We’ve all heard of pairing wine with food. Chances are, if you ever drink the stuff, you’ve had it with cheese and crackers on a picnic, or during a tablecloth-cloaked dinner. But beer has a place at the table, too -- whether that table may be in a 3-star Michelin restaurant or your favorite local dive.
Some nights, your thirst can’t simply be quenched by a brew or two. In such scenarios, it’s best to look at your menu options and make an educated decision about what will best soak up that third or fourth beer, while considering that your wallet might not support unlimited ordering. If you’re splitting your budget between food and beverage, to hell with that fancy Pat LaFrieda burger -- save the class for the glass, and pair top notch suds with the following pub-snacking favorites.
Hummus: Hoppy Amber/Red Ale
Pipeworks Blood of the Unicorn (6.5% ABV)
Hummus is smooth, savory, and the most efficient way to get a whole bunch of chickpeas into your mouth at once. As such, you’ll need something to wash it down, and the fruity, piney hops carried by caramel malts and unicorn blood in this hoppy red ale will do a great job mingling with the garlic and tahini blanket on your tongue.
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Tacos: Mexican-Style Lager
21st Amendment El Sully (4.8% ABV)
Mexican food should never be far from an easy drinking lager. Corn tortillas meet their match in the malt bill of an adjunct lager -- which, in this case, includes flaked maize, pilsner malt and Vienna malt. Should you be so lucky to find yourself in a situation involving tacos and craft beers on tap, look no further than El Sully. The straw-colored light lager is like a Tecate with bonus points: throat-caressing and crushable, great with a slice of lime, and thirst-quenching every time.
Half Acre Tuna (4.5% ABV)
For the chips-and-cheese connoisseur (by which we mean your palate is discerning enough not to settle for soggy nachos), it’s important that a beer is equally able to excite and blend into the background as you dive into a pile of gooey, crispy tortilla chips (one that’s hopefully as tall as your pint glass and wider than your face). Half Acre’s Tuna is ideal here: it’s grassy and balanced, with enough citrusy fruit character to make you appreciate its flavor, yet subtle enough that you won’t still be tasting it when your mouth’s full of black beans and sour cream. Then, it comes back in at the end to scrub your palate clean: a timely refresher.
Guacamole: Session IPA
Founders All Day IPA (4.7% ABV)
Pretty much every session IPA you’ve ever had exists because of this beer. “Session” means that it’s light and easy to drink, while still being flavorful. The “IPA” part, in this scenario, allows for subtle bitterness and fruit flavors to complement the creamy, green guac. And “All Day” means that you can order this beer again, and again without ever getting bored or full. Be sure to order another round of guac to keep up.
Jalapeño Poppers: Imperial IPA
Boneyard Hop Venom (9% ABV)
If you’re the type whose bar snack of choice is a deep-fried, hollowed-out jalapeño stuffed with cheese, you may as well go for the gold here. And by gold, I mean a big, burly, west coast double IPA like Boneyard Hop Venom, a beer with a bite like a python, and the pleasant, piney-yet-fruity flavors that stick to your tongue to help you through that next greasy, spicy bite.
Potato Skins: Porter
Bell’s Brewery Porter (5.6% ABV)
Potato skins and porter go together like “pot” and “pie”: they both begin with a “p,” and the sum of their parts is something delicious. Umami-laden bacon basks on a bed of sour cream and chives, weaving a quilt for the fluffy starch mattress underneath; the dish begs for something sweet as a dream with a touch of coffee to match. Bell’s Brewery Porter is a perfect combination of chocolate and roasty espresso, at a low enough ABV that you can wash down those savory skins without succumbing to food coma.
Crab Cakes: Saison
Oxbow Sasuga (6.1% ABV)
You’re probably feeling kinda fancy with those crab cakes in hand. Keep it classy with a Belgian-style saison, the peppery and lemony flavors of which add a perfect zing to sweet seafood like crabmeat. Sasuga, a sake-inspired rice saison fermented with brettanomyces yeast (the one that makes things deliciously funky), is a great means of scrubbing the palate clean after those tartar sauce-smeared crustaceans muck it up.
French Fries: Berliner Weisse
Grimm Field Rotation
This pairing works especially well when you opt for the next-level fries (a la parmesan truffle). Be they slick, skinny shoestrings; ribbed, crispy bits; or heavy hunks of steak fry; a tasty piece of fried potato and a tart-and-light Berlinner Weisse will bring out the subtleties of both, the latter lifting the salt from your tongue and accentuating the starchy flavors of potato and its own grain. If you’re a sodium junkie, go full throttle with a gose style beer, Berliner Weisse’s salty, coriander-spiced cousin. Our go-to: Two Evil Geyser Gose by Evil Twin and Two Roads.
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Pulled Pork Sliders: Bock
Sly Fox Hefeweizen Doppelbock (7.4% ABV)
When you’re ready to reach for the stringy, saucy succulence of pulled pork pressed between two soft, sticky buns, your next step shall be to boldly go where no hop head has gone before: the doppelbock. The stronger, maltier version of a German-style bock (itself a strong lager) is given a forgiving twist with Sly Fox’s Hefeweizen Doppelbock, a version of the style that incorporates wheat malt and delicate hops. It’s a lighter way to wash that sweet meat down.
Mozzarella Sticks: Fruited Sour
Goose Island Madame Rose (6.7% ABV)
Deep fried cheese is a beautiful thing. A sour ale -- especially after spending some time aging on fruit like raspberries or cherries -- is also, visually and gustatorily, a beautiful thing. Bring that chewy cheese stick covered in seasoned, crispy breadcrumbs to your mouth, then introduce some lacto-tastic sour beer that’s spent some time on oak and cherries, and you’ll have achieved the ultimate bar-snack-and-beer-pairing paradise.
Note: Goose Island is a member of The High End, owned by Anheuser-Busch.