Stage One: Pairings Happen

Am I alone in the realization that I’m pairing craft beers without even being aware of it? We drink beer and we eat food often at the same time thus, of course, creating a beer and food pairing. But the thought of intentionally pairing beer can feel overwhelming and complicated. There are so many beers, flavors, and foods, and it is hard to know how or where to begin. If you’re someone who is intimidated by the thought of beer and food pairings fear not, your palate won’t lead you astray.

Bartenders in tasting rooms and breweries are typically well versed in their beers and can point drinkers to appropriate pairings much like formally trained wine sommeliers do. Or have fun experimenting with a flight or two with some of your favorite foods and see what interesting flavor profiles and changes take shape from sip to sip. We each have our own taste preferences and part of the fun of the craft beer culture from a consumer perspective is the freedom to experiment without the stuffy expectations.

Tall Tales Sriracha nachos
Not’cho everyday nachos. Tall Tales Sriracha nachos have it all and are sophisticated enough to proudly pair with your favorite craft.

Stage Two: Have Fun in a Safe Environment

What better time and place to play around with pairings that while watching football? Good friends, familiar foods, comfortable environment. I think beer gets a bad rap sometimes, in the way a big greasy pizza gets a bad rap. Although some beers might be right for the job, the craft beers these days have more potential than to wash down a party size bag of artificially flavored and colored cheese puffs. But beer’s junk food pairing days don’t need to be over. There are still plenty of nachos and wings to be enjoyed, but that food has widely taken on more sophisticated ingredients and flavors as have the beers we’re drinking with them. Smoked wings with beer barbecue sauce, chipotle nachos with handmade guacamole (as pictured above), or a rustic wood fired pizza with fresh basil beg for a partner in crime. On the Eastern Shore many of our local breweries’ sessionable beers would be perfect craft beer compliments for these game day favorites.  Fin City’s Angler Ale or Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA would be two great choices.

fruit and cheese board
Give it a shot! Cheese and beer are a match made in pairing heaven.

Stage Three: Take Craft Beer Pairing to the Next Level

One of the reasons I happen to love the craft beer scene is that there isn’t just one right way. If you like a dark heavy beer with a fresh green salad, go for it! Or if you like your mainline IPA with whatever you’re in the mood to eat, enjoy it all the more. The next time you eat (anything) while enjoying your beer (any one), play around with it. Take a sip, take a bite. How does the food impact the flavor of the drink or vice versa? Do they enhance each other? Do they compliment each other?

Interested in exploring more about beer and food pairings? Shore Craft’s upcoming Beer Talk & Tasting topic is all about beer and cheese pairings. The February 3rd event at the Clarion in Ocean City will feature many of our local brewers each sharing one of their beers and a cheese they’ve found that pairs perfectly with it.


Kate Parkinson
Author: Kate Parkinson

Kate Parkinson currently resides in Salisbury, Maryland and is a come-here from another mecca of craft breweries, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She is a professional cook, a mom, keeps a zombie apocalypse go-bag, loves her cowgirl boots, and a big, interesting beer. She lives with her best guy, Skeeks the Australian Shepherd.

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