A new tool developed by an American research team aims to assist the beer community in executing more harmonious and imaginative food pairings.
“A lot of people when evaluating a given pairing, don’t even know what they are supposed to be looking for… they’re like, ‘that was really good. I dunno why, but I liked it’,” said working group member Pat Fahey, a Master Cicerone.
“We wanted people to be able to, if they were inclined, to break down a pairing and look at different aspects of it and really figure out what portions of this pairing did or did not work.
“We have a streamlined four-step paradigm that we all sort of agreed on, was a good way to focus on the key aspects of a pairing or the key things that are happening when you are going through a pairing,” he said.
Crazily complex: Randy Mosher
The science underpinning aromatic connections between beer and food is actually “crazily complex”, commented fellow working group member Randy Mosher, author of Tasting Beer.
“When you have two things, a food and a beer that come together to create something amazing in your mouth, that’s where we really feel like success is and that’s going to be really hard to quantify on a scientific basis, because it’s magic,” he said.
“Any given beer is going to have at least several hundred different aromatic compounds to choose from, and every single ingredient in a dish may be similarly complex.
“The trick here is to deconstruct… to really dig in and understand why a [pairing] maybe misses a little bit.”
Finding the magic
Mosher said more can be learnt from pairings that slightly miss the mark, than those that are perfect.
“We’re working on the science to help you not make mistakes and to help us learn foundational things that give us building blocks so that we can make better art,” he said.
Mosher said a match may fall short because one partner obscures the other or there are some clashing elements, or there is “just no magic”.
“If you take flourless chocolate cake and put it with an imperial stout, it’s like yeah, OK. That’s OK. but it’s not very imaginative and there’s certainly no magic there,” he said.
Four steps to consider
The worksheet starts by asking subjects to individually rate the intensity of the food and the beer, which Mosher said aims to avoid the “Bambi versus Godzilla effect”.
“You don’t want the intensity mismatch to be so extreme that one of them just totally overwhelms the other. You want your pairing to be an interaction, not like a bodyslam,” said Fahey.
The specific taste and flavour attributes of the beer (sweetness, bitterness, alcohol etc) and food (saltiness, sourness, umami etc) are then rated individually, with the impact of their combination measured and appraised.
“Different people have different preferences and so depending on whether you really like sweetness or don’t like sweetness, an increase in sweetness could be a good thing, or it could be a very bad thing,” said Fahey.
The final steps are to note the aromatic connections between the beer and food, before providing an overall personal assessment of the pairing.
Mosher said it is not necessary to analyse every possible taste and mouthfeel attribute and aromatic connection that may be present.
“Typically we find that there’s two or three kind of important things going on that really drive the experience… all we’re looking for you guys to do with the sheet is to pick out the top two or three that seemed to really resonate,” he said.
The Beer and Food Working Group is seeking feedback on the worksheet, a beta version of which is available here.