A leading expert on cask beer, Annabel Smith has worked in the beer industry for almost 30 years as a licensee, educator, beer inspector, beer sommelier, public speaker and author.
Here she gives her tastemaker tips on which beers to pair with which foods and why beer menus should get the same exposure as wine menus…
Beer is food friendly
Beer has a huge array of flavours which are food friendly: the sweet breadiness of the malt, the citric zestiness of hops, the creaminess of wheat, the fruity esters which come from ale yeast, and most of all, carbonation – beer’s secret weapon – which acts as a palate cleanser. One of the brands I work with, Birrificio Angelo Poretti, is a good example of a beer that was made to elevate food.
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Find a beer that matches your palate
One of the biggest misconceptions is that all beer is “brown, bitter and bloating”. It’s not. There are thousands of colours, aromas, and flavours in beer, and you just have to find one that matches your palate. When people say to me “oh, I don’t like beer”, it’s usually because they’ve tasted one or two, had a poor experience and decided they all taste the same. It’s like saying you don’t like Italian food because you’ve had a strand of spaghetti.
Favourite beer and food pairings
- Pilsner lager with a charcuterie and cheese plate: salami, prosciutto, serrano ham and a ripe Camembert – try Birrificio Angelo Poretti
- Wheat beer with a chicken tikka masala – try Erdinger Wheat Beer
- Blonde ale with fish and chips – try Duvel Blond
- Amber ale with roast beef and Yorkshire puddings – try Adnams Broadside
- Stout or porter with stilton – try Fuller’s London Porter
- Sour cherry beer with a piece of dark chocolate – try Bacchus Kriek
There’s room for both
I would never state that beer pairings should be taken more seriously than wine pairings because they do completely different things – and there’s room for both. However, beer and food just doesn’t get the exposure. Look at every cooking programme on TV: there’s always a wine expert on hand to recommend a match for the dishes being cooked. Look at every newspaper supplement and foodie magazine: pages devoted to wine pairings with the recipes and rarely a nod to beer! So, people just don’t associate beer with food.
Offer a beer menu
From a commercial point of view, if you’re running a food business, why are you not offering a beer menu as well as the wine list? Giving your guests an informed and educated choice is great for business – and that’s where the beer sommelier role comes in.
Annabel Smith has worked in the beer industry for almost 30 years as a licensee, educator, beer inspector, beer sommelier, public speaker and author. Her previous roles include training manager at Diageo and head of training at The Cask MarqueTrust. She is a founding member of Dea Latis, a group formed to change women’s perceptions about beer and encourage more women to consider beer as a drink of choice. She has published two research reports exploring this subject: The Gender Pint Gap and The Beer Agender. See more at beerbelle.co.uk
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