Beer Pairing: An Adventure in Cut, Complement and Contrast

I had always thought that the best, if not the only beverage to pair with food, was wine. Although I have known for some time that beer CAN be paired with certain dishes, I had not realized that beer could be the beverage that worked BEST with some dishes. I learned this clearly a little while ago.

Beer and Wine

I took five days off during which I prepared an array of interesting dishes that I planned to test with an assortment of interesting beers. Being wine drinkers primarily, my designated taster and I had always had a full wine refrigerator. But this weekend, it was “out with the wine and in with the beer”. To our delight, we were astonished at some of the results.

Over the previous six weeks I had been pursuing the Prud’homme beer sommelier program. As a result I have become familiar with the three “C’s” – cut, complement and contrast. The week prior to this little adventure I had selected a number of dishes, several of which were well known NOT to pair well with any type of wine. I found some orphan beer and cheese samples in my office and shopped for additional items. By Thursday, the larder and refrigerator were full.

Beer and Cheese pic

The Dishes                                                                                                                                                                             The Beers

Fresh Malpeque oysters                                                                                                                                                         Guinness Stout

Salad Greens with Anjou pears, fresh walnuts, English Stilton and Wheat Beer Vinaigrette                          Schneider Weisse Original Tap 7

Broiled spicy pork and pineapple with hot chillies and lime ginger dressing                                                       Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen, Schneider Weiss Aventinus Tap 5

Moose and Juniper stew with baby potatoes                                                                                                                  Goose Island Pere Jacques, Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale

Grilled Le Caveau cheese sandwich with cornichons and pickled onions                                                             Kronenburg Blanc, Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale

Chocolate, Caramel and Pecan delices                                                                                                                             Morte Subite Kriek, Guinness Stout

The Malpeque Oysters

Guinness, a dry stout, or Irish stout, is made in Dublin, Ireland. It was common to serve oysters in pubs in the 18th century. They were typically sourced nearby and plentiful. In France, Muscadet is the beverage to drink with oysters for the same reason. The French are very cognizant of terroire and the wine and oysters share characteristics of the same terroire. I have heard no similar discussion regarding Guinness and oysters.  However this beer, paired with bi-valves is sublime. The slightly burnt maltiness contrasts well with the sea-water brine. The mouth feel of the two is very similar and the beer washes the saline brine away. It is all rather gentle. This is a pairing I intend to re-visit again and again.



Salad Greens with Anjou pears, walnuts, English Stilton and Wheat Beer Vinaigrette

We had tried a similar delicious recipe at our Prud’homme dinner so I was anxious to try a variation of this classic combination on my own. The dressing was made with Schneider Weisse Original Tap 7. It has a slight roastiness on the nose and a delicate pineapple and citrus flavour. It is a Hefeweizen but perhaps could be called a Dunkel because of its pecan colour. Normally I would make my own salad dressing in the style of a conventional French or Italian vinaigrette. However my tasting partner prefers more flavourful dressings and is unimpressed by that traditional approach. Because I was unsure how the addition of beer would affect olive oil to vinegar ratio, I sought out a dressing recipe online. There I found both the recipe for a dressing and the recipe for this salad.

Although I have several balsamic vinegars in my cupboard, I rarely use them because I find them extremely acetic. This recipe called for a half cup of balsamic vinegar, one third of a cup of olive oil and three quarters of a cup of Schneider Weiss Original Tap 7 as well as some wildflower honey and Dijon mustard. The beer had the effect of mellowing out the balsamic vinegar. This salad would qualify as a “perfect dish”; it is at once sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. The dressing enhances every flavour on the plate.

When one drinks the Schneider Weisse Original Tap 7 while eating this salad, one experiences true complementarity. Together they provide a fresh and bright experience. No one flavour dominates or is dominated; they are all evident but well matched. This recipe and pairing will become permanent fixtures in my cooking repertoire. They are far superior to attempting to find a wine that goes well with salad. No wonder the traditional salad course follows the meal … after the wine is done.

Pear and Walnut with Stilton Salad

Salad Greens with Anjou pears, walnuts, English Stilton and Wheat Beer Vinaigrette


Broiled spicy Pork and Pineapple with hot chillies and lime ginger dressing

This is a simple recipe that combines many flavours. The pork chops, pineapple slices and onions are cooked at high heat under the broiler and are slightly charred. The cayenne pepper on the pineapple slices is slightly spicy and the hot chillies are hot. The lime ginger dressing pulls all of the flavours together. The dish is citrusy, tart, gingery, spicy and sweet, all at once. Served on rice, it also has little or no fattiness.

I chose the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen mistakenly because I misread the label. I wanted a marzen but not a rauchbier. This beer tastes like smoke sausage with barbeque sauce. It is delicious on its own. When paired with the pork dish it intensified the spiciness. It did not relieve the heat of the dish but, strangely, it completely cleansed the palate. The Rauchbier also completely overwhelmed the delicate flavours of the lime and ginger; they could not be tasted at all. Although one could say that the beer cut through the flavours and cleansed the palate the result was not positive. It was clearly not complimentary; and if a contrast, it was not a positive one. This was a bad pairing.

Seeking salvation, we opened a bottle of Schneider Weisse Aventinus Tap 5. According to the label, it is Germany’s original wheat doppelbock. It has an ABV of 8.2%. The ripe banana and tropical fruit nose and taste perfectly complemented the dish. The higher alcohol content and fruity sweetness enhanced the flavours in the dish.  My tasting partner suggested that the beer actually echoed the flavours of the dish. I think he’s right!


Moose and Juniper stew with baby potatoes

My tasting partner had returned home from Ottawa a few months ago with a one pound cut of fresh moose meat. I tossed it into the freezer, intending to deal with it later … much later. However the hunter is a nice person and deserved better than that so I determined to integrate the moose into this project.

There are very few moose meat recipes to be found. It is traditionally grilled or braised. I decided to go with braising. I have also been told that moose should be cooked very slowly, at low heat and with lots of liquid. I found a venison stew recipe in “Jamie’s America” – a cook book by Jamie Oliver – and used it, replacing the venison with moose. The only other change I made was to marinate the moose meat in the chosen beer – Goose Island Beer Company’s Pere Jacques, a Belgian style Abbey Ale. Beer is said to have the properties of a tenderizer and this meat had no visible fat so this seemed to be a good idea. I marinated the meat for an hour.  Because this beer has relatively fewer hops, it is a better choice for cooking.

What a surprise! There was no marriage, no match, no complement, no cut, no contrast. The stew was delicious and the beer was delicious but they both marched through our mouths separately, never crossing paths. We knew not what to make of this. After reflection, I believe that had either the meat or the vegetables been slightly caramelized, the pairing might have worked. The presence of juniper and rosemary was not evident.  Perhaps an American Pale Ale might have performed better. Obviously this requires more research!


Grilled Le Caveau Cheese Sandwich with cornichons and pickled onions

The grilled cheese sandwich is the quintessential comfort food, universally loved. My favourite variation requires Fontina cheese and several drops of dry white wine to moisten the insides of the bread. Le Caveau is a semi-firm washed rind cheese from the award-winning Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser in Noyan Quebec. It has a nutty roasted flavour and an earthy aroma. Even better – it melts well, perfect for a grilled cheese sandwich.

Two beers were chosen as possible matches: Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc, a flavoured wheat beer, and Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale, an American pale ale. The Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc fully complemented the grilled cheese sandwich. The beer is citrusy and refreshing and married surprisingly well with the nuttiness of the cheese. The beer stood up to the cheese and pickles and slowly cleansed the palate. It complemented the food while cutting through the fattiness of the cheese. We thought this was an excellent pairing.

Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc

Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc

On the other hand, the American Pale Ale completely washed the sandwich and the pickles away. We thought it would be a good match because of its light, delicate and fruity nose and clean finish. However, it completely overpowered the food. Perhaps a Belgian Ale in which the malt is more prevalent than the hops would do a better job. More research …

Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale

Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale

Chocolate, Caramel and Pecan delices

We had a small collection of sweet desserts in the house. These included a dark chocolate ganache brownie, a milk chocolate caramel and cashew candy called a ‘Fraktal’ (made in Aurora, Ontario) and a slice of pecan pie with a shortbread crust. I must confess I did not make any of these – I only put them on a platter.

Two beers were chosen for this tasting: Morte Subite Kriek, a Lambic beer, and Guinness Stout. The Kriek (cherry) beer on its own is effervescent and tart. In fact its tartness seems to overwhelm its cherry taste. It is a beautiful red colour. It cuts through the richness of the brownie and cleanses the palate; the brownie makes the beer taste sweeter and fruitier. The same happens with the pecan tart; the beer cuts through the fattiness of the crust while the tart enhances the flavour of the beer. However, the beer seems to make the Fraktal disappear. It wipes the palate clean as if one never tasted the candy.

On to the Guinness. It reminds me of chocolate milk I had when I was a child. I appreciate the balance between the maltiness and the hops. As one would expect it was a perfect complement to the brownie. They both have the same weight and a similar mouth feel; and the Guinness cleans the palate as well. It equally complemented the Fraktal – not surprising since the candy is made of milk chocolate and caramel. Unfortunately there was no trifecta. The Guinness added nothing to the pecan tart; it neither cut through the fattiness, nor complemented the flavour. It made the shortbread crust taste mealy and unpleasant. But hey – two out of three ain’t bad.

Mort Subite Original Kriek

Mort Subite Original Kriek


In conclusion:

  1. Beer can pair extremely well with food.
  2. Just as with wine, one has to search for the right beer to pair with the right food. Research and experimentation will help.
  3. Just as with wine, careful note taking is required. It is amazing how difficult it is to keep all the details straight.
  4. Based on this small experiment, it seems likely that beer is a superior choice (to wine) to pair with salads (with vinegar-based dressings), chocolate, and spicy food. I intend to explore cheese and beer pairings further; I expect to learn more in this area.

And finally, beer tasting may be just as complex as wine tasting. I stand corrected for all the times I have said that this was impossible.


Written by Cindy Simpson, Wine AND Beer Lover



Women and Beer: Breaking the Barriers

As far back as our generation can remember, beer has been considered a ‘man’s drink.’ Brewed by men, marketed towards men, consumed by men. Of course some women enjoy beer, but there are definitely more men involved in the beer industry. Was this always the case? Have women never cared for the creation or consumption of beer? More importantly, can women break the barriers and get (back) into the market? Are there outlets available specifically for women? Let’s find some answers by starting at the beginning.

It may surprise most, but historians believe women were the first to create and brew beer. It is commonly believed beer was created mistakenly by a woman who was making bread in open air, when fermentation occurred. Women then remained the sole brewers or “brewsters” of beer, for many years. Four-thousand year old Mesopotamian tablets describe the brewing process in a hymn to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer. But this may not have been limited to Babylon and Sumeria. It was recently discovered that women have been brewing “Chicha” – a grain-based fermented beverage, in the Amazon basin for years.

Hymn to Ninkasi tablet

Hymn to Ninkasi tablets

Later in Europe, women continued to be the primary brewers until the Industrial Revolution. Taverns were run by women at first, until men took the reins when they realized there were profits to be made. In Colonial America, the craft of brewing was brought over from Europe. Women were again tavern keepers, as well as house wives brewing beer within the home. However, as in Europe, beer became a male-dominated business by the eighteenth century.

So other than being kicked out of their own industry many years ago, what has prevented the women of today from consuming, purchasing and producing beer?

First, there is no doubt the marketing and advertising of beer has targeted men. Women have featured in commercials, magazine ads and billboards as a means of selling beer to men, rather than women being viewed as a viable market. In these ads, women are always beautiful, often bikini clad (or at least dressed in something revealing) and always very interested in the men drinking beer. For obvious reasons, many women see this as sexist – not exactly inspiration for women to run out and grab a six pack.

Budweiser ad

A stereotypical ad of girls in bathing suits selling beer.

The beer industry has, however, begun to recognize the large untapped female market. Over the past decade, large breweries have targeted women, although not always successfully. In 2011 Molson Coors created a beer specifically for women in the UK, called Animée. It came in three citrusy flavours and one bottle’s liquid even appeared pink in colour. This did not go over well with the female beer aficionados – they considered it insulting as the product neither tasted nor looked like beer. The masses agreed.

Animée flavours

Animée beer in flavours targeting women.

Another problem is the stigma attached to beer and weight, aka the dreaded ‘beer belly’. This idea would (and has!) deterred many women from consuming the beverage. While beer definitely contains calories (approximately 200 per pint), like any other food or beverage, it will only cause weight gain when not consumed in moderation. Beer enthusiast and author Jane Peyton says “along with (beer’s) natural vitamins and minerals, beer’s fermentation process increases a beer’s nutritional value, making it more nutritional, in moderation, than a package of peanuts”. Whether this will encourage women to drink beer I’m not sure, but the word needs to spread: you will NOT get fat from drinking the occasional pint!

As for women working in the beer industry, there are, or perhaps we can already change that to ‘were’, a few barriers they face, keeping them from being hired by breweries. Teri Fahrendorf, founder of the Pink Boots Society (we’ll get to that shortly), says many of the barriers challenging would-be female brewmasters are similar to those in other male-dominated professions: outdated attitudes and the belief that women will focus more on family than career. Also, brewing is very physical and requires the management of large equipment and heavy sacks of barley and hops, and this adds to the prejudice. One woman recounts being asked in an interview if she could lift multiple fifty pound sacks to prove she was fit for the job! Perhaps this was a fair enough question, but certainly not grounds to overlook someone, and definitely very intimidating.

Logo of the Pink Boots Society.

Pink Boots Society was founded by Teri Fahrendorf.

Things are beginning to change though. Despite all of this, women in beer are making a comeback. This is largely in part to a few women who have broken through the boundaries and made it known to the world that beer is not just for men! Through the internet, meetings and education, more women are showing interest.

Teri Fahrendorf plays a particularly strong role in supporting women in brewing. She is an award-winning craft brewer (Steelhead Brewing Company) in Portland, Oregon who believes in mentoring and educating young women to get them into the field. In 2008, she founded the Pink Boots Society, an organization created to “empower women beer professionals, advance women brewing careers and make damn good beer along the way”. There were sixty members at the time, mainly brewers and beer writers. Today there are more than eight hundred – ranging from brewery owners and distributors to servers and beer journalists. In their meetings, Fahrendorf says “we talk about a lot of non-brewing info too – like sensory analysis, beer line cleaning, building a small incubator and lab culturing and how to become a beer judge”. They educate in all aspects of beer and hope to continue with this path in the future, and have recently started to offer scholarship programs.

Another important female figure is Carol Stoudt, who founded the family-owned Stoudt’s Brewing Company in 1987 in Pennsylvania. She is regarded as a ‘pioneering’ female brewer.  When she started, most retailers assumed she was doing sales for her husband. In fact, Stoudt was the one brewing, filling the kegs and taking care of the paperwork. She claims it was mostly female restaurant operators who decided to support her and carry her beer. Her beers began to win awards and gain recognition, and aspiring female brewers have looked to Stoudt as inspiration ever since.

Besides the Pink Boots Society, there are other groups tailored to women. Barley’s Angels is dedicated to beer-loving women, with chapters worldwide. “Barley’s Angels fills an environ to explore and learn about Craft beer while allowing publicans, brewers and restaurateurs a platform demonstrating their commitment to provide safe, friendly experiences for their female customers. Barley’s Angels effectively grows the female demographics for craft beer – globally”. They believe encouragement and exploration can lead to good things. Again, education is the key.


Having worked in the restaurant/pub industry for over fifteen years, I am seeing more and more women drinking beer. The modern woman seems open to the idea of trying new things (craft brews help in this aspect) and for many women, beer is their primary drink of choice.  Also helping is the education of servers and bartenders. Businesses are ensuring their employees are informed and can discuss beer with their patrons in a friendly, but also educated, manner. Men and women appreciate this and can make informed decisions. And when the server is female talking to another female, it sends a positive message.

It appears then that education and breaking old stereotypes are the keys to women having a larger impact on the beer industry. Hopefully these trends will continue moving forward. It seems we are well on our way!

Women are once again making strides in the beer world.

Women are once again making strides in the beer world.

Written by Amber Pachla, Duke of York General Manager
Amber is a big fan of beer and achieved her Level 2 Prud’homme Certification earlier this year. 

Scotland: A Great Brewing Nation

Scotland has made some intriguing historical contributions to the beer industry. From 4000 B.C. to the 21st century, there are interesting facts and fables that make up the wonderful history of Scottish brewing.

The first documented proof of anyone brewing beer was by the Sumerians in 4300 B.C. Mesopotamia.  Not widely known, however, is that in the mid to late 4th millennium B.C., there is evidence of fermented beverages being brewed at the Neolithic sites of Skara Brae, the Balfarg/Balbirnie complex in Fife, and at Kinloch on the Isle of Rhum. These “beers” would be akin to a cereal-based porridge and flavoured with meadowsweet in the same manner of a Kvass or Gruit made by the northern European tribes of Picts and Celts.

Sumerian beer

Ancient Sumerians drinking beer

Early fermented beverages evolved when brewers started using heather in their process, resulting in heather ale and heather mead. This bittering herb added flavour and helped to preserve the beer longer. The furious debate whether the Picts or the Scots developed heather ale is still argued, not surprisingly, considering some of the things my family still debate endlessly every holiday supper! There is evidence however that heather beverages were brewed by the inhabitants of both Scotland and Ireland prior to the arrival of the Romans in Great Britain. The ancient Greek Pytheas remarked in 325 B.C. that the inhabitants of Caledonia were skilled in the art of brewing a potent beverage.


Fields of heather in Scotland.

As was true in many of the great brewing societies of the time, brewing fell between the monastic establishments, and the broustaris, or “alewives”, up to the 15th century. In 1509 the Leges Quatuor Burgorum, a code of burgh laws, showed that Aberdeen had over 150 brewers, all women. During this time, events in Scottish brewing started happening faster.

In 1598 the Edinburgh Society of Brewers was formed. Then in 1707, when the Acts of Union levied taxes at a much higher rate in other parts of the United Kingdom, there were no taxes on malt in Scotland, thus Scottish brewers had a financial edge to firmly establish themselves. Giants in the brewing world who started around this time included William Younger in Edinburgh, Robert and Hugh Tennent in Glasgow, and George Younger in Alloa.

George Younger Pale Ale logo

George Younger Pale Ale logo

Climate also helped Scottish brewers as, in those pre-refrigeration days, they could brew year round because of the cooler weather – an advantage over their southern English rivals. And while English brewers stopped brewing in the summer, the English consumer certainly did not stop drinking. Scottish ales made their way south and were known as Scotch Ales in England.

In 1821 Robert Disher’s brewery in the Canongate area of Edinburgh was producing his hoppy Edinburgh Pale Ale, and exporting it to India, Russia, and the Americas. This started a trend, with other Edinburgh brewers making strong hoppy Scottish beer. Beer historians Charles McMaster and Martyn Cornell have illustrated the Edinburgh brewers outsold both Dublin and Burton upon Trent brewers combined.

The public has a way of dictating trends, and in the latter part of the 19th century clearer, pale-coloured beers with lower gravity were popular. A few breweries, like Tennents, experimented with lager brewing, and in 1890 they built a dedicated lager brewery in Glasgow at their Wellpark site. During this time the effects of the railroads hit the brewing industry. The larger brewers combined their interests, and pushed out the smaller ones who couldn’t compete. In 1840 there were 280 breweries in Scotland, but by 1910 there were only 92 left.  Between the Temperance Movement and the restriction on raw materials during World War I, the number had dropped to 36.  By 1970 there were only 11.

Wellpark Brewery

Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow

That was a gloomy time in Scottish beer history, but the light at the end of the tunnel appeared. The start of the 21st century saw a return of smaller breweries opening up across the country, with a variety of specialties. There are a few who are taking the traditional Scottish style to the ultimate level, like Bruce Williams, Fraoch Heather Ale, which he made using an old Pictish recipe.  But not all brewers in Scotland are rabid traditionalists.

The concepts from Innis & Gunn have been quite eye opening. Their range of oaked beers matured in bourbon, rum, and scotch barrels has been a taste sensation. They have been criticized for rejecting the real ale format and for the strength of their beers – their not-so-surprising response was to brew both an 18.2% ABV beer, and a 55% ABV variant. Get thee behind me traditionalist!

Innis & Gunn selection

Innis & Gunn selection

The breadth and scope of Scotland’s rich history and achievements in the brewing industry are as varied as the country itself. The sheer range of this country’s brewing history, as well as its influence on other beer cultures throughout the world is mind boggling. From small beginnings, to a world-leading brewing centre, to almost non-existent, to arising phoenix-like out of the ashes is incredible. So next time you’re about to take a sip of your favorite Scotch Ale, take a moment to salute all of those brewers of past and present for making your pint a true Scottish experience.


Written by Steve Atherley, Duke of Somerset General Manager