What to drink with what?

Don’t be afraid to try something new when thinking about beer and food combinations. There may be no simple “red wine with red meat” rule, but when it comes to beer, the challenge is more rewarding rather than a burden: the flexible and accommodating flavour structure of beer means that failure is rare.

When selecting beer for food, use certain general rules about food and drink combinations: for heavy food, choose a full-bodied beer, while lighter food will require a more fine-tuned beer as partner. But you can always throw out the rulebook and try the opposite instead: for example, partner heavy, spicy food, with a fresh, light beer to lift the whole experience.

The table below summarises how certain opposing elements, both in the food and the beer, can be harmonised or highlighted.

Cheese and beer get on well together: especially beers of ale type have aromas which interact with the multifarious world of cheese flavours. No doubt beer and gourmet food enthusiasts have their own private combinations, but this is our advice: full-bodied beer with full-flavoured cheeses, strong hoppy beer with fresh cheeses and milder beers with mature cheeses.

Perhaps the best taste coupling of all is fish and beer. The fish dishes at Swedish-style smörgåsbord and Christmas buffets reach their gustatory peak in combination with a glass of beer. The soft fat of the fish and the carbon dioxide and weak bitterness of the beer create memorable tastes in the mouth.

Often, when it is difficult to find a wine which will match a dish containing, e.g., egg, chilli, vinegar, or hot Asian spices or to match traditional Scandinavian food and its many root vegetables, the meal comes into its own when accompanied by beer. There are several types to choose from.

Harmony between flavour elements in beer and food

Öl och mat en

Bottom-fermented beers

Lager
All-round beer.
Use: Good with most food. Lightly spiced dishes, fish, chicken, also good balance with hot dishes.

Dark lager
Flavour: A touch of sweetness, medium-bodied, relatively light hops
Aroma: Malty, grain, caramel, bread, chocolate
Use: Grilled food, brown stews, full-flavoured meat, duck, mushrooms, pickles, cheese

Pilsner
Flavour: Fresh, aromatic, dry, ample hops
Aroma: Grain, flowers, herbs and spices
Use: Salmon, pork, sausage, hamburgers, and food cooked with herbs

Strong lager
Flavour: Full-bodied, strong, alcoholic, with a trace of sweetness
Aroma: Malt, grain
Use: Game, full-flavoured meat dishes, grilled salmon, ham, liver, bacon, mushrooms, cream sauce, tasty cheeses

Top-fermented beer

Wheat beer
Flavour: Fresh, light, fruity, dry, mild hops
Aroma: Citrus, fruit, banana, spices and herbs
Use: Apéritif, fish, shellfish, chicken, vegetables, goats cheese

Ale
Flavour: Very varied: aromatic, medium- bodied, balanced hops, fruity
Aroma: Generous, varied fruit aromas, berries, flowers, citrus, herbs, spices
Användning: Use: Sipping beer. Most foods, especially spicy food, mature cheeses, game

Porter&Stout
Flavour: Full-bodied, aromatic, from rather dry to sweet
Aroma: Nuanced, roasted aromas with sweet malt, coffee, fruitiness, chocolate, Finnish mämmi
Use: Sipping beer. Digestif. Blue cheeses, desserts, chocolate, game, and a classic: oysters.

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