Beergustation: heavenly food and beer pairings

Recently Eddie, Govs and myself jumped on a plane and headed down to Newcastle to co-host a 6-course Beergustation Dinner at The Grain Store Craft Beer Cafe.

The venue has 21 taps dedicated to Australian brewed independent beers and has been gorgeously restored to it’s original warehouse style facade with timber flooring, art deco tiling and high ceilings. As well as one of the best independent beer selections on tap in Australia, they also do a killer job of pairing their beers together with a range of delicious food options. Which leads us into the topic of beergustation.

Beergustation in a nutshell

Beergustation is a word we probably could have included in our recent blog post article on craft beer jargon. It’s all about matching up great beer and delicious food to create the ultimate stomach lining experience.

Wine and food pairings have traditionally gotten all the glory, but with the rise of the craft beer scene, misperceptions about beer’s lack of sophistication when coupled with food are thankfully becoming a thing of the past.

Beergustation takes food and beer pairings far beyond peanuts and lager. We’re talking real deal culinary creations matched with the finest and freshest beer options. Here’s some of what Black Hops and The Grain Store came up with on our beergustation night:

grain store menu

Fundamentals for creating divine beer/food pairings

Good beer is a complex concoction, tailor made for enhancing the flavours of a huge range of foods and dishes, both savoury and sweet. There are a few fundamentals to keep in mind when creating the perfect beer/food match. Balance and compatibility are the keys.

You want the beer to complement the food. They need to work together in harmony, with similar flavour characteristics. You don’t want one to overpower the other. A dry, hoppy IPA will most likely annihilate a delicate fish dish. Instead match it with a bold meat dish like a hearty chargrilled steak.

Flavour contrast is another important factor to consider when pairing food and beer. Although you don’t want the contrast to be so overpowering that the food and the beer are no longer complementary.

You also want the beer to cleanse the palate. This is especially the case if you are pairing a beer with a rich meal such as a pork belly. We’ve found that our Pink Mist Raspberry Saison and sorbet go together ideally as a between dish palate cleanser.

So in the world of beer gastronomy, here’s a few of our favourite beer and food combos to get you salivating.

Beer and savoury foods

beer sliders

With white meats and fish, as well as salads and pastas, you need a beer that doesn’t overpower them. So lighter lagers, saisons, blonde ales and wheat ales are all good matches.

Red meat dishes such as burgers, steaks and roasts work best with bolder, fuller bodied beers such as IPA’s and stouts.

Here are a few combos we’ve been known to tuck into:

  • Slow cooked pork belly with Golden Ale: the delicious, caramelised skin of the pork belly is perfectly complemented by the malty tones of a classic Golden Ale, which also cuts through the pork’s richness to cleanse the palate.  
  • Hot chips with Berlinner Weisse: this cloudy, sour, white beer goes a treat with a serving of hot chips. The salty/sour combo is a winner and the beer cleans the palate from the hot, oily, starchy chips.
  • Beer-battered fish and chips with Lay Day Lager:  the crisp, clean finish of the lager complements the meal and also does the job as a palate cleanser.

Beer and desserts

beer sorbet

If you’re raising your eyebrows at the thought of pairing beer and sweet treats, try one of these delicious combos and be convinced:

  • Lay Day Lager with lemon meringue pie: the beer’s clean, well-carbonated finish with fruity notes balances the tangy citrus flavours of the pie.
  • Pink Mist Saison with chocolate cake: fruit based beers provide a nice balance and contrast to chocolate based desserts.
  • Eggnog Stout with double chocolate coconut rum balls: this one comes straight from the Grain Store beergustation menu. The Chocolate notes in stouts also pair well with most other rich desserts, such as brownies.

Beer and cheese

beer and cheese

Wine doesn’t have a monopoly on cheese. The Belgian monks, those renowned brewers of tasty Tripels, are also dab hands at cheese making, and have been pairing the two together for centuries. In fact beer may be a superior match maker, as the carbonation in beer creates a lighter acidity and lifts the fats in the cheese off the palate. Whereas wine can sometimes mask some of the more subtle flavours of cheese.

While beer tends to mellow in intensity as it ages due to oxidization, the flavours in cheese tend to become sharper and bolder as it matures.

Beers such as pale lagers or wheats usually match up well with lighter cheeses such as fresh mozzarellas. While bolder beers such as imperial stouts stand up best with riper, more pungent cheeses.

Here are a few beer/cheese combos that come highly recommended by us:

  • Saison and blue cheese. Govs swears by this combo after Hendo put him onto it at BeerIncider recently. The boldness of the cheese and the delicate spice and pepper character from the saison make a magical flavour contrast. Match up our Beach House saison with a tangy blue brie and you can’t go wrong. From a complementary flavour perspective, saison and bries or camemberts also match up well.
  • Wasabi cheese and IPA: the bitter citrus hops really amplifies the spiciness and intensity of the cheese’s wasabi characteristics.
  • Cheddar and Eggnog Stout: matching up our dry, complex Eggnog Stout with a sharp cheddar is a big favourite around these parts!  
  • Belgian Tripel and Swiss cheese: A Swiss gruyere, with it’s slightly nutty and fruity notes, ideally complements the flavours in Belgian beers.

We hope we’ve given you plenty of beergustation inspiration! If you have favourites let us know in the comments.

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