Pairing Beer and Food

Laurence Creamer

When pairing beer with food there’s a useful mantra we use: cut, complement or contrast. With each beer and food you try, I want you to decide which role the beer has performed. So what is cut, complement and contrast?


A beer that cuts through the flavour or body of the food. This is achieved either from the carbonation in the beer or the beer’s bitterness, which it gets from hops. You’ll also find the bubbles from the carbonation will cleanse the palate leaving your mouth refreshed and ready for more food.


Self-explanatory but this is where the flavours in the beer complement the flavours in the food. Many beers have caramel notes that they get from the malt, so a beer with caramel notes goes brilliantly with roasted meats, due to the caramelisation that happens when you roast food. Or think beers with spicy notes and spicy food. Perfect match.


Where the beer is a complete contrast to the food. Think sweet contrasting saltiness. Or sweet tempering and soothing heat from food.

So, cut, complement and contrast.

A quick bit about the ingredients in beer. Beer is made from hops, yeast, malt (barley, wheat etc) and water. Each do different things and contribute to our three C’s mantra. It’s principally these four ingredients from which beer derives its flavour. Incidentally wine only has yeast and grapes that give it its flavour, so beer has four to wine’s two.

In essence there are two types of beer: lager and ale. The main difference between both is the yeast that is used for fermentation. Lager are fermented at cooler temperatures and ales at warmer temperatures. The lower temperatures for lager means that it’s a slower process so takes longer to reach the stage where it’s ready to drink before leaving the brewery - this is the lagering phase as the word lager actually comes from the German word ‘to store’.

By Laurence Creamer, Social & Community Lead, British Beer and Pub Association.


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