Pairing Sour Beer and Food
One of the great joys of beer (yes there are many) is pairing their flavours with food.
Done right it can be a magical moment of taste sensation, truly ‘greater than the sum of its parts’. Done wrong, you’ve likely still got a tasty beer in your glass and some tasty food on your plate, so don’t sweat it.
We want to see everyone enjoy beer with food as much as we do. So, here are some guidelines specific to sour beer pairing.
The most important thing to bear in mind when pairing beer and food is intensity.
This is an easy concept to practice and visualise before you crack a beer in earnest with your next dish. Flavour intensity is a subjective scale but on the beer side we could consider a crisp pilsner to be a 1 and an imperial stout to be a 10. On the food side of things, we could think of watercress salad all the way up to Christmas pudding. It’s such a shame when the flavours should combine beautifully but the beer or the dish totally overwhelm the other and the pairing is lost forever. The key with intensity is to strive for balance.
The three C’s of food pairing are a great mental checklist when planning a pairing.
Cut, Compliment, Contrast.
Beer stands head and shoulders above most other beverages here, especially sour beer. Carbonation is beer’s trump card over almost all other drinks. The carbonation helps to scrub your palate clean after each mouthful but also to cut through fats and oils which can be cloying or coating. Allowing a fresh take on each mouthful and a magical transformation.
Sour beer has another ace here, that the acidity will also cut through richness and fats in unique ways. Next time you’re nibbling some creamy cheese, or eating a hearty stew with dumplings, crack a beer and notice how the beer cuts through these fats and oils and leaves your palate fresh.
This is the easiest of the three C’s. Matching up similar flavours to enhance them to new heights. The classic example would be a stout with a chocolate dessert. In our case the large amounts of fruit in most sour beers are easy partners for similar or the same fruits in dishes. I prefer to reach off the plate in these circumstances and omit something from the dish that the beer bring back in the pairing. For example, a bramble jus on venison. Ditch the jus and serve with a bramble sour beer instead, easy!
Sour beers have a great benefit that acid is a huge component in dishes that call for vinegars and blend seamlessly to interact with other notes in the food, a lot of Asian dishes are great for this. Bonus points for substituting vinegar out to make sour beer dressings.
Contrasting elements are where you have eureka moments. When the sum truly does become greater. And for me, personally, this is where the magic happens. Taking intentionally disparate flavours from the beer and the dish / food and jamming them together to see what happens. It’s always a bit of a gamble but there are tried and tested flavours out there we can learn from. Salt and vinegar crisps, sweet and sour sauce, sweet and salted popcorn. There are infinite ways to contrast flavours and some just don’t work. But remember the worst that can happen is you have a glass of tasty beer and a dish of tasty grub; they just don’t go together.
Sour beers are great for creating contrast, pitting acidity against salinity or sweetness but also where less base flavours come into play. A fruity fermentation, or directly added fruit, can contrast with more earthy and herbal dishes to amplify both. Try a pineapple sour with warming hearty tacos.
And there you have it! Match up the intensity and look to utilise at least one of the three C’s with each sour beer and food pairing you create, and you won’t go far wrong.
Happy beer pairing!
Team Vault City x