When it comes to pairing food and drink, beer picks up where wine leaves off, thanks to the ever-expanding list of offerings from America’s small and independent craft brewers. To help beer beginners and enthusiasts alike navigate the complex world of beer and food pairing, CraftBeer.com—the consumer-oriented site of the Brewers Association—has released a Craft Beer Characteristics Chart. This visual representation serves to help untangle the web of interactions and flavors that happen when pairing craft beer and food.
To gain the most success in pairing, it’s important to understand the characteristics (taste elements, flavors, intensity and sensations) of the craft beer you plan to pair with. It helps to think of craft beer as an ingredient and use the characteristics chart as a road map to identify what elements are present.
Chew on this:
In addition to breaking down the four characteristics, CraftBeer.com has created a chart of potential interactions and helpful pairing terms:
Complement: When one item from a craft beer or food complements the other during pairing.
Counter/Contrast: When elements interact and either heighten or calm each other’s intensities. Malty sweetness counters the sugar sweet of a food and lessens the sweetness.
Cut: The bitterness of hops cut and lessen the impact of fat, richness and oil in food. This allows you to more easily identify flavors and taste elements. Cutting also occurs from carbonation and acidity.
Home run: When a craft beer and food pairing elevates the taste experience. The whole is better than the individual parts. 1 + 1 = 3!
Train wreck: A clash of elements or flavors from the meeting of food or craft beer. A train wreck is when the whole tastes less desirable than the individual parts. 1 + 1 = -1. Think orange juice and toothpaste. Yuck!
Rest: When your craft beer or food ingredients provide a break and help renew and reset your palate. A rest can be an intermezzo in the middle of the meal.
Bridge: Where craft beer and food meet ingredient to ingredient. Bridges help you find harmonies, also referred to as flavor hooks.
Echo: When one flavor, sensation or intensity repeats the other. These create more pairing harmonies.
Harmony: A synergistic marriage of flavor and taste elements.
Click here for the full article and to download a PDF of the characteristics and potential interactions charts.