Ideal Food and Beer Pairings: The Best Of Both Worlds

For centuries, beer and food have been consumed and enjoyed together not only for health reasons (it used to be safer to drink beer than water) but also just to enjoy together. Beer is a grained-based drink available in a variety of textures, aromas, and flavors, making it the perfect complement of almost every type of food imaginable, from a frankfurter to a gourmet dish. 

Beer and food pairings that enhance one another are like wine pairings, in that they must have similar gustatory properties. This article discusses the history of food and beer pairings, how different beer types pair with different food categories, and why so many foods go well with beer.

History of Beer and Food Pairings

The oldest known recorded beer recipe was found in Sumer, southern Mesopotamia on a stone tablet between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Many scholars agree that beer has been brewed since the sixth millennium BCE. By 4,000 BCE, the Babylonians were expert brewers and even have 16 beer varieties. Throughout the Egyptian Empire, Pharaohs paid many workers with beer jugs. This is because the ancient beers contained enough nutrition to be a meal replacement.

Since beer was used as an occasional meal due to its nutritious value, over time beer became a way to complement food. In most ancient countries, drinking water was unsafe due to poor public sanitation conditions, availability, or lack of filtration. Therefore, residents would drink beer or wine to wash down their meals while still gaining nutrition. Today, that has evolved into the beer sommelier profession to help shape food and beer menu pairings, while explaining different beers to restaurant patrons.

Why Food Goes Well with Beer

Beer is an excellent match with food because of its complexity, the variety of flavors, and its ability to deliver refreshment. Even before the meal is received, beer is working hard toward food pairing with the hops stimulating the consumer's appetite. Therefore, when pairing beer with food, the idea is to match the food’s flavors with the beer’s tones and aromas. Once there's an understanding of the flavor profiles in beer, it's easy to make interesting and delicious pairings that will accentuate the flavors of your beer and food!

Perfect Pairings of Beer and Food

When creating beer and food pairings, there aren’t many strict rules as there aren’t many clashing flavors. However, to maximize a pairing, four guidelines should be followed: contrasting (oysters and stout), complementing (salads and fish with light beers), palate-cleansing (Korean fried chicken with light beer), and avoiding overpowering flavors (do not pair salmon with Guinness).

Light Lagers

Light lagers are known for their refreshing and crisp flavors, so they don’t have a strong flavor. This makes them ideal for fried fish, noodles, hot dogs, French fries, and Buffalo wings.

Wheat Beers

Wheat beers are constructed from barley and wheat grains, which gives them lighter carbonation and smooth texture. Therefore, wheat beers are perfectly paired with pastries, fruit tarts, salads, spicy noodles, and Buffalo wings.


Inda pale ales (IPAs) have a medium amber color with a bitter flavor. Therefore, the best pairing foods include fajitas, burritos, steak, mozzarella sticks, French fries, and BBQ ribs.

Amber Ales

Amber ales are characterized by their amber to deep reddish-gold color and strong malt flavors. The best amber ale food pairings include brisket, pizza, jerk chicken, and BBQ pulled pork.

Dark Lagers

Dark lagers have the distinctive taste of nuts and caramel which makes pizza, burgers, bangers and mash, goulash, and sausage an ideal pair.

Brown Ales

Brown ales aren’t as bitter or hoppy as other medium-colored beers but have hints of coffee and chocolate with a dry and nutty flavor. The best food pairings include sushi, fish, BBQ, roast pork, and sausage.


Originating in London, porters are available in various flavors with strong chocolate, coffee, and caramel notes. The best foods include game meats, BBQ, Mexican mole, crab, and lobster.


Best known for their dark and black color with strong coffee and chocolate notes and smooth consistency, stouts pair well with shellfish, BBQ, lobster, chocolate mousse, and chocolate truffles.

Are you stocking the right beers to compliment your customer's tastes? Take our Beer Math quiz and find out the right number of kegs you need at the busiest times. 

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