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

CC: Tell us a little bit about the trips that you took while you were researching the book. What kinds of things did you see, what kinds of people did you interact with?

SA: So, we took many, many trips! We had a 4 month period to research and write this book, which was a lot shorter than we had anticipated. One particular experience that was really memorable was when we were up in the Adirondacks, in Glens Falls at Davidson Brothers Brewery, and we’re talking, we’re in the brew house room, and the founder, Rich Davidson, just turns to me and goes, “What size are your feet?” I was like, “7…” and next thing I know, I’m wearing these giant galoshes inside the brew kettle, cleaning it! And that was just one of those moments, where you’re like, woah, this is an experience.

GA: As people who live in New York City, before we started researching, we didn’t really know a lot of what was beyond the immediate vicinity of the city. So getting out to the Finger Lakes and the Adirondacks really opened our eyes to a lot of different things that are going on, and beers that you would never get unless you went there.

CC: Let’s talk about some more surprising beer pairings, maybe for cocktail parties where you’re serving cheese plates, or more delicate bite sized foods. I feel like there are situations where you’re really reliant on wine, where we have trouble thinking outside of the wine box. Or bottle.

GA: Something that I think a lot of people would be really surprised about is how well beer goes with cheese, because of the wide variety of flavors you can get, and also the carbonation and how dry it can be. It often works better in a cheese pairing situation that a wine or other drink, because it can lift the fattiness of the cheese off your palate. And so you might like to have a really nice pilsner, which has a nice grassy note, with some cheeses to clear off some of the runnier cheeses that are really going to coat your palate. Or if you’ve got a blue cheese, barley wines are really great. They’ve got big, bold flavors that can stand up to the cheese, and they’re really mature beers that after a while, can be quite nice and display a lot of versatility.

CC: Let’s talk about cooking with beer. Beyond the ubiquitous beer can chicken, which is really more of a structural use of the beer than a use as an ingredient, what are some of your favorite ways to use beer in recipes?

SA: I’m happy to say that we have never made beer can chicken! It’s a little bit gimmicky, and looks kind of funny. What we normally do when we’re cooking with beer is use it in the place of a stock. So we would sub in some wheat beer to a risotto instead of the chicken stock, or in addition to the chicken stock, to give it more depth of flavor. We’ve used amber ale in a bolognese.

We’ve also used, which was less successful, an IPA in a cheese soup. I would say, because an IPA is so bitter, it’s going to really come through in the final product as much as you cook it down. I mean, after that, I would stay away from IPAs, unless you are going to do a beer batter on zucchini or fried mozzarella. A maltier beer or a nut brown would be really good for a heartier stew, something that’s going to have a little bit of sweetness and a maltier backbone.

GA: And you can also use smoked beers, which will give a little bit of smokiness to something like a chili.

CC: What types of beers would you pair with desserts?

SA: Especially in the fall, people are really loving Southern Tier Pumking, so that’s kind of the cult favorite dessert beer. It obviously tastes like pumpkin. It’s perfect with a pumpkin pie. There’re also more traditional beers that go with desserts, an imperial stout or barrel aged stout, something that’s really hearty, rich, and is going to kind of pal along with the dessert.

Something that we really enjoy is a really tart sour or Berliner Weisse paired with a fruit pie. Something that’s really going to play off those tarty flavors in the fruit and bring them forward. I also love drizzling some beer over ice cream. It’s a cool dessert not just for fall or winter, but you can really have ice cream at any time.

CC: Absolutely. Thank you so much for joining us today.

SA: Thanks for having us.

CC: Check out Sarah and Giancarlo’s book, "Beer Lover’s New York: The Empire State’s Best Breweries, Brewpubs, and Brew Bars." And join us next time on the Clever Cookstr for more tips and tricks from the kitchens of the world’s best cooks.


Photos courtesy of Sarah and Giancarlo Annese.




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.