t as bitter. BBQ flavors pair really well with these beers, such as ribs and baked beans.
The Grill House of Redwood Shores is a seasonally inspired, grill-based restaurant, featuring local craft beer, wine and cocktails.