Chill With a Beer: Mouth-Watering Food Pairings

Salt and pepper. Peanut butter and jelly. Surf and turf. There are some things that just belong together. At the Half Wall, we consider food and beer to be essential pairings.

When done properly, the right combinations will enhance the flavor profiles of both your beer and your meal. But determining those perfect matches can be daunting.

There aren’t many hard rules when it comes to making beer and food pairings as there aren’t many flavors that clash with beer. That being said, if you want to get the most out of your beer pairing and enhance the flavor of the food on your bar’s menu, try to keep these guidelines in mind.

Properly pairing drinks with food starts with science—you need a basic understanding of how one ingredient interacts with another. And most importantly, how, together, they impact your tastebuds. To help you get started, I’ve found the perfect drink pairing for 10 of the most popular types of meals. 

Avoid overpowering flavors

Keep in mind the levels of flavor in your food and beer. Many medium and dark beers have a rich and powerful flavor that can overpower certain types of food. For example, you wouldn’t want to pair salmon with a pint of Guinness because the flavor of the beer will completely cover the taste of the fish.

Flavor must complement

Complementing flavors is one of the simplest ways to make delicious food and beer pairing. Match rich foods with beers that have a heavy and rich flavor, like stouts or porters. Pair light-tasting salads and fish with light beers or wheat beers with desserts like fruit tarts.

Points to easily remember foods that complement types of beverage

  • Light lagers: Spicy food, burgers, salads
  • Wheat beers: Spicy food and fruity desserts
  • India pale ales (IPAs): Steak, barbecue, and Mexican food
  • Amber ales: Pizza, fried food, smoked pork
  • Dark lagers: Pizza, burgers, hearty stews
  • Brown ales: Sausage, sushi, fish
  • Porters: Seafood, coffee-flavored desserts, game meats
  • Stouts: Chocolate desserts, shellfish, Mexican food


A delicious plate of pasta is the perfect excuse to crack open a frosty can of sparkling water. Whether you’re team San Pellegrino or LaCroix, pour your bubbles into a chilled glass and tuck in. The slightly bitter flavor of sparkling water works well with any pasta dish and will make you feel like you’re dining in Italy.


Amber ales are characterized by medium mouthfeel and colors that range from amber to a deep reddish-gold. These beers have strong flavors of malt, and there are notes of sweet caramel that complement the roasted malt taste. 

But, these beers do not have an overpoweringly sweet flavor, and many amber ales have a dry and crisp finish. Although the flavor from the hops isn’t strong, they give these beers light and flowery aroma.

Due to the dry and crisp finish, amber ales are excellent beers for cleansing your palate. So, here are a few ideal food pairings for amber ales:

  • Barbecue pulled pork
  • Jerk chicken

Indian food

Good with ginger ale. Love Indian food but can’t handle the spice? The trick to finishing a plate of curry without sweating like Tony Soprano is to sip on something that will dissolve the capsaicin in the dish. 

Capsaicin is the molecular compound that makes peppers spicy. When the capsaicin binds with the pain receptors in your mouth, it creates a burning sensation that few of us can handle for long. To cool your mouth down, opt for a sugary drink like ginger ale.


Good with dark lagers. Dark lagers are popular in Europe, and they’re an excellent complement to hearty traditional European dishes. Here are some examples of ideal pairings to go with dark lagers:

  • Sausage
  • Goulash
  • Bangers and mash

Charred bean and pea salad

A riff on a three-bean salad with a garlic-chile-maple-lime dressing that we can’t quit.

This is a bold and summery dish, and a smoked beer like a Rauchbier would be super tight with it. The smokiness of the beer would complement the cumin in this dish, as well as make the acidity from the lime juice really pop.

Key takeaway

Have a beer to pair with each expertly grilled dish? That’s the mark of a true enthusiast. And yes, we’re true enthusiasts—for both beer and grilled things. While pairing usually insinuates wine, the diverse range of flavors found in beer can take smoky, charred meats and acidic salads filled with peak-season produce to whole new worlds. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *