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Since 2010, I have been preparing and hosting the Ontario Brewer Podcast series for the Ontario Craft Brewers Association. These podcast feature interviews with Ontario brewers on a range of different topics.

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Pairing beer with food in 2 easy steps

Posted May 6, 2015 | 1:15 pm, by Mirella

Pairing beer with food is fun! Although consistently assembling spectacular pairings takes study, practice and experience, it’s relatively easy to put together a pairing that works.

Beerology Beer Book sFor those who are interested in an in-depth breakdown of how to pair beer with food, my book includes a 10-page chapter that details the various interactions to expect, depending on the taste and flavours present in either the food or the beer at hand. It also offers tips on how to plan your own beer dinner as well as quick & easy suggestions on the styles of beers to assemble if you’d like to host a beer & cheese or beer & chocolate pairing party…

What I’m sharing today, however, is a 2-step cheat that will result in a decent pairing almost all of the time and, potentially, a fantastic one every now and again:

1. Match the intensity of your food with the intensity of your beer.

You may have read this elsewhere; it’s a common food-pairing rule. In fact, it also holds true when pairing food with wine and other beverages.

This rule really seems obvious if you stop and think about it: if you are eating a light salad and you pair it with a 14%abv barrel-aged barleywine, you won’t be able to taste anything in your salad after the first sip of beer. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you are eating a rich beef stew with a range of vegetables and spices and you pair it with a Pilsner, the nuances of flavour in your beer will be completely lost.

Most of us will instinctively know how intense any given dish will be. When it comes to beer, style and alcohol content are great indicators of intensity. For those who are aren’t familiar with styles, the best way to gauge the intensity of a beer is by tasting it!

2. Mirella’s rule of thumb

In my years of assembling beer dinners and beer & cheese workshops with Beerology, this is something I noticed I was doing without really thinking about it. Once it came to my attention, I looked back into my book collection to see if I’d read it somewhere and internalized it but this wasn’t the case.  Later, when it came time to write my own book, I decided to set it down and call it ‘Mirella’s rule of thumb’. Here it is:

Line up the colour intensity of your beer with the colour intensity of the main ingredient in your dish. In other words, if you’re planning to eat white fish or chicken, choose a beer that is gold in colour; if you’re having salmon, pork or lentils, choose an amber beer; with mushrooms or beef, choose a deep amber or brown beer; and if you’re having chocolate cake, choose a black beer. It’s pretty straightforward.

Of course, when lining up the colour, make sure you’re not forgetting about the intensity. For example, if your chicken is steamed, you’ll want a golden beer with a lighter intensity, like a Munich Helles. If that chicken is, instead, deep-fried and sitting on a waffle with some syrup, you might want to pair it with a Tripel instead – similar colour, different intensity. Makes sense?

Well, that’s it! I hope this post will encourage more people to dive into pairing beer with food, as it really is a satisfying and delicious pursuit…. good luck!


  1. I just heard your interview on the BeerSmith Podcast #174. I love the simplicity of the food pairing guidelines you listed here. Very helpful. Great stuff! Thank you.

    Comment by Matt Levingston on July 25, 2018 at 1:39 am

  2. Thanks for the note! Glad you find this helpful. Pairing beer with food is such a tasty adventure!

    Comment by Mirella on July 25, 2018 at 12:55 pm

  3. Such great advice! thank you! Greetings from Ecuador!

    Comment by Kathy on April 18, 2019 at 5:32 pm

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