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food and beer pairings

Food and Beer Pairings

There’s a new couple in town. Food has long courted a gorgeous red or a sumptuous white, but suddenly it has a new complicated friend.

The buzz term ‘food pairings’ has been doing the rounds for the last few years and as the brewing industry looks to promote responsible drinking, they have turned their eyes back to restaurants, pubs and inevitably food.

With hundreds of different types of beer and more ingredients than you can shake a stick at, beer offers up a magnitude of tastes, smells and consistencies. Not only can the tipple bring out the flavour in food, but food can also bring out tasting notes in the brew – its a two way relationship, they bring out the best in each other.

Although beer is considered the inferior beverage of choice, and in many establishments is shunned for upmarket alternatives, the complex hoppy tones combined with notes of caramel and oak bring another dimension to the whole dining experience. In its pint-sized form, beer can accompany any dish with no wastage. It can slice through grease and cleanse the palate. In other words, the new couple are perfect for each other.

CAMRA’s Book of Beer Knowledge, by Jeff Evans, sums up the pairing movement perfectly: “Wine makes a fine companion at dinner time, we all know that. But so does beer. In fact, when you consider the huge variety of flavours beer can bring to a meal anything from zesty citrus notes, through caramel, nut and tropical fruits, to deep, rich chocolate and coffee it is scandalous that our favourite tipple has been kept off the fine dining table for so long.”

In fact a number of breweries, restaurants and schools are now helping to educate the discerning diner about the benefits of beer and food pairings.

Edinburgh New Town School of Cookery has its own Beer and Food Matching course, which runs nearly every month. Glasgow Herald wine writer Tom Bruce-Gardyne guides attendees through the complex tastes as people sample the ingredients and the beer separately before trying them with dishes. With a number of culinary courses, the beer lovers sip on around nine different beers and are encouraged to make their own decisions on pairings.

Scottish award-winning brewery Harviestoun is similarly ahead of the curve in terms of pairings. Ewan McCowen, Marketing Manager at the brewery, explains: “As an industry, we continually have to battle against a perception that beer is exclusively something to be drunk in quantity. Food matching is a really important tool to communicate the fact that at its best beer can also have elegance and finesse.”

Harviestoun has long been involved with a number of food pairing events, including supplying bottles to the Beer and Food Matching course. With a number of similar events popping up around the country, Harviestoun is keen to be involved. McCowen continues: “London seems to be where it’s at when it comes to food and beer nights in pubs. For example, craft and artisanal beer and food bar, The Old Red Cow, runs a monthly “beer dinner”. These popular nights are a lot of fun and we’re hoping we can get involved later this year.”

Although breweries are keen to promote food pairings, McCowen points out: “For pubs, it is a great way to get people connecting with good food and drink. They get much closer to the production and preparation (especially when they are supported by the suppliers). The process also helps cement relationships throughout the supply chain. And the whole experience highlights what great pubs are about: fun and community.”

We also talked to a number of breweries, a hotel and a school and got them to suggest their perfect matches:

Thwaites Brewery tweets:

@TakeStockMag #NuttyBlack is great with strong smoky flavours. Cheese – esp. strong blue or smoked cheese, smoked fish such as mackerel…also Spicy Sausage. #NuttyBlack is also good with chocolate desserts and apple pie!

Harviestoun Brewery suggests:

Pair Bitter and Twisted with a hot-oak-smoked-salmon salad and a lemon dressing. The citrus flavours complement each other whilst the hops cut neatly through the powerful oakines without killing it.

Brew Dog tweets:

@TakeStockMag Curry + Punk IPA = A Sid/Nancy situation. Made for each other. #MunchDog

Harviestoun Brewery recommends:

Old Engine Oil and Ola Duh would go wonderfully with any hearty winter stew, particularly anything rich and gamey like venison or hare.

Christa Sandquist, Brewer at Harviestoun, suggests:

An array of cheeses with Harviestoun’s Ola Dubh; Schiehallion paired with a Mexican dish and a dash of mango salsa; and Old Engine Oil with BBQ foods.

Fiona Burrell suggests pairing Loch Duart Hot Smoked Salmon with Innis and Gunn Original. She also recommends Fraoch, by Williams Brothers, with venison and haggis scotch.

Denis McCann, manager of Hotel Indigo in Glasgow, suggests cherry and chocolate tart with Munich Red lager by West.

You can see our top tips for food and beer pairings here.

For more information on Edinburgh New Town School of Cookery’s Beer and Food Matching course go to or call 0131 226 4314.

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