If you think beer is solely reserved for those balmy summer days next to the braai, think again. As the autumn chill starts to grip the air, there’s no need to loosen your grip on your beer. Over the last few years, South Africa has undergone a craft beer revolution and now there are delectable beers for all weather and all occasions.
JC Steyn, chief brewer at Devil’s Peak Brewery, one of the pioneers of South African craft beer, says beer should never be served at freezing cold temperatures. "Mass produced beer is often served icy cold to mask a watery taste. With craft beer, because the flavours are often so complex, it’s better to serve them slightly warmer to bring out all the nuances of flavour that have been instilled during the brewing process," Steyn explains. Just as with wine, these complexities of flavour in beers present endless possibilities for pairing with food.
There are no specific dos and don'ts when it comes to matching delicious beer with delicious food. There are, however, three basic principles to bear in mind when pairing craft beer with food.
Tip 1: Match the strengths
Lighter dishes will work well with lighter beers while richer foods will pair well with beers that pack a punch. A craft beer does not have a singular flavour; rather it's a sum of taste experiences that range with the alcoholic strength, hop bitterness, sweetness, richness, and roastiness. Just as with food where spices and flavours influence the potency of flavour, the strength of a beer varies with its complexity. A strong IPA would overwhelm a delicately flavoured dish. To accompany a bold winter dish, you need a bold beer.
Try Devil’s Peak American Pale Ale with lamb curry.
Tip 2: Look for harmony
Try to find the common denominator of your beer and your food. Combinations that share a flavour or aroma will work best. There are endless possibilities. A deep roasted imperial stout will go down a treat with an indulgent and warm chocolate brownie pudding.
Try Devil’s Peak Black IPA with a warm chocolate brownie.
Tip 3: Blend it
The best way to start pairing beer with food is to use your beer in your cooking. A rich beer bread, beer-battered fish or a rich steak and ale pie are among the most basic cooking-with-beer recipes. You can also try slow-cooking pork belly in a smokey beer. The important thing to remember when cooking with beer is that it’s all about the flavour and not about the alcohol content. The alcohol will burn away during the cooking process.
Easy tip: Think of beer like you think of wine
If you're familiar with pairing wine with food, then use that knowledge for pairing your beer. Ales work well with food that you'd usually have with a red wine, while lager works well with foods that are usually served with white wine.