For many people, drinking beer is as integral to a Cape Cod vacation as breathing salty air and listening to crickets at night. But what beer goes best with what foods? Knowing how to pair beer with food is easy once you learn a few beer basics.
Keep the following in mind when dining out or preparing meals at your home or vacation rental. Chances are you’ll consume only Lambic, lager, pale ale, wheat beer or brown ale in summer, but it’s interesting to know how many varieties exist.
This information is from the National Beer Wholesaler’s Association (NBWA).
Lambic is very light and fruity and pairs well with dishes that feature cream or butter sauces.
Lager is one of the world’s most popular styles. It is golden and smooth with a light, slightly tangy flavor. Lagers pair well with fish.
Pale ale has a light body and slightly toasted flavor with caramel. Pale ale goes well with pizza, burgers, soups and salads.
Wheat beer is crisp and light and has mild citrus flavors. It pairs perfectly with sushi, salads and vegetarian meals.
Brown ale is smooth and full-bodied. It has a nutty or woody flavor and pairs well with hearty foods such as roast pork, grilled chicken or smoked sausage.
Bock is strong and heavy with toasted malt and caramel flavors. It goes well with heavy sausage and lamb.
Porter is a slightly bitter and dark ale. It complements roasted or smoked meats and strong cheeses.
Stout is a dry, intense ale that has chocolate and roasted coffee notes. It matches well with meats and chocolate desserts.
My favorite pairing is light lager with a lime slice tucked inside the bottle, consumed with a Friendly Fisherman lobster roll. Summer-eating nirvana!
Cooking with beer is easy, but remember that the bitterness in porters and stouts intensifies with long cooking times.
The following super-simple summer-eating recipe is from Coastal Living magazine–one of my favorites. It takes only about five minutes of prep time and it serves 8 to 10 people.
Beer-Braised BBQ Shrimp
1 1/2 cups butter
1 bottle (12 ounces) lager beer
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
4 lemons, sliced
1 sweet onion, halved and sliced
8 garlic cloves, sliced or crushed
6 bay leaves
3 tablespoons seafood seasoning
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
5 pounds unpeeled large raw shrimp
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large roasting pan; stir in beer and next 7 ingredients. Add shrimp, tossing to coat in butter mixture. Bake, stirring occasionally, 30 to 35 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Sprinkle with parsley. Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve immediately with French bread.
Cooking with beer lends rich, earthy flavor to foods. Knowing how to match beer with summer foods takes just a little know-how.