With summer and warmer weather comes getting out more often for dinner and hosting backyard BBQs.
And, with that, it follows that people tend to imbibe in their favorite alcoholic beverages a bit more often.
Wine seems to get the lion’s share of accolades when it comes to health benefits, particularly red wine due to the heart-healthy resveratrol it contains. Beer, on the other hand, often gets blamed for being laden with “empty calories” and causing the dreaded beer gut.
Emerging research is putting that myth to bed.
Turns out, beer has a number of health benefits. According to Men’s Health, beer can do everything from safeguard your heart and boost your immunity to bolster your bone health.
Here are just a few examples of how beer can be a health helper:
- Italian researchers found that moderate beer drinkers had a 42 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to non-drinkers.
- Researchers in Finland found that each bottle of beer a man drinks daily lowers his risk of developing kidney stones by 40 percent.
- Harvard researchers found that moderate beer drinkers are less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who sip wine or cocktails.
- Canadian researchers found that one daily beer (especially a lager or stout) increases antioxidant activity that can stop cataracts from forming in the eyes.
- A study in the journal Consciousness and Cognition indicates that drinking beer may make you more creative.
So, there you go!
Now that it’s “acceptable” to drink beer from a health perspective, do you know how to choose one that’s right for you?
Well, it depends on the occasion and the meal.
Beer is similar to wine in that you can pair it with different types of food to enhance the flavor of both. You can look at it the easy way, and do light beers with light foods like chicken or seafood and dark, heavier beers with heavier meals like steak or lamb. You can take it a step further and really dig in to the flavor profiles to take advantage of the thousands of different beers that are available today.
Here are some things to consider...
Beer has three main characteristics that help it enhance the flavor of your meal. They are alcohol, bitterness, and carbonation. Each of these characteristics can cut through the sensory flavors (salty, sweet, oily) and cleanse the palette between bites.
Beer also comes in many easy to predict flavors, along with some not so easy to predict. You can use these predictable flavors and pair them with complimenting flavors.
For example, take the many fruit beers and shandies out there; they pair very well with fruit-based desserts and fruitier main dishes like a fruit glazed ham or a spinach salad with strawberries. There are also many beers on the opposite end of the spectrum, like a stout or porter, which have hints of coffee, chocolate, or both. They go very well with a similar dessert like chocolate cake or tiramisu. These darker beers also pair very well with a nice steak or burger. Utilizing these complimenting flavors can create an echo of flavors that lingers on the palette longer than normal and tie the whole meal together.
You can also go the complete opposite way and look to contrasting flavors to create new flavor profiles, such as sweet and salty, rich and bitter, sweet and spicy, and fruit and chocolates. A red or amber beer will cleanse the palette nicely of the salt from a cheeseburger and fries, while the bite from the hops in one of the many hoppy IPAs that are available will cut through heavy flavors such as blue cheese or cheesecake. Try ordering a wheat beer or hefewiezen with your next order of hot wings and enjoy the cooling effect the malt has on your senses. For dessert, have some chocolate cake, and instead of the stout or porter, this time try a raspberry shandy.
These are just some of the creative ways to pair certain profiles together. You can go even more specific with these different types of beer and their respective food pairings. These examples follow a light-to-dark approach. Some of the foods will pair with more than one beer, the same way some foods pair with more than one wine.
Light Lagers. Some of the most popular beers worldwide, they are light and refreshing… great for sitting on the patio on a hot day. They pair very well with flavors like lemongrass and ginger and go great with light salads.
American Lager. Perfect balance of malt and hops with a crisp finish. Goes very well with Thai, Asian, Mexican, and other spicy cuisines.
Pilsner. Pronounced hop aroma, slight bitterness with a very refreshing finish. Will match up nicely with your fatty, oily fish like salmon or tuna and also goes well with your fattier steaks, like a ribeye.
Belgian Witbier. Unfiltered beer with orange and citrus aromas. Compliments salads with light citrus dressings or any other light citrus flavored dish.
American Wheat Ale. Very refreshing; slightly tart but maintains that citrus aroma. Goes great with lighter foods like seared scallops or grilled shrimp, while adding a nice bit of flavor to the meal.
Hefeweizen. Unfiltered with clove or banana aromas. As a German beer, it is classically paired with white sausage, but goes great with seafood similarly to the wheat ale. As mentioned above, it also cuts through the “bite” in some of the spicier dishes (such as hot wings) to create a nice, contrasting profile.
Blonde/Cream Ale. Smooth malty sweetness, balanced bitterness. Pairs perfectly with sweet, hot, or spicy foods, including many Asian dishes, chili, or even a pineapple salsa.
Pale Ale. Malty sweetness balanced by hoppy bitterness. The bitterness in these styles of beer compliment smoky cheeses and grilled meats; the toasty and nutty flavors mimic the flavors found in these foods.
India Pale Ale. Increased maltiness and a prominent hoppy aroma and flavor. The strong hoppy flavors and spiciness of this beer compliments bold spicy dishes such as curries and also goes great with sweet desserts such as a crème brulee.
Amber Lager. Roasted malty sweetness with well-balanced bitterness. This is a great beer to go with any Italian dish that has a red sauce; the sweetness compliments the tomato nicely. The hop flavor in this style goes well with oregano and basil.
Amber Ale. Sweet caramel notes and a citrus aroma. This beer also has a nice smooth finish. Some of the foods that go well with this style are smoked meats such as BBQ ribs, pulled pork, brisket, grilled steak, or chicken.
Brown Ale. Malty Flavor balanced with hints of caramel or chocolate. This one is going to match up with your roasted porks, smoked sausage and other hearty dishes. The caramel and chocolate flavors will also compliment Thai and Asian inspired dishes such as cashew chicken, chicken satay, or anything with a peanut sauce or dressing.
Bock. Rich sweet caramels and warm toasty flavors. The sweetness of this style balances the strong spice and intense flavors of Cajun or jerk dishes, as well as seared or blackened foods.
Porter. Roasted flavor complimented by nutty and toffee characteristics. This style also works well with smoked meats, and if you’ve been looking for the beer to go with your bacon, this is the one. Add a piece of tiramisu and you’ve got yourself a perfect evening.
Stout. Prevalent chocolate and coffee flavors. This is one of my favorite styles of beer, especially in the wintertime. This one highlights the caramel notes of any dish with a brown savory sauce. Along with that, this one can be a nice dessert as a standalone.
Barley Wine. Strong natural sweetness with a slightly bitter finish. The strong flavor of this beer usually overpowers main dishes, making this one perfect for strong cheeses or caramel and chocolate desserts.
Lambic. Crisp, dry and cidery with a slightly sour flavor. This beer will go with light fruity dishes but is best served after dinner paired up with desserts featuring fruit or dark chocolate.
As you can see, no matter what you are having for dinner, there is a beer out there that either compliments or opposes the flavors of that dish! Many restaurants now offer beer “flights” so you can try smaller size glasses of multiple beers at a time, and many liquor stores will now allow you to mix and match six packs.
There is no wrong answer, so get out there and try a few.
Domonell, Kristen. "10 Reasons to Have a Beer Right Now." Men's Health. 27 Dec. 2015.