Here’s cheers to beergustation

WORDS: Krista Hall, Certified Cicerone PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

As restrictions ease and we reunite with our friends and family, no doubt we will be sharing a few drinks over dinner, a long lazy lunch or a picnic on Burleigh Hill watching the sunset.

Here are some beer and food pairing tips to keep in mind as you crack open a few cold brews.

BEER is a great accompaniment for food that sometimes holds up better than wine does.

It can hold up to salt and it’s not usually high in alcohol, so it complements, rather than overpowers, food.

Tip number one is to try complementing food. Think like for like. Soft flavours and softer style beers; bold flavours, bolder-style beers. A great example of this is fish and chips. We are spoiled for choice on the Coast, with lots of little hole-in-the-wall fish and chip shops selling takeaway that we can unfold while watching the waves roll in.

The best pairing beer for fish and chips (in my opinion) is a Pacific Ale. It’s literally summer (Byron Bay) in a bottle.  The Original Pacific Ale, made by Stone & Wood Brewery, became so popular that it is now a beer style in the Australian beer industry, with most breweries creating one. It is fruity, cloudy and super refreshing and pairs perfectly with fish and chips because it complements the fish and doesn’t overpower it and cuts through the oil of the batter and salt on the chips.  It will work with battered or grilled fish.

Tip two is contrast. You know the saying ‘opposites attract’? Well, they do. Think sweet and sour or sweet and bitter or rich/bold and salt. If you are feeling adventurous, try a couple of these pairings. Have you ever heard of oysters and stout?  Yes, the dark black beer that most turn their backs on ‘because it’s too big’. This classic pairing is generally enjoyed in the cooler months as stouts start to make their appearance, but the briny and saltiness of the freshly shucked oysters stands up to the chocolate-rich notes of a stout. Try Blackhops Eggnog Stout and freshly shucked oysters for an afternoon soiree.

Another one of my favourite examples of a contrast pairing is carrot cake and IPA. It sounds strange, I know. The sweet and spice of the cake and creaminess of the cream cheese frosting pairs perfectly with the bitterness of an IPA. The hops can cut through the sweetness and cleanse the palate, so you just want to keep indulging in another bite.

During the warmer months, we generally eat lighter and fresher cuisine. For me, this means more Thai and Vietnamese style salads, stir-fries and curries, which brings us to tip number three. I love hot and spicy food and a lot of these types of foods usually contain a bit of spice. Avoid big alcoholic beers, as the alcohol accentuates the heat. It will not be refreshing when you have a swig of that cold brew to cool down your palate. In fact, it will do quite the opposite. Also, avoid big hoppy beers like IPAs and IIPAs. These beer styles are usually higher in ABV and the hops will also accentuate the spice, so it’s a double no no. Instead, try to choose lighter style beers like a clean, crisp lager or alternatively, something with a little bit of sweetness to it, like a fruity sour.  Be careful though – sometimes it pairs too well, and you end up having a few more brews than you anticipated. Try Brouhaha’s Strawberry Rhubarb Sour with a Vietnamese spicy salad.

Finally, to tip number four – dessert. How can you pair beer with a dessert? It’s easier than you think and rather delicious. I find with dessert there are two types of people. You’re either a sweet tooth or a savoury/salt tooth. I’m savoury and always prefer a cheese plate before I dig into a chocolate lava cake. For cheese, try pairing with a Saison or an Oud Bruin style. Think more of the wine-drinker style beers to pair with the cheese that still complements the quince and biscuits and the saltiness and umami of cheese.  One I highly recommend is the Forest for the Trees Saison.  For the sweet tooth, think about the flavour.  If it’s chocolate, try a big chocolate porter or oatmeal stout. These types of beers can even be used in lots of sodas or chocolate to pour over ice-cream, to make a mean spider or added to an affogato. You can also reduce the beer down to a sweet syrup to drizzle on top.  If it’s a lighter style dessert like the infamous pavlova, try a fruit beer to complement the fruit layered on top, like Precinct Brewery Smashed Berry 3.5 per cent.

Beer pairing and wine pairing with food aren’t as different as you think. If done properly, beer pairing can be just as perfect (or arguably better) than wine pairing.  Give a few of these tips a try.  Remember, there is no right or wrong answer. It is whatever you enjoy that matters the most. Happy pairing!