Craft Beer & Food Pairings for American Craft Beer Week

May 14, 2014Kyle Westfall

It's American Craft Beer Week, and we know you're probably looking to get out and enjoy some fine local brews (you should!). Have you thought about what foods to pair with which craft beers? While it’s common to find wine and food pairing suggestions, with the rise of the craft beer industry (and the exposure that Craft Beer Week brings to the industry), foodies are increasingly seeking the perfect brew to pair with their meals. Or, if you're a big craft beer junkie, you might be looking for the perfect meal to pair with your beer.

As with wine, there are key components to consider when making a successful pairing between craft beer and foods – taste elements, flavors, and intensity to name a few. 

To create a strong connection or pairing, there must be a basic understanding of how taste elements interact with each other; sweet calms sweet (e.g. Stout and Vanilla Ice Cream Floats), bitter calms sweet (e.g. India Pale Ale and Carrot Cake), acidic calms salt (e.g. American Belgo-style Sour Ale and pretzels), and umami complements umami.  What in the world is umami? As defined in, umami is a “pleasant savory taste.”  In terms of beer pairing, an example includes an Aged Old Ale and sharp cheese.

Bridging the flavors between craft beer and foods is also a key component to pairing success.  To do so, one should use a grouping approach.  According to here are some examples of flavor groups and suggested pairings:

  1. Group: citrus fruits/ Pairing: American-style India Pale Ale with Orange Chicken Stir-Fry
  2. Group: dates, figs, and raisins/ Pairing: Belgian-style Strong Dark Ale with Bacon Wrapped Dates
  3. Group: brown sugar, butter, caramel, vanilla/ Pairing: English-style Barley Wine and Blonde Brownie with Butterscotch Sauce
  4. Group: rosemary, juniper, spruce/ Pairing: American Pale Ale and Rosemary-dusted Creamed Chicken

When pairing brews and bites, the flavors and taste elements of each should go head to head in terms of intensity.  To make a successful pairing, a strong beer should be matched with a rich meal, whereas a delicate beer should team up with a light dish.  By doing so, the meal becomes balanced.

A tasting menu is a great way to experience new and different craft beers.  From cheese plate starters through the final dessert course, there’s a beer pairing for every dish.  Keep in mind there are other factors to consider as well – the appropriate glassware, serving temperature, etc.  For a quick reference, check out the “Food Pairing Chart” on

What are some of your favorite craft beer + food pairings? Leave us a comment below!

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