Day two of the Cicerone Beer Education class was even better than the first. After a morning of sampling more off flavors (ugh!), discussion turned to one of my favorite subjects – beer and food. This is a topic I will likely come back to many times in future blog posts. Hence the title.
When I first started in the craft beer industry in 1995, beer was seen as the “kick back after work and relax” beverage. Yes, craft brewers were making better beers in the mid 90’s, but the occasion to enjoy those great beers beer had not really changed in the mind of the general public. I vividly recall many times walking into restaurants in Atlanta that carried a large and varied wine list and only offered a few mass-produced beers. The wine list obviously had thought behind it and was meant to pair with the food, while the beer list was only an afterthought. Craft brewers across the country have been fighting to change this for a long time. And it finally seems to be working!
There are now many “gastro-pubs” opening around the country that put craft beer front and center in their menus. Beer and food just plain go together. Ryan Johnson, the instructor of this particular Cicerone class reminded me why. It may sound silly but it goes back to something I repeated religiously when I was in college – “Beer is food”.
At the time I was saying that I did not need to eat; liquid refreshment was all I needed. Of course my young friends and I were just being drunk and stupid. Or young and foolish; that sounds more romantic. But either way, “beer is food” really does explain why beer can pair so well with many different meals. Food is cooked. Beer is cooked. Wine is not. Pairing cooked flavors together is much easier than pairing cooked foods with a non cooked beverage.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying wine and food do not go together. They do. And in certain situations they go together very well. But it is much more difficult to pair wine with a large variety of foods. Beer has so many styles and flavors that it can be paired with practically any type of food. Grilled and roasted flavors? No problem. Hot and spicy? Beer shines with these flavors. Desert? But of course.
Specific examples? Great idea. In a future post I will write about some of the favorite pairings I have had in the past. In the meantime, what beer and food pairings have you enjoyed? Let me know.