15 April 2020
Beer and food combinations for BBQ dishes
Which beer should you drink with Big Green Egg dishes?
You like beer and you like barbecue. Together, they form wonderful combinations, too. But how do you make the best beer and food combinations yourself? And how does the Big Green Egg’s flavour influence these combinations? In this blog, beer sommelier Jelle Yu will teach you about beer and give you some tips on how to combine it with food.
The flavours of beer
Beer is a great beverage to use in your dishes and to serve with your food. It can be a good accompaniment, but it’s even more fun and delicious when a beer enhances your dish. Jelle: ‘Beer has an incredibly broad spectrum of flavours. It starts with lager and ends with smoked imperial porter ripened on Jack Daniel’s whisky barrels. And there are thousands of flavours in between. I think that beer and food are such a great match because beer is warmed during the brewing process. Chemical reactions occur similar to those when heating ingredients, and this influences the flavour of the beer and the food. This makes it possible to create combinations with beer that are not possible with other beverages.’
The combination of beer and food
That doesn’t mean that beer goes with every dish, as Jelle affirms: ‘Sometimes with beer and food, the combination can negatively influence the taste of one or the other. It may fail to add anything, or make your dish tastes better while the beer falls away. We don’t want any of that. Ideally, there’s a fruitful interaction between beer and dish.
Rules of thumb when combining beer and food
‘There are some simple rules of thumb to help you create good beer and food combinations’, Jelle continues. ‘There’s no point in drinking blonde or white beer, for example, with red meats or stews that have robust flavours. You’re better off with a dark or roasted beer. But when eating fish, white beer is almost always perfect. As always in the kitchen, be sure to taste first, for even if you’re confident of your combination, it may actually be a mistake.’
Beer with a smoky flavour
‘In the past, all beers had smoky flavours because fire was used to dry the grain to make malt. Nowadays, the production of smoked beer is a conscious choice: brewers draw smoke through part of the dried malt.
Beer can also taste like coffee and contain caramel when roasted malt is used. For roasted beer, the grain is more than dried to create the malt. It is exposed to hot air for an extended period, causing the grain to roast. Just like coffee and cocoa beans. Caramelisation also occurs when meat is grilled. Obviously, then, roasted beer goes with it perfectly!’
Which beer is the best choice to go with your Big Green Egg dishes?
‘When choosing beer to go with a dish, you need to take into account the influence the Big Green Egg has on flavour. The smoke, charcoal and/or grill flavour is a good match with smoked or roasted beer. But combining heavy grill stripes and smoky flavours with something fresh can also be delicious; a beer that counters this flavour a little, like white beer or wheat beer. If you want to highlight the grill or smoke flavour, an IPA would work nicely, too. In this case, you would taste the fruit first, and then the bitter. And the bitter takes you back to the grill stripes. But always be sure that the bitter of an IPA doesn’t overpower your food.’
Beer to go with an American-style BBQ
Sometimes, certain factors can be all-determining in terms of flavour, such as the rubs, marinades and sauces associated with traditional American barbecue dishes. ‘That is definitely something to bear in mind,’ Jelle warns. ‘The accompanying ingredients may have more flavour than the main ingredient. The same principle applies to very spicy dishes. If you combine them with lager or an IPA, they will just become more spicy. It’s better to select a sweetish beer with less hop, like gruit beer or a quadrupel: a heavy, dark-coloured style. The sweetness will neutralise the spiciness.’
In many countries, it is believed that the head of a beer should be 2 fingers thick after pouring. ‘It’s one of those lager standards,’ explains Jelle. ‘With speciality beers, the head of one type of beer is bigger than the other. And a thinner head is not a bad thing, because you want to smell the aromas of the beer. However, you should always pour wheat and white beers slowly. Wheat contains a lot of protein, which, in combination with the carbon dioxide in beer, can result in excessive frothiness.’
The shape of the glass is also important. Bottom-fermentation beers like lager and Kellerbier tend to smell a little dank, even though they taste great. You pour these in a straight glass with a small opening. By skimming, you create a layer of water over the head that conserves the aromas: you can taste them, but you can’t smell them. Top-fermented beers, the speciality beers, have pleasant aromas of herbs, fruit and the like. You do want to savour these scents, so you pour them into a goblet or chalice.’
The best way to taste beer
Jelle has one final tip for optimal beer tasting: ‘Take a small sip. Swallow a little bit of the beer and keep the rest in your mouth. For when you swallow, oxygen enters your nasal cavity. This way, you can smell the beer and taste it at the same time.’
|BEER TYPE||CHARACTERISTICS||GOES WELL WITH|
|Lager. All bottom-fermented beer styles, mostly lagers||A fresh, smooth-drinking beer. Slightly bitter, sometimes slightly sweet.||Light dishes and raw dishes like steak tartare, oysters and sometimes ceviche.|
|Porter/Stout||You can see these beers as the cappuccino (porter) and the coffee (stout), since the porter is usually slightly sweeter. Both styles have heavily roasted malts, which explains the link to coffee beans and the roast flavour, but also caramel, dark, bitter chocolate and umami. Differ most certainly in terms of flavour, but have many similarities.||Stout with oysters. Both beer styles with grilled red meat (if any sauce is not too overpowering), hamburgers, vegetarian burgers, olives, mature goat cheese, traditional Dutch syrup waffles and chocolate.|
|IPA (India Pale Ale)||The fresher the hop used, more the aroma and the flavour of the hop type come into their own. Fruity and bitter. The bitterness can become fairly dominant in combination with food, which makes an IPA hard to combine.||Grilled red meat such as steak, blue cheeses and raw or cured hams. Heavy IPAs also go well with cheesecake.|
|Blond||Slightly bitter, quite fruity and a typical sweet.||Full-flavoured, fatty fish dishes.|
|Tripel||Blonde, heavy and not bitter. Full-bodied and sweetish, often with tones of ripe, yellow (dried) fruit.||Strong fish dishes, vegetarian dishes with a lot of earthly tones, veal, chicken, turkey, king prawns and lobster.|
|Dubbel||Always dark in colour, but not a heavy style. Often lightly roasted with tones of nuts and caramel.||Light, autumn dishes with poultry, bisque and salads with nuts and raisins.|
|Saison||Seasonal beer for Belgian farm labourers in the days of old. Nowadays a style that is dry, rustic, thirst-quenching and can come across as slightly sulphurous.||Summer dishes, such as grilled king prawns or lobster.|
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