When pairing, there are many layers to peel back on the science. We are here to keep this easy to mentally digest, so let’s dig in, shall we?
There are two main things you look for: whether you want something that compliments the dish or cuts the taste. For the majority of dishes, you will reach for a pairing that compliments.
So what exactly do you compliment? Considering that there are a variety of aromas intertwined in the overall creation, this initial idea can be quite overwhelming. The most important thing is pairing the dish with the most dense portion; for example, the protein. For many, this may appear to be shocking, as we figure pairing with the sauce will knock this dish out of the park. While sauces do hold immense value, proteins are the core of the dish. For lighter proteins, such as fish, pair well with lighter beers like pilsners, saison and wheats. Bolder dishes, such as red meats, mesh well with darker beers like ambers, pale ales, brown ales and Scotch ales.
Here is a scenario that brings this concept to life - imagine smoked ribs coated in a vibrant barbeque sauce, what would you pair it with? Typically, our minds gravitate towards the barbeque sauce, when in reality, the smokiness of the ribs is the true emphasis. Therefore, a darker beer such as a porter or brown ale will elevate this to a new level of culinary delight.
Now, what if you want to cut the flavor of the dish? Spicy food is typically a dish that makes this cut (no pun intended). A heat-infused entree teams well with beers high in lactose (such as stouts or porters). The milky base of these will immediately cool down the radiating intensity on your pallet.
While the layers of this multi-layered culinary onion can be continued to be peeled back, this is a great start to learning the basics. Dive in, eat well and drink away.