Beers are fast becoming the new “wine” as far as beer appreciation and knowledge is concerned. With the steady growth of craft brewing industry and with beer boutiques sprouting up in virtually every city around the globe, beer aficionados are being treated to new beer flavors and pairings almost on a daily basis. Home brewing and craft beers are becoming a popular choice amongst beer drinkers and with courses like the Brew Your Own Beer with the Mr. Beer Kit available, most beer lovers now have the option to craft their own brews.
If you are interested in trying your hand at brewing your own beer, then the Brew Your Own Beer with the Mr. Beer Kit course will provide you with a step by step guide to brewing your own beer using the Mr. Beer kit. The course is aimed at those who have never made their own beers before and would like to brew their own beers as a hobby. The course goes into detail about the actual brewing process and teaches students the terminology, the equipment needed and the science behind brewing your own beer.
Part of the attraction of craft beers is experiencing new flavors paired with perfect food choices. Choosing the right foods however, implies more than just raiding your refrigerator. The art of choosing the right food for your beers lies in understanding the difference between ales and lagers and also understanding the qualities of these two beer types.
Understanding the Difference Between Ales and Lagers
Ales and lagers are produced using different fermentation techniques. These techniques result in beers with distinct characteristics and knowing the differences will help you to select the perfect food pairing for your particular brew.
Ales are produced by a process of warm fermentation using a top fermenting yeast. The yeast to produce ales is called Saccharomyces cerevisiae and this type of yeast rises to the top during the brewing process, causing the brew to ferment at a faster rate than the average lager with ales being produced in as little as seven days. Due to this shortened fermentation process, ales tend to have a stronger, more pronounced flavor. Ales are generally served at cellar or lower temperatures ranging between fifty and fifty five degrees Fahrenheit. Ales can also tend to be fruitier than lagers and pairings with fruits or salads are often recommended depending on the type of ale.
Lagers are produced using a bottom fermenting yeast called Saccharomyces Uvarum. The yeast settles at the bottom of the brew during fermentation and the fermentation process is often referred to as cold fermentation. The fermentation process for lagers tend to be much longer than ales and this lengthened process results in beers that are often smoother, cleaner and mellower in taste than their ale counterparts. Lagers take a month or more to produce and the fermentation process restricts the amounts of esters produced in the beer which also add to the mellow, soft taste of the beer. Lagers are the most popular beer style for mass production of beer and most commercially available beers are lagers.
So essentially, for food pairing purposes, ales can tend to be more forceful in taste and are often very fruity, whilst lagers tend to be more refined and mellow and these differences are important when selecting the right food choices to serve with the different types of beers.
If you are interested in learning to make your own ales, the Brew Real Beer will run you through all the processes of home brewing. This course will teach you what equipment you need to brew your own beer, how the overall process works and how to brew, ferment and bottle your own beer.
Perfect Food Pairings for Ales
Now that you know the difference between ales and lagers, it’s also important to note that there are differences between the various types of ales and these differences also impact your beer food pairings. We will look at some of the more common ales available and the foods that perfectly compliment these brews.
Belgian witbier is an ale that is characterized by orange and citrus flavorings with soft coriander type aromas. Its soft malty bitterness goes well with salads that include light citrus fruit based dressings or with lightly citrus flavored dishes like citrus marinated chicken. The perfect cheese for this type of ale includes smoked Gouda cheese or other soft flavored cheeses. Foods paired with this ale should be light and soft so as not to overpower the soft citrus flavors of the ale itself.
American wheat ale is a light refreshing brew with subtle citrus overtones. The foods paired with this brew should therefore be subtle and fresh. Seafood with lemon butter make a great combination with the citrus flavors of the food, complimenting the citrus overtones in the beer. This slightly acerbic brew goes well with the delicate flavors of seared scallops, a light citrus based salad or pan fried shrimp with a hint of garlic. Serve it with a cheese platter including Chevre for a perfect end to your meal.
Blonde ale, also known as cream ale, offers a smooth malty balance between sugar and acid. The balanced profile of this brew means that it can be paired with sweeter or spicier foods. Mexican or Asian dishes therefore complement this brew beautifully, with the beer enhancing the flavor profile of the sweet spiciness of the food. Serve with jalapeno salsa, sweet and sour pork, or hot and sour soup. The beer also goes well with a mature brie cheese.
Pale ale has a slightly stronger flavor profile than the blonde ale and can therefore pair with the stronger flavors of blue cheese and stilton. The rich malty sweetness enhances rich smoky flavor profiles so pairing this brew with char grilled, slightly sweet barbeque flavors may bring out the best in both the brew and the food.
Brown ale is described as having a rich, dark malty nuttiness with subtle touches of chocolate and caramel. This robust brew can therefore be served with roast pork, smoked sausage or dishes that complement the ale’s nutty flavors. Serve with chicken satay, pecan pie with cream or other nut based desserts for a dark and creamy conclusion to your meal.
Perfect Food Pairings for Lagers
Like ales, there are a number of different lagers, each with unique flavor characteristics and pairings.
A light lager is soft, subtle and very refreshing. It is one of the most popular styles of commercially produced beers and is available worldwide. Think fresh and light and you will have an idea about the flavor pairings for these beers. Lemongrass, ginger, cilantro and garlic all pair well with this brew and if you are looking for the right cheese, then select a good Morbier and you are guaranteed to be pleasantly surprised.
Pilsners are more robust than their light lager cousins. They tend to have a distinct hops aroma coupled with strong bitterness and acidity. The acidity and refreshing quality of the brew means that this brew cuts through the oiliness of fatty fish. Pilsners paired with salmon, tuna and other fatty fish are therefore a match made in heaven. The brew also makes one of the best reductions and your beer sauce will shine if made with this lager.
Amber lager offers a perfectly balanced flavor profile. It has a roasted, malty sweetness that is perfectly balanced by its dry bitterness. Paired with tomato, it brings out the sweet acidity of most Italian dishes that include the classic flavor combinations of tomato, basil and oregano. Amber lager can also be served with a good Manchego cheese.
Finally, with the strongest flavor profile amongst the lagers, Bock has rich, sweet caramel overtones that complement its toasty warm flavors. Serve this lager with strong spicy curries, dark roasted Cajun flavors or rich nutty or creamy desserts like crème caramel to experience the depth of flavor of this brew.
Creating Your Own Combinations
Much like wine, beer appreciation is in the eye of the beholder. Experts may tell you a combination is right or wrong, but you are the one who has to enjoy your experience. Beer is about taste and everyone’s taste differs, so once you have found a brew you like, then take time to taste and savor it. Let the beer roll over the tongue and tantalize the taste buds into releasing the perfect pairing for you. As long as the food you choose doesn’t overwhelm the beer or vice versa, then you can’t go too far wrong.
If you are ready for the taste sensation of a home brewed ale, check out Beer Making 101 – Old School course now. Join master brewer Jason Kirkman for a beer brewing adventure that will teach you all you need to know about the art and craft of brewing. Learn the tricks of the trade to craft the perfect flavor profile for you.