Beer Pairings for Fall Comfort Foods

Sarah and Giancarlo Annese, founders of the site Beer Union and authors of "Beer Lover's New York: The Empire State's Best Breweries, Brewpubs, and Brew Bars," join the Clever Cookstr to talk about beer pairings for fall and winter foods.

Kara Rota
6-minute read
Episode #18

Welcome to the Clever Cookstr, your resource for tips and tricks from the world’s best kitchens and food experts.

Our guests today are Sarah and Giancarlo Annese. They’re the founders of the site Beer Union, and they spent 4 months traveling 4 thousand miles around New York State visiting breweries, pubs, and craft beer bars while researching their book, "Beer Lover’s New York: The Empire State’s Best Breweries, Brewpubs, and Brew Bars.".

We often talk about wine pairings, but I’ve asked Sarah and Giancarlo here today to talk about pairing beer with fall and winter foods.

CC: We think of beer as casual, refreshing, and good for warm weather, but tell us a little bit about how its versatility makes it a good match for heavier fare, as well.

GA: Beer, as opposed to some other beverages, has a really wide variety of flavors. From its yeast character, it can have anything from banana to bubble gum to flavors of plum or dark fruit. The hops can give grass or tropical fruit and grapefruit flavor, and malt can give roasted chocolate flavors, or nutty flavors. So there’s a really wide variety that you can get with beer, and either compliment or play off of what you’re eating. So it’s not only about refreshment--it can also stand up to some heavier, winter dishes, like a stew or sausage, things like that.

CC: Let’s talk a little bit specifically about those pairings. This time of year, we’re starting to think about comfort foods, lots of roast meats and vegetables, mac and cheese, soups and stews. So what are some characteristics of beers that you’d say would go well with those kinds of foods? And then give us some specific examples that you might recommend.

GA: Obviously, you can get roasted character with beer, with stouts and porters, and that plays well with roasted vegetables and meats. But you can also work off the carbonation and the drier side of beer, with something like a saison or a Belgian abbey ale, like a double. A double will have some richness, but will clean your palate of the heaviness of what you’re eating. There’s fruitiness, there’s some sweetness, which is going to go well with your stew, but it’s also going to lift those flavors off your palate. And the saison is going to be really bright and refreshing and lighten things up a bit, to get a change of pace.

CC: I want to ask both of you, what was the beer that sparked your passion--the first beer you remember really falling in love with?

SA: For me, it was Harpoon UFO. I went to school in Boston, and senior year we just happened to order a Harpoon UFO because of the glass. It’s this really big Hefeweizen glass, and it’s called "UFO," so we thought, why not? And the flavors of that beer just blew me away. There was such a difference from the Bud Light and Miller Light that I had been drinking previously. So that was the one that showed me that beer could be amazing and delicious.

GA: And for me, I stumbled into it with my friend, who went to Germany and came back really into beer. We started buying six packs of random beer. The first one that we had was Anchor Steam, which was a craft beer classic, and it was like nothing I had had before. We couldn’t get enough after that.


About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.