HopSkull’s Guide: Beer and Food Pairing

By hopskullbeerguide
June 22, 2020

Hi guys! I’m a massive foodie, and believe that beer has a better ability than wine, when it comes to pairing food and a beverage. Here is my best advice on how to pair beer with different types of food, such as fish, meat, spicy food, cheese and desserts.


The Essentials when pairing beer and food:

There are some general guidelines about which kind of beer is suitable for different types of food. Rule of thumb, when you make your food menu; you need to create consistency throughout the meal.


Don’t start your menu with heavy ABV beer, instead start gently and then increase the intensity of the beers, so you create a consistency throughout your meal.

Generally, the same considerations apply when pairing wine and food. It is important that you find the flavors in the beer that can compliment the flavors in the food.

Here are some simple rules for flavor pairing, which are good to follow:


These pairings enhances the flavor:

  • Sweet + Sweet = Perfect combo!
  • Sweet + Fruity = Perfect combo!
  • Bitterness + Acidic/sour = Not good, Nor Bad.
  • Acidic/sour + Acidic/sour = Not good, Nor Bad.
  • Bitterness + Bitterness = Bad Combo


These pairings will create contrast/balance:

  • Sweet + Bitterness = Perfect combo!
  • Acidic/sour + Sweet = Perfect combo!
  • Bitterness + Salt = Perfect combo!
  • Sweet + Salt = Perfect combo!
  • Bitterness + Fat = Perfect combo!


Beer and meat:

For dishes with meat - Steak or chicken, I recommend Pale Ales, India Pale Ales, Brown ales and Vienna Lager! These styles are what I consider the perfect match for meat. A great rule of thumb is that the more fat marbled the meat is, the more bitter the beer may be, as the bitterness tastefully helps to cut through the fat.

If you want to challenge yourself a little, then try meats-stews accompanied by sweet stouter or porter.  The wildcard is to try out a Rauchbier with your meat – If you’re one of them daredevils!



Beer and Seafood:

If you are going to have seafood, it's important to think about salt and sweetness. For example, if you want white fish such as cod, a weissbier or witbier is a really god choice. It's not the most exciting beer choice, but these styles can do wonders with a good piece of fish.

However, if you are going to have shellfish, such as prawns, lobster or scallops, you have to keep in mind that they often have a sweet aroma and taste. Sweet aroma and taste may be matched with beer with a sweet note. Again, witbier or weissbier is a good choice because they have sweet notes + notes of citrus and coriander.

If you’re an adventurous type, you can try to pair your seafood together with sour vinous beer, such as geueze or fruit lambic – Lambic/spontaneous beers with grapes are godlike with a piece of seafood.

Mussels and oysters however are a chapter for themselves, because they often contain a lot of aroma and taste of salt. For mussels and oysters, a pilsner is a good choice to pair with, because it gives a touch of sweetness and bitterness to the slightly salted notes in the food. – The Slowburn Brewing “Octopils, Warpigs “Doom Tits” or ToØl “45 days organic pilsner” is a really great option.


Beer and Cheese:

Sweet beer such as an abbey / Belgian dubbel or quadrupels is really good paired with cheeses, especially if you have some fruit compote or honey by the side. However, it's not only the sweet Belgian beer that's going well, just thinking about what flavors you want to put together.

Stouts can be good at blue cheeses, because these cheeses are creamy and salted, and stouts are sweet therefore they make a good contrast.

IPA’s goe really well with Cheddar - but also pairs nicely with other high fat cheeses, as the bitterness is good at cutting through the fat.

Ok, lastly here is a wildcard! What would you say if I told you that liquid jam/marmalade is a thing? – Fruited lambic! E.g The Mikkeller Spontan series pairs wonderfully together with cheese, walnuts and honey. My personal favorite is the SpontanLingonberry – jammy, fruity and a great companion for fatty creamy cheese like Brie and Camembert.


Beer and Desserts:

Desserts are beer's biggest weakness, and finding the right beer that can match the dessert can be a huge challenge. However, I have some good ground rules to follow.

For a light dessert, like fresh fruit desserts such as sorbet, you can choose a sweeter beer to create contrast and balance up against the acidity. E.g, You could try a sweet Belgian ale.

For the heavier and sweeter dessert such as chocolate or cake, sweet stouts and porters are the perfect go to.

You can always follow this rule: if a sweet dessert wine fits, then so does a sweet beer. You can also choose to create contrast or balance op against the sweetness, and for that I recommend seeking out a fruit lambic or mixed fermented sour ale with fruit. I

E.g Kriek is perfect for the Danish Christmas dessert "Ris Ala Mande" – That’s my go-to combo every year! Tip! The Mikkeller “spontancherry frederiksdal” is divine paired with that dessert – But you could also pair it with vanilla ice.

Beer and Spicy food:

Hop-forward beers like pale ales and India Pale Ales are really good for pairing with spicy food. BUT! A very hoppy beer can be a double-edged sword when it comes to spicy food. Spicy food often contains capsaicin (a component in chili peppers). Capsaicin activates the pain receptors in our mouth, which in fact also is activated by carbonation and alpha acid aka. Bitterness.


High hop-forward beers with high alpha acid content, can actually amplify the heat in spicy food – But the spice food also has a habit of making the bitterness more bitter, and the burn of alcohol more potent, potentially making the whole package intolerable. Make sure to tread lightly when choosing your beer for your next spicy burrito.


There are two ways to go, when you want to pair beer with spicy food. You can mellow out and cool the burn or the possibility to kick the heat up a notch.

I have a little rule of thumb when I pair beer with spicy food, and the general guideline I use is. Beers that emphasize malts over hops = Cool, Beers that emphasize hops over malts = Brings the heat!

Beer styles I recommend are following: Light lagers, Milk Stouts, India Pale ales and Pale Ales.


If you're an adventurous type, then try pairing with a milk stout. Chili con carne made with chocolate, coffee and spices are paired really nice with e.g. Mikkeller ”Milk Stout”.


This wraps up my beer and food-pairing guide!

Just remember, there are no rules - just guidelines! Go nuts and make some different food-parings, you might find a nice combo!


Have a great day folks!


- HopSkull