New craft breweries are bubbling up on the West Coast faster than you can say “schwarzbier” and, if you’re not an expert, choosing an ale can be overwhelming. But there is much to be gained by boldly delving into the craft beer scene.
Wine tends to steal the food pairing spotlight, but as Driftwood’s tasting room operator Braeden Papp puts it “the beauty of pairing food and beer is that you get something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.”
If you’re planning a special dinner and want to take things to the next level, consider choosing two or three different beers for diversity. This way guests can cater their experience while still keeping things low-key.
According to Papp, a pilsner is always a great choice due to its versatility. It also tends to be more carbonated, so the little bubbles cleanse your palate. This is perfect if you plan on having appetizers before the main meal, and goes well with anything rich. Try the Hoyne Pilsner from Hoyne Brewing; it’s light, and easy on the hops and malt so you can have more than one without getting tired of it.
Another good pick is a saison, says Papp. The yeast can give some spicy, savoury qualities like clove, and it pairs nicely with any meal. Driftwood’s Farmhand Saison offers pink and black peppercorn notes, which is perfect if you plan on using the barbeque.
On the other end of the spectrum is a porter for the dark beer lovers. This one can be really fun if you serve it with dessert. Lots of local ice cream shops are teaming up with brewers to make special treats, and you can’t go wrong with making your own chocolate porter ice cream float. Try the Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery—creamy, roasty, and chocolatey—the perfect way to finish the night.
It seems every day there is a new kind of craft beer to explore, which makes pairings something of an adventure. As Papp puts it, you can have a beautiful dish on its own and still enjoy it, but pairing food with a great beer is a very rewarding experience.