One of the few things more pleasant than sitting back with an ice–cold craft beer is sitting back with that same beer and the perfect food pairing. Get the right food and the right brew, and you’ll find you can create a combination just as amazing as any expensive wine pairing at a fancy Italian restaurant.
Of course, there are just as many different types of craft beers as there are foods to pair them with. Some beers have very strong flavors, while others are more subtle. Some work well with spicy foods; others pair best with sweeter meals. The possibilities are endless, but we’ve put together a list of five of our favorite foods that pair well with cold craft beer:
Grilled Cheese with an IPA
IPA beers are incredibly popular, but their famously bitter flavor means that they often overwhelm the foods they’re paired with. The trick is to find something that complements the bitterness of an IPA, rather than simply being upstaged by it.
This is where grilled cheese comes in: the fatty umami taste of the cheese will match perfectly with the floral and hoppy taste of the IPA. To upgrade the pairing even further, add a little bacon to your grilled cheese. The saltiness of the bacon and the added crunchiness will make for a match made in culinary heaven.
Chili Dog with a Stout or Porter
There’s nothing quite like a good chili dog. It’s really one of the perfect foods, partially because there’s just so much going on. A good, smoky chili mixed with the spicy acidity of onions and the savory goodness of a little shredded cheese really can’t be beat. But with so many powerful flavors in play, you’ll need to find a beer to match it.
Any beer you use to accompany a chili dog should be good and rich in flavor. That’s why a good stout or porter can be just perfect. The slight sweetness of a porter balances against the smokiness of the chili, while the nutty notes work nicely with your choice of cheese. If you’re really looking to be bold, you can even try pairing a chili dog with a Belgian Tripel. One of the heaviest—and highest ABV—beers you can get, a Belgian Tripel, is a bold drink and needs a bold food to pair it with.
Buffalo Chicken Tenders with a Light Pilsner
The beers we mentioned above are heavy, with a strong, bitter flavor, but if you’re in the mood for something a bit lighter, consider a light pilsner. Pilsner is a more subtle beer than most. It’s easy to drink and very refreshing. Because of this, it pairs well with appetizers and is a great palette cleanser for spicy food, such as buffalo chicken tenders.
Of course, buffalo chicken tenders aren’t your only option: a good pilsner will also wash down some tasty garlic fries or even some spicy chips, like the Hell Fire Chips from Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers.
Mac and Cheese with a Brown Ale
Most people don’t think of macaroni and cheese as a gourmet dish that can be paired with a good quality cold craft beer. But that’s not because mac and cheese isn’t a gourmet dish. It’s just that many people’s experiences with it are limited to the “just add water” variety. Order the Mmmac from Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers, and you’ll see that macaroni and cheese can be a bold and deliciously rich dish with a lot of options for variety: chili, asparagus, jalapeños, and bacon can all be added to pump up the flavor.
There are a number of beers you can pair with a good macaroni and cheese, but our top pick for this one is a quality brown ale. Brown ales have nutty notes that bring out the sweetness in the cheese that you may not normally taste. You’ll want a beer that’s somewhere in the middle in terms of how heavy it is. Too light, and it will be overwhelmed by the flavor of the cheese. Too heavy, however, and the whole dish will start to feel a little too rich. This is why brown ales are perfect, but a pale ale or a German lager can complement mac and cheese just as well.
Vegetarian Option: Beyond Burger with a Scottish Ale
Of course, you don’t have to be a meat-eater to enjoy a great pairing of food and cold craft beer. If you want to stick to a totally vegetarian option, give a Beyond Burger a try. Made from entirely plant-based proteins, Beyond Burger patties are a great way to enjoy the taste of hamburgers without any animal products. Even non-vegetarians can get in on the fun: Beyond Burgers are made to be enjoyed by everyone.
Because it’s so close in taste and texture to real meat, you’ll want to try to pair a Beyond Burger with something that could work well with a traditional hamburger. There are a few flavor notes, however, that a Beyond Burger doesn’t have, but the right beer can serve to substitute for them. That’s why a Scottish ale is such a perfect match: it brings in caramel notes, which a meatless burger might not have, leading to an amazing—and perfectly vegetarian-friendly—food and beer pairing.
Bonus: Gluten-Free Option
Of course, we don’t want to leave anyone out, and it’s still possible to enjoy a good food pairing if your diet happens to be gluten-free. Most beers, of course, contain gluten, but any drink menu worth its salt will probably contain a cider option. Made from apples instead of wheat, cider is a bit lighter, with a touch more carbonation than beer and a crisp flavor. It happens to also be great with cheese, as well as poultry meats, especially turkey. If you’re looking for a great gluten-free option, try a turkey and avocado sandwich on a wheat less bun, paired with a delicious cider.