When it comes to pairing food and beverages, most people immediately think of wine. With no disrespect to vino, beer holds a multitude of flavors, aromas and colors that pair better with food than wine. Like the old saying goes, “There’s a lid for every pot,” and that rings especially true for beer and food. With this being Black History Month, what better time is there to spotlight beer and soul food pairings.
Fried Chicken & Helles Lager
Fried chicken and beer are a classic combination. But with a dish that rests as heavily on the palate as fried chicken, one strategy is to “lighten up” with a helles lager. In spite of its infernal-sounding name, helles is actually the German word for “light or bright.” With its pale gold color, this lager’s slightly sweet flavor helps balance out the spiciness in the batter. Helles also has some mildly toasty notes which can accentuate the crispiness.
Macaroni and Cheese & India Pale Ale or Doppelbock
Bernard McKoy, who runs the cheese and charcuterie program at Brick Store Pub in Decatur, Georgia, likes an India Pale Ale (IPA) with macaroni and cheese. “The grassiness in the cheddar cheese and the floral flavors in an IPA match so well together.” Dom “Dooch” Cook, Certified Cicerone® and founder of Beer Kulture, a lifestyle brand that merges urban culture with beer, prefers to pair it with a doppelbock, a malty German lager.
“The sweetness of the doppelbock softens the tanginess of the macaroni and cheese as the fruitiness plays in harmony with the cheese, as the alcohol cuts through the richness.”
IPAs to Try: Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted Ale, Cigar City Brewing Jai Alai
- Bigger and Fresher: 2019 Fresh Fest Beer Fest
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Smothered Pork Chops & Porter
To match the saltiness of this savory staple, McKoy suggests a British ale, the dark and roasty porter. “A good porter will add sweetness to the pork chops, creating a nice sweet and salty combination,” says McKoy.
Porters to Try: Samuel Smith Taddy Porter, Anchor Brewing Porter
Fried Fish & Saison
McKoy likes to pair fried fish with saisons, also known as farmhouse ales. “The citric, tart notes work well with a nice, flaky fish. And the spices that are added to ale can turn the fried crust into an amazing experience.
Banana Pudding & Dunkelweizen
For dessert, Cook likes to pair a timeless dessert with a classic German beer style. “I like to pair the sweet, creamy, mushy crunchy elements of banana pudding with a dunkelweizen. A dunkelweizen is a dark German wheat beer that is full of flavors like bananas, cloves, bread and caramel. They complement each other perfectly while amplifying the taste of banana in each bite.
While this isn’t a definitive guide, you now have a few starting points on creating your own beer and soul food pairings at home. If you’re interested in learning more about food and beer pairings, check out this guide from CraftBeer.com.