Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The not so complex world of Food, Wine, and Beer...

With summer grilling season upon us I felt now would be the perfect time to talk beverages. While the current trend tends to stray away traditional pairings and incorporates more of an anything goes philosophy I still find many are confused when it comes to beverages. It's great after all to feel as though the pressures been removed but the reality is nobody wants to show up with the wrong thing.

I find that people tend to be more willing to try new foods if it's an appetizer versus an entrée. I would assume they take my approach to it and tell themselves it's okay to experiment when you know something you're comfortable with is there to fall back on. The same is true of beverages, and as long as you keep this in mind there's no way you can go wrong.

I've thrown together some basic examples of how you can successfully not only pair wine with food, but also a beer. From appetizer to dessert these parameters are guaranteed to fit any price point, and any crowd. Whether you're the host of the party, or an invited guest it's important to remember that unless everyone is comfortable your party will never reach its full potential.


Belgian Witbier complements salads with light citrus dressings and feta or goat cheese as well as ceviches and other light, citrus-flavored dishes.

American Wheat Ale complements the lighter foods like grilled lobster tails, seared scallops, or shrimp scampi.

Hefeweizen pairs nicely with grilled sausages, or bold flavors such as mustards, pickles, horseradish and cured meats.

Blonde Ale/Cream Ale pairs perfectly with sweet, hot, or spicy foods including many Asian dishes, chili, mango or jalapeño salsa.

Pale Ale contrasts with spicy, heat-charred, smoky, or aromatic flavors such as those in Stilton and Gorgonzola cheeses.

India Pale Ale complements intensely flavorful, highly spiced dishes, such as curry, and bold, sweet desserts like flourless chocolate cake and crème brulée.

Amber Ale complements rich, aromatic, spicy and smoked foods such as chili, barbecue, grilled chicken, and beef.

Brown Ale pairs well with roasted pork, smoked sausage, chicken satay, cashew chicken, pecan pie and peanut sauces.

Porter works well with smoked meats, especially bacon; complements chocolate, espresso or coffee-flavored desserts and soft, creamy cheeses.

Stout complements salty foods like oysters on the half shell.

Lambic complements light, fruity dishes; best served as a companion with after-meal foods like desserts featuring fruit or dark chocolate.


Light Lager complements lemongrass, ginger, garlic, cilantro and similar flavors.

American Style Lager is the perfect contrast to Thai, Pan-Asian, Latino, Mexican, Peruvian and other spicy cuisines.

Pilsner works well with salmon, tuna & other high-fat, oily fish and with marbled meats; bitterness offers pleasing contrast with sweet reductions and sauces.

Amber Lager pairs well with tomato reduction sauces, pizza, or foods flavored with basil or oregano.

Märzen Oktoberfest complements the flavors of char-grilled and seared meats or spicy Mexican dishes

Bock the rich sweetness balances strong spice components & intense flavors of Cajun, jerk, slow-roasted and seared foods.

Red Wines

Zinfandel will be able to handle a wide variety of red meats. This bold red wine holds up to meaty, smoky flavors. A Zin will also work well with barbeque sauce, steak sauce and mild salsas as long as there isn't a great deal of spicy characteristic to them.

Merlot is the answer to spicy foods, and salsas! Grilled pork chops, chicken and garden salads with lighter dressings also mingle well with Merlot.

Shiraz or Syrah are both delicious with just about any red meat, and lend themselves extremely well to barbecue.

Cabernet Sauvignon is made for steaks with a higher fat content such as Ribeye, or Strips. This wine pairs great with burgers regardless if made with beef or turkey. Top your burgers with bold cheeses, like blue or sharp cheddar and this wine gets even better!

Pinot Noir is great with everything from grilled fish to a juicy Burger! Pinot Noir is an ideal candidate for grilled salmon, burgers or chicken breast. If you aren’t sure if what wine will work with your grilled dinner serve a Pinot.

White Wines

Chardonnay will work with grilled fish, shellfish, chicken, creamy sauces, and cheese fondue

Riesling is the perfect with grilled brats, shrimp, barbecue chicken, grilled pineapple and grilled veggies.

Sauvignon blanc goes great with roasted peppers, veggies with pesto or fresh herbs, grilled fish or marinated meats such as grilled chicken that has been doused in Italian dressing or a citrus marinade.

Gewürztraminer would be a great choice to go with Sweet & Spicy foods such as Blackened Mahi Mahi, or Cajun Chicken with fresh mango salsa.

Please remember that if you drink don't drive! Designate a driver, and everyone can have a great summer!

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