People carp about food and beer pairings, griping that they're just made up pretentions that have no right being associated with something as inclusive and democratic as beer. "It's the drink of the common man," they cry, "Beer goes with everything!" To which I respond, uh, no, it doesn't. And to prove my point, here are ten food and beer partnerships guaranteed to make you wish you had chosen something else to drink.
10. Spicy food and mainstream lager: Icy beer calms the spice, does it? Anesthetizes the palate, more like. Take a dish with a good, healthy spice to it and just try to taste a plain, mainstream lager after a bite. You'll soon find that the subtleties of the beer, such as they are, will be lost underneath a blanket of fire, leaving nothing to taste.
What does work: IPA
9. Salt and malty beer: It's the destroyer of malt, is salt. Turns it flat tasting, sometimes earthy or petrol-like, occasionally sour. And it happens every time.
What does work: Anything hoppy.
8. Sweet and bitter: Unless there's chocolate involved, and so an element of bitterness to join the sweetness, sweet foods will turn bitter beers sour or even tart.
What does work: Sweet dish and sweeter beer.
7. Brie and pilsner: Cheese and beer go beautifully together, it's true, but you have to be careful what you're pairing up. Stinky, glorious Brie, especially raw milk Brie, will play havoc with the taste of a pilsner, and then the hoppiness of the beer will add a tart component to the cheese. It's lose-lose, for certain.
What does work: Oatmeal stout.
6. Pizza and IPA: True, we have likely all eaten it at some point or another, without complaint, too. But did you ever think about what you were tasting? If so, you'd have noticed that any decently hopped IPA will ride roughshod over all but the most boldly flavourful pizzas - and here I'm talking about hot sausage with pepper rings and anchovies!
What does work: Vienna lager.
5. Whitefish and stout: Salmon and stout, sure; smoked salmon and stout, even better. But take a delicate piece of unadorned whitefish and try to taste it after a sip of stout and you'll find what "overwhelming" really means.
What does work: Belgian-style wheat beer.
4. Eggs and anything even marginally hoppy: With plain, cooked eggs - scrambled, fried, poached - hops simply don't play fair. There's a taste that arises in the second forkful of egg, after the first sip of beer, that is best described as...unfortunate.
What does work: Belgian- and German-style wheat beers, also sweet stouts.
3. PB&J and pilsner: One of my fave lunches is a simple peanut butter and jam sandwich, on good bread with unsweetened PB. But put a pilsner in my glass beside it and you'll find me waiting patiently until I finish my sandwich before I have my first sip of lager. Really, it's that bad a combo.
What does work: Brown ale.
2. Fruit and lagers: Because they generally lack esters, lagers fair poorly when paired with fruits and fruity dishes, no matter how sweet the beer might be.
What does work: ales.
1. Oysters and IPA: Despite the salty-hoppy combination of these two, which in theory should work, I've always found that hop bitterness brings out a metallic tang in many varieties of oysters, while the strong flavours of the ale overwhelm the fine nuances of a good bivalve.
What does work: Almost any variety of stout, but especially oyster stout, 'natch.
Visit Stephen Beaumont's World of Beer at www.worldofbeer.com. He also blogs at thatstheSPIRIT.com