Recent British Beer & Pub Association figures show there are more than 2,000 breweries in the UK producing more than 12,000 beers across 140 different styles, so there are plenty to go around.
Though there are many styles, there is no need to worry about matching beer with food because the fundamentals aren’t hard and fast, and experimentation is fine. Messing around and making mistakes is, in fact, encouraged.
Authors, including Nigel Sadler, who wrote the Beer & Food Handbook 2015, set out a few simple steps to consider before starting out on a beer and food matching journey. The main thing to consider is what the leading tastes in the food and beer are (see How taste works). Overarching tastes in both can be played off against each other.
A simple message
The tastes: bitterness, sweetness, saltiness, sourness and umami:
- Sourness: increases sweetness
- Sweetness: is lowered by acidity
- Umami: increases bitterness
- Bitterness: is enhanced by sweetness
- Saltiness: lowers bitterness
For example, sourness will increase the perceived mouthfeel of sweetness. Umami, on the other hand, increases the perception of bitterness, while acidity lowers the perception of sweetness.
In simpler terms, beer styles can be treated the same as wine colours when it comes to matching them with food. For instance, treat all blonde, golden and lager beers like white wines and darker beers, porters and bitters as reds.
You want to either complement, contrast, co-ordinate or cleanse when matching a beer with food. To complement, take a style like a porter, which has chocolate and coffee notes, and pair with something like a chocolate cake.
There’s a Beer For That beer writer and sommelier Laurence Creamer explains: “Whatever the palate, whatever the flavour preference, there’s a beer for that.
“For white wine, you have fish. Red wine is good to pair with meat, and this is exactly the same with beer. For lighter beers, such as lagers and wheat beers, go for fish and salad. Darker beers pair well with chocolate, steaks and stews. It really is that simple.”
Advocates of beer and food pairing
Beer writer and The Morning Advertiser columnist Pete Brown is one of the biggest advocates of beer and food pairing. He once wrote: “When it comes to changing people’s perceptions of beer, of creating brand new excitement around the possibilities of flavour, there’s nothing more powerful (with perhaps the exception of ‘Try Before You Buy’), than beer and food matching.”
His top advice ranges from working with a local brewer and the likes of a local butcher or baker to create a pairing conversation.
One beer brand that has been aligned with food since its inception in 1859 is Birra Moretti. It is well documented the Italians take their food very seriously, so it makes sense one of the country’s beers was designed specifically with food in mind.
The brand’s popularity in the on-trade, specifically premium food-led establishments, is testament to the ideals behind its design. Some refer to it as a wholemeal beer on account of its slightly malted taste. Yet, its straw colour and carbonation mean it is light enough to interact with and complement almost all food types, making it an easy beer to pair with pretty much any dish.
Birra Moretti's grand growth
Named in The Morning Advertiser's The Drinks List: Top Brands To Stock as the fastest growing beer brand in the UK, Birra Moretti is proud to have increased sales by more than £85m to the on-trade this year.
Now it is worth in excess of £157m in the on-trade, the brand is expected to continue its impressive growth into 2018, making it a must-stock for licensees.
n summer, Birra Moretti once again hosted its Gran our street food festival, celebrating Italian food and drink across the UK. For the first time the tour partnered with festivals across the country and the brand appeared at the Barclaycard British Summer Time in Hyde Park, The Big Festival, Festival No.6, Goodwood Revival, Cheltenham Jazz Festival and Summer Nights.
Visitors to these fantastic festivals were able to enjoy great-quality beer and cider from the stand-our Birra Moretti bar experience.
Across the six events, 650,000 people had the opportunity to enjoy a perfectly served pint of Birra Moretti, while having and amazing experience and some delicious street food. The brand served 224,000 pints across the xi events, meaning fantastic exposure for this increasingly popular brand.
Mark Noble, senior brand manager for Birra Moretti, explains: "By aligning the Gran Tour with these premium festivals, we're raising awareness of the brand and cementing the association with quality Italian food and great experiences.
"Our advice is to stock Beer Moretti alongside a classic lager brand, to encourage your customers to trade up because this means you can charge a 40% premium for a pint – meaning more money in your till.
"If you're interested in finding out more about stocking Birra Moretti in your outlet, get in touch with your local sales rep or call 03458 787 071."
Senior brand manager Mark Noble highlights the fact the beer is the fastest growing premium lager in the on-trade, which he attributes to a desire to eat in better quality pubs with a great pint that complements what they are consuming.
“Food is a big driver of Birra Moretti’s growth in the on-trade, consumers are looking for a better experience,” he says. “For us, as a brand, when we look at the food occasions there is a significant proportion of consumers having a beer with food and it continues to be more and more important in the market.”
An integral part of the modern pub experience puts food at the centre. “It’s about getting together, having a meal and a beer that’s the perfect accompaniment to that meal,” he adds.
It is not about moving people away from wine and into beer when it comes to mealtimes, though, Noble explains. Instead, it is about offering an alternative to suit other consumer needs and experiences.
A big part of making this happen is in the education of staff, he explains. The main focus should be on the quality of the food served, as that is where the journey starts for customers. It is no good aligning food and beer if they do not reach the same level of quality.
'Beer offer needs to be interesting'
“Then it is down to the staff,” he continues. “They need to be confident in what they talk to customers about and the beer offer at the pub needs to be interesting too.
“It is really important to keep your beer range fresh and current, to give customers that reason to try a certain beer with their food.
“It is a very different flavour experience for customers when beer is aligned with food as opposed to something like wine. The carbonation of a beer like
Birra Moretti cuts through fatty and oily foods, yet its hoppy aroma gives enough flavour to complement the main taste profile of many dishes.”
Trying different beers with various dishes can be advantageous as you could discover something great
– Mark Noble, Heineken
Brews such as Birrra Moretti have the ability to enhance a plethora of classic dishes. Take a risotto bianco, which is creamy and often rich. The wholemeal notes of the beer are sophisticated and bold enough to work with the big cheesy flavours in the dish and compliment the nuttiness of the Arborio rice. Yet, the beer’s carbonation and its lightly hopped upper notes cut through the fat of the dish, leaving the diner’s palate clean for the next bite.
When aligning beer and food, Noble suggests operators keep three things in mind. The first is experimentation, he says. “Trying different beers with various dishes can be advantageous as you could discover something great.”
Secondly, understanding why a certain beer works with one dish and not another is fundamental, especially when you’re explaining to a customer why they should choose a particular beer with their meal.
Finally, tailoring your offer to the pub you are in is essential. Knowing your audience could mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to beer and food pairing. Many local community pubs are unlikely to have a clientele willing to try a sour beer with their dessert, compared with customers in a slick city-centre gastropub.
It is not just about the liquids though, the glassware beer is served in can enhance the flavour of the beer as well as make it stand out for the right reasons. As Jane Peyton advises, one thing that can put diners off beer with food is a “big ugly pint glass on the table”. Serving beer in the right style glass – whether branded, a chalice or tulip – is going to add to the experience.