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Beer is literally everywhere you go. There are gods, festivals and towns dedicated to it! There are laws made to define and regulate it and aside from tea and water, it is the most consumed beverage in the world.
So what is beer? Beer is the fermented combination of malted grains (barley& wheat generally), water and sugar. Modern beers rely on the use of hops added to the process to add bitterness to the equation and you will find a beer that is a fruit, vegetable or even herbal flavoured. When it comes to alcohol, beer can be anything from 2.5% up to 20% and sometimes beyond. Some beer can have an element of carbonation, some do not. The range of styles of beer is vast and there are millions upon millions available to try.
Beer styles and food
Developed in Czech Republic town of Pilsen, Pilsners have a dry mouthfeel with a little bitterness that is balanced out with a little malty crispness. Good Pilsners are mid weighted to light, crisp but not too bitter.
Pilsners are great for anything crispy, salty or fried. Pilsners can handle spice, but not too much and like lighter proteins, pork, chicken and fish.
Lagers: Australian / Dry:
Lagers are all about refreshment and should be clean, light, crisp and refreshing. The hoppy bitterness in Lager should be at a minimum and the finish should be dry with a slight bitterness. Dry Lagers are made popular in Japan and now you are starting to see dry Larger everywhere. What makes them dry is that they are fermented for longer to reduce the amount of sugar left in the beer to create a dry finish and a lighter weighted beer. Dry beers should be crisp, dry and subtle.
As Lagers are generally lighter, they can handle lots of spice and are versatile across a broad range of food. From BBQ to seafood, Lagers pretty much go with everything.
A category that is gaining in popularity. Pale Ales are characterised by the use of pale malted barley. The styles for pale ale can vary from light to heavy, citrus to roasted, smoky to bitter and malty to creamy. This is the category with the most stylistic interpretation and finding a favourite can be a journey.
Pale ales can be complex but matching to food is all about thinking about the characteristics of the beer and finding complementary flavours that suit. Mixed Vegetable Curry and Vietnamese Caramelised Fish are some foods you can try on with pale ale.
India Pale Ale
As the name suggests, IPA’s were developed in Brittan to send the colonial setters of India in the 1700s. Characterised by higher alcohol, more hops with toasty characters and a rich malty, caramel component that adds weight and complexity to the beer.
IPA’s are exciting but like Pale ale’s, finding the one that you like can take some time as some of the flavours and characters are strong and can be confronting for some.
IPA’s are great with rich Asian foods as their complexity makes them able to stand up and match dishes with lots of weight and complexity. Great with rich Asian foods like Thai Yellow Chicken Curry and Straits-style Steamed Pork Ribs.
Defined by the use of extra darker malts, this category of beers are luscious, full-bodied and flavoursome. Characterised by attractive aromatics, you should expect to find caramel, chocolate, toffee, roasted nuts and coffee flavours in Ales and Dark beers. If you are a lover of rich flavours you should explore this category.
When it comes to food, anything that is rich, roasted, stewed, braised and has dark proteins will work beautifully such as Stir-Fried Beef with Black Pepper and Garlic Sauce, Sweet BBQ Lamb (Char Siu Lamb), Grilled Short Ribs (Galbi Gui) and Lamb Satay Barbecue.
Porters / Stouts
Part of the Ale family, these are the heaviest beers you will come across. Rich, full and rounded Porters and Stouts are made with really dark malts to create heavy dark flavours. Expect to find roasted coffee, bitter chocolate and black roasted fruits that can sometimes be accompanied by smokey characters and a round, velvety mouthfeel.
Not for the faint-hearted, these beers can sometimes be an acquired taste but they can be a really great match for BBQ’s beef and lamb as well as slow-cooked meaty dishes like Genghis Khan Barbecue Lamb, Massaman Beef Curry and Honey Ribs Stew.