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Posted 01/17/2023 in Resources

Beer Styles + Food Pairings

Beer Styles + Food Pairings

Today there are literally thousands of great breweries and beers to choose from. From the traditional ales, barrel aged beauties, hoppy IPA’s, lustful lagers, to pilsners, porters, stouts, sours, and seasonal wonders. The beauty of so many beers, the variety and food pairings always change.

Pairing good beer and good food is a feast for the senses. Depending on the food, beer can complement or contrast a meal, cleanse the palate, put out the fire on the spiciest of dishes, or be the digestif to round out the meal, but it should never overpower the meal.

The best way to choose a beer to go with what you like is to have fun, experiment and experience the assortment of smells, tastes, and flavors in lots of different beers, styles, and discover what goes with what.

Whatever beer your fancy, all beers come down to two beer styles:  Ale or Lager. The differences determined by the brewing process, combination and type of malts, hops and yeasts used in the brew;

  • ALES - beers brewed with top fermenting yeasts;
  • LAGERS - beers brewed with bottom fermenting yeasts

Top Fermented Beers.

These beers are made with top fermenting yeasts referred to as ales made with a brewing process where the yeast rises to the top, then the yeast is skimmed off, then the beer is matured and conditioned in tanks or barrels for a few days or longer before kegging or packaging, depending on the beer style. 

Top fermented beers have more of a notable fruity aroma and traditionally made in the style of ales, bitters, IPA's, porters and stouts.


Ales are an original beer style dating back thousands of years. Originally ale was a brew made from malt without the addition of hops whereas it now represents the general term for traditional English style beers brewed with top fermenting yeasts.

Fun Fact:The word ”Ale” is the oldest English term for beer.

Ale Food Pairings: Ales characteristically have a fruitier aroma, with rich, deep malty flavours, and pair nicely with almost any cuisine. Try an ale with:

  • Spicy Mexican
  • Indian Curry
  • Lobster Mornay
  • Crab Bisque
  • Anything Barbecue
  • Game Meats

Bitter Beers

A traditional top-fermented bitter beer is a distinctive British style dry ale, which is often served on tap. Bitter beers are usually dry on the palate and hoppy and aromatic, the colour of a bitter beer can range from pale, bronze to a deep coppery red.

Bitter Beer Food Pairings: A true bitter beer is said to be soothing, relaxing, restful, and appetising, best paired with pub style fare such as:

  • Roast Chicken
  • Coned Beef
  • Steak
  • Fish and Chips
  • Anything Cheesey
  • Hot Wings


IPAs, short for India Pale Ales are a hugely popular beer style, a more bitter, stronger flavoured beer, characterized by golden, reddish to dark amber hues, and heavy hop flavours, citrus, fruit, floral and herbal notes.

The IPA beer style originated in Britain in the early 1800’s, where the brew was heavily hopped so it would last the long sea voyages supposedly, where it was shipped out to the emerging British empire around the world.

IPA Food Pairings: IPAs are one of the beer styles that craft brewers love to brew and experiment with, so you will find a huge array of IPAs and Double IPAs (which are an extra hoppier and bitter version) to try. Given IPAs stronger flavour profile, where the hops can increase the spice sensation on the palate, they match well with most of your favourite dishes from burgers, BBQ, pizza, to steak, seafood, creamy pasta, and stinky cheeses :

  • BBQ
  • Burgers
  • Pasta
  • Pizza
  • Steak
  • Seafood
  • Cheese Platters


Before stout, there was porters, and that’s how stouts came about. Porters originated in London back in the 1700’s and was a beer style that was heavily hopped to help keep preserve the shelf life, and was a mix of fresh and old ales to make what was called an “Entire” beer.

Today, porters are easier on the palate, milder and come in a variety of styles and flavours, still characterized by their signature dark colour, and roasted notes of brown malts, chocolate, caramel, and coffee flavours.

Porter Food Pairings: Porters will be a great compliment with almost any grilled or smoked cut of meat to a hearty sausage and gravy, alongside a slice of chocolate cake finished with a creamy cheese platter, a porter could do it all the way. Here are a few examples of dishes that pair well with porters:

  • Chocolate Cake
  • Smoked Meats
  • Grilled Fish and Seafood
  • Christmas Pudding
  • Steak
  • Stinky Cheeses


Thanks to porters, stouts came about. One of the classic top fermented beers, a well-rounded brew style with a good balance of hoppy bitterness, known for its distinctive dark colour, roasted malty flavours with notes of caramel, coffee and chocolate, and smooth creamy head. One of the most popular stout beers would be Guinness, a stout characterized by its very dark colour, rich roasted malty aroma and smooth creamy head.

Stout Food Pairings: Stouts are a very versatile food beer and pairs nicely with many kinds of foods from the sweet to the savory. Try stout with:

  • Chocolate Cake
  • Black Forest Cake
  • Fish and Chips
  • BBQ and Grilled Meats
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Natural Oysters
  • Sourdroughs

Bottom Fermented Beers

Bottom fermented beers, usually referred to as lagers, are brewed with colder temperatures, where yeasts would eventually settle to the bottom of the fermentation tanks. Back in the day, these beers were originally more common in colder parts of Europe.

The bottom fermented beer family consists of popular styles like lagers, Pilsners, wheat, and Lambic beers. These styles of beer are generally clearer, paler, crisper, and finer in flavour than ales, best served chilled on a crisp hot day.

Lager Beers

Lager is a standard term for bottom-fermented beers, first introduced in the 1800’s and thanks to modern technology, is now the predominant beer style in the world. Most lagers are generally lighter straw coloured with a fruity and slightly hoppy aroma and malty notes.

Fun Fact: The word lager comes from the German word largen, meaning ‘to store’.

Lager Beer Food Pairings: There are not many foods that don’t go with a lager. Lagers can vary in flavour, from sweet with a smooth clean finish, while others can be spicy, slightly drier, and or bitter on the palate making for a versatile beer with any cuisine:

  • Asian Cuisine
  • Thai Cuisine
  • Indian Cuisine
  • Anything Spicy
  • Pizza and Pasta
  • BBQ and Grilled Meats
  • Seafood Anyway

Pilsner Beers

Pilsner is a popular style in the lager family and been around for a long time. The original Pilsner style beer was first brewed in the town of Plzen in Czechoslovakia in 1842, hence the name.

Today a Pilsner refers to the beer style characterized by a pale, and golden colour, flowery hop aroma, and crisp, clean dry finish.

Pilsner Beer Food Pairings: There are many adapted variations of Pilsner style beers, that will pair easily with many foods, especially roasted and grilled meats, fish and seafoods, and from the mildly spicy to the raging hot:

  • Roast Meats
  • Smoked Meats
  • Grilled Seafood
  • Anything Spicy
  • Indian Cuisine
  • Thai Cuisine
  • German Cuisine
  • Mexican Cuisine

Wheat Beers

A wheat beer also known as Witbier, are beers made with at least 50% wheat in the brew, alongside the malted barley, spices, usually orange peel and coriander, and can be either a top or bottom fermented beer.

Wheat beers are considered a speciality beer and have a fruity or clove like aspect with herbal and citrus notes, and very different to the usual lager style beers.

Wheat Beer Food Pairings: Wheat beers are an excellent complement while grazing away on seafoods, salads, sushi to ceviche, creamy cheeses, and desserts, and other light, citrus-flavoured dishes:

  • Seafood
  • Salads
  • Fish and Chips
  • Sorbets
  • Creamy Cheeses

Lambic Beers

Hailing from Belgium, Lambic beers are a very rustic traditional style beer, and are unique by the way it’s made, produced by spontaneous fermentation, relying on nature to provide the wild yeasts and bacteria for fermentation, then fermented from anything from 3 months to 4 years.

Lambic Beer Food Pairings: Lambic beers are characterised by unique tart, sour flavours, sometimes fruits are added like cherries, raspberry, blackcurrant, peach and apple are popular variations.

Fruit Lambic beers can have a slight sweetness to them, either style are considered the champagne equivalent in the beer world, and can pair nicely with fine delicate foods, to creamy seafood sauces, to rich chocolate cake:

  • Fruits
  • Salads
  • Shellfish
  • Creamy Sauces
  • Spicy Foods
  • Chocolate Cake


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