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Alcohol and Food Pairings

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What better to complete a meal than a lovely glass of wine or pilsner. I think of cocktails, wine, and beer as condiments to my meal, similar to salt, pepper, or vinegar. There are two methods of alcohol and food pairing. You can either create a pairing that complements each other or contrast. The levels of acidity, sweetness, and bitterness can increase the flavor or balance the flavor of the meal. I was a bartender for a few years so I thought I might use my limited expertise to created a short list of different drinks and suggested pairings. Please feel free to add!

The body of wine is determined by alcohol content and extracts. The temperature of the region and wine-making process affects the taste of the wine. Sauces, dips, and condiments affect the taste of the food so if a wine goes well with roast chicken, you may want to make sure the sauce is not the main flavor of the dish or the wine may need to be changed. Riesling usually works well with spicy food and Indian dishes. Spicy food can be difficult to pair. The wrong wine can often ruin a meal so ask the bartender or research online before making a questionable pairing. 

Pinot Blanc: Usually pairs well with vegetable and cheese dishes or roast chicken

Champagne: Champagne from France pairs well with bread, toast, and apples. Brut Champagne pairs well with mild Asian food or shellfish

Merlot: Soft-bodied Merlot can be paired with shellfish and bacon. Fruity Merlot goes well with salmon or mushroom dishes. Merlot tends to have different flavors depending on where and how it was grown. Look on the bottle for suggested pairings. It does not tend to fair well with spicy or strong flavors. Choose a mild cheese and stay away from overly spiced or marinated foods. 

Port: Port wine is usually served as a dessert wine or with cheeses like Gorgonzola. It can also be served as an aperitif.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Pairs well will spices such as pepper and cream based sauces. Ahi-tuna and steak usually go well with this wine. It goes well with mild/ medium flavor cheeses, such as Cheddar, and can also go well with bitter dark chocolate. This is another wine that varies depending on the region, so look on the bottle for a description of the flavors. 

Lagers are best served at cooler temperatures. They have a delicate and drier flavor. 

American Lager:  Pairs well with spicy cuisines. Brie also goes well with this lager

Light Lager: Great with dishes including ginger, garlic, and cilantro. Great with spring rolls or many Himalayan dishes, such as Momos.

Pilsner: Goes well with oily fish and well-marbled meats. 

Amber Lager: Goes well with basil and oregano dishes and cheeses like Manchego.

Bock: This lager goes well with Cajun foods and intense flavors. It pairs well with white and sharp cheddar. 

Ales have a robust, fruity flavor. They are created with warm temperatures and top-fermenting yeast

American Wheat Ale: Seared shellfish or shrimp with oil. Goes well with Chevre cheese.

Belgian Witbier: Goes well with smoked Gouda or salads with citrus flavoring and goat cheese. 

Pale Ale: Goes very well with blue cheese or spicy and strong flavors. 

India Pale Ale: Pairs well with rich desserts, curried foods, and provolone cheese. 

Blonde Ale: Like pale ale, it goes well with spicy food and blue cheese. 

Amber Ale:  Pairs well with BBQ foods and chili.

Porter: Porter complements coffee flavored desserts, Gorgonzola,  and soft cheeses. It also goes well with bacon and smoked meats.

Stout: Stout goes well with salty foods and aged Gouda.

VirginiaPeanuts posted Feb 28, 2012