There are traditionally two thoughts when it comes to matching food and drink: you either go with something which compares or contrasts. I think there are four further categories: there’s a geographical pairing, the ‘calm down’ pairing, there’s the pairing which creates something more than the sum of its parts and there’s the ‘whatever’ match.
A Compare pairing would be something like chocolate and imperial stout, carbonnade and dubbel, roast beef and bitter; matches where the beer has flavours which marry nicely to the food.
A Contrast pairing would see foie gras and lambic, fish and chips and pale ale, cheeseburgers and IPA, where the use of hops, carbonation or sourness is there to slice through the richness and fattiness of the food or the full flavours.
Geographical matches pair up food and drink from the same locations, whether it’s a taste of holidays or the bringing together of two things which are linked by place: gyros and Mythos, Estrella and paella, jumbalaya and Budweiser. They are often the simplest of matches and there’s also some crossover into other categories with this: US IPA and a cheeseburger, for example. There’s a psychological link to some of these, too; the pairing works because we think they belong together or we’ve long been told that they belong together: pizza and Peroni, hot dogs and Bud, oysters and Guinness.
The ‘calm down’ pairing is one which aims to round out flavours rather than boost them. It’s a hot curry with a cold lager or wheat beer. It’s about not overloading the tastebuds with things to worry about. Hops punch chilli heat in the face so a spicy curry and a hoppy beer is just too much. It’s big flavoured dishes with simpler beers because some matches need calming down and balancing out. Sometimes part of the dish can act as the calm down factor, such as coleslaw with jerk chicken, in which case a stronger flavoured beer, like a fruity-floral IPA, can work well.
The opposite of this is the hardest pairing to get right and it’s the sort of match that makes you wonder why any other beers even bother. It’s cherry beer and chocolate brownies, rauchbier and sausage, barley wine and blue cheese. These pairings each make something new, something bigger and better than the composite parts and set the match off in an exciting new direction with an explosion of flavour. It’s also often more unusual or esoteric matches, or bigger and bolder flavours, which create these pairings. And they are the sort that you remember for longer and return to. It’s not appropriate for every match because sometimes you just need to compare or contrast pairing, but sometimes, when you want something special, this is the way to go.
The final pairing is the ‘whatever’ match. It’s about not caring and just taking a beer and drinking it while eating and it working because you want it to. Not everyone cares for planning out pairings and as long as they like the match then that’s good enough.
Six types of beer and food pairing. Are there any other types I've missed?