Avoiding jargon can increase interest in beer and food pairings

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Paired: Nebraska Brewing Co's Belgian blonde ale was matched with a smoked pork dish
Paired: Nebraska Brewing Co's Belgian blonde ale was matched with a smoked pork dish

Related tags Beer Beer style

Using less specialist vocabulary can help pubs and restaurants sell beer and food pairings to customers, according to the US Brewers Association (BA).

Speaking at a beer and food pairing event at Sager & Wilde in London, BA executive chef Adam Dulye said that matching food with beer, as well as wine and cocktails, would give consumers “a more complete dining experience”.

“We find that in order to get non-beer drinkers into it (food and beer pairing), we need to use words that they are comfortable with,” he said. “We (beer drinkers) all talk in language that we know, but when we say IPA or pilsner or wit or saison to a wine or a spirits drinker they don’t know what those mean.

“We have that hurdle to overcome where people want to act like they know what they are talking about when ordering drinks in a bar or restaurant, and we in the beer world have quite a vocabulary for people to learn.”

“It’s easier if staff ask instead ‘what do you like? do you like bitter? crisp? roasty? Everyone knows what those words and flavours mean, and then you can lead the customer into styles from there.”

Incentivising restaurants

Responding to the question of how to incentivise pubs and restaurants to broaden their beer menus, Dulye said that venues could see an increase in profits by switching to draught beer.

“We get this question a lot, and we actually commissioned a survey with Neilson that proved that if you went for draught beer, your profits actually increased,” he said. 

“Draught is the way to show profit, but it is a huge hurdle to overcome because, with wine, all the waiter has to do is put one $80 bottle on the table and they’re done, whereas with beer they often have to be back and forth. But with beer on the table, and maybe some cocktails too, you get a more complete dining experience.” 

Breaking with tradition

The dinner was attended by a number of beer and food writers including The Morning Advertiser ​columnist Pete Brown, as well as representatives from Hardywood Park, City Brewing Co and Track 7 Brewing Co in America. 

Among the pairings selected by BA and Sager & Wilde head chef Chris Leach were crab and gazpacho with saisons from Great Divide Brewing and Pfreim family brewers, and a smoked Middlewhite pork dish with a strong Belgian ale from Nebraska Brewing Co.  

Dulye also broke with beer and food pairing tradition to end the meal on a lighter note, pairing lemon tart with a witbier and a blonde ale. “We wanted people to leave feeling refreshed and awake, rather than like they had just had a huge five-course meal and 10 beers,” he said.

Speaking about the event, Lotte Peplow, Beer Sommelier for the Brewers Association said: "It was hugely encouraging to see Sager & Wilde's customers respond to the beer and food suggestions on the menu and order American craft beer with their meal instead of wine. The restaurant was full and there was beer on nearly every table.

"We would like to see more beer and food suggestions on the menu in the future and more opportunities for consumers to purchase beer when dining. A beer list with tasting notes is a good start, as is well-informed and knowledgeable bar staff who are familiar with the beers they stock and can suggest beer styles appropriate to the food dish. Ensuring that beer is served in elegant glassware for the style is also essential to convey a premium image."

The Brewers Association is a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts. 

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