When it comes to educating consumers and the trade about beer and its potential to match with food, the brewing industry is often shy. The average wine drinker can name a grape variety, region, country and style of wine they like - and an example of a dish it could pair well with - yet the average beer drinker tends to only know their favourite brand, and whether they prefer lager, ale or stout. Unless people are out for a curry, beer and food matches hardly ever get a look in.
In reality, there are fewer rules when it comes to beer and food pairing in comparison to wine. This means beer is more versatile in many ways, and you can be quite experimental in your choices as long as you follow the basic principles. As a rule, paler beers tend to go well with lighter, delicate flavours, such a white fish, whereas richer beers are better suited to fuller flavours.
When looking to pair a rack of lamb or cut of beef, dark, rich beers work well (try Sharp’s Wolf Rock). For fish and chicken, pubs and restaurants should be looking at their range of lighter ales and lagers like Pilsners. We appreciate that pairing wine with dessert can be difficult, particularly as dessert wines are not to everyone’s taste, but this is where beer can really shine as a match with food. We would suggest pairing 6 Vintage Blend With Bread & Butter pudding, if Paul Ainsworth does it at No.6 in Padstow it must be good!
At Sharp’s, we’re in the fortunate position that we get to try out lots of beer and food pairings at our pub, The Mariners Public House, which is just down the road from the brewery in Rock. The Mariners is a joint venture between Sharp’s Brewery and Michelin starred chef Nathan Outlaw, which is ideal as the team are as passionate about beer and food matching as we are at the brewery.
Thanks to the partnership, we work together to ensure that the delicious dishes on the menu are complemented by the ideal choice of beer to really bring out the flavours in both. A firm favourite amongst Mariner’s customers at the moment is the Cornish Crab Cake with Sharp’s Pilsner (worth a try if you’re ever in Rock!).
It isn’t just the pairings themselves that are important. Educating your staff about the potential matches available is crucial too, so that front of house staff are confident in talking about beer and food, and explaining which combinations work best on their menu, and why. These pairings should be central to the dining experience, rather than an afterthought. This will not only help to attract, but also to retain and delight customers.
Sharp’s is running a Beer & Food Masterclass at the Universal Cookery & Food Festival, through which we hope to inspire attendees to think a bit more creatively about their menus, and experiment with some pairings of their own.
Hope to see you there!