The Expert Guide to Beer and Food Pairing

When it comes to pairing food with drinks, many people head to the wine list. However, beer and food pairing yields surprisingly delicious results. To get some input on the basics of beer pairing, The Local Dish turned to national beer marketing expert Ginger Johnson, of  Women Enjoying Beer, to help beer lovers pair up stouts, hop-filled ales, and seasonal brews with everything from chocolate cake to bratwurst and salads.


According to Johnson, the profile of the flavor is what you are looking to match. “The intensity can be really overwhelming, it can be eye-popping, it can be slow and delicate – it also goes hand in hand with what your taste buds are happy with.”

What if you have a particular type of beer you love? For fans of hoppy beers, keep in mind that hops are an astringent, meaning they will wash away fats and oils, refreshing your mouth between bites of food. One style of hopped beer is Kolsch, something that would pair perfectly with a bratwurst. 

Just like with wine, beer can be (and should be) paired with every course. For example, you might not gravitate towards pairing a beer with your favorite dessert, but as Johnson says, “Anybody who’s not thinking about that has a whole world out there they need to explore and dig into with a spoon. Beer and dessert is quintessential.”

For fans of seasonal beers like pumpkin ales, Johnson suggests pairing pumpkin ale with a stone fruit cobbler, or if making a salad dressing to pair the ale “with a mild olive oil and some complementary spices like cinnamon and nutmeg over a spinach, pear and pecan salad.”

Try pairing a rich piece of chocolate cake with Ninkasi Brewing’s Oatis Oatmeal Stout in Eugene. Photo by: Jackie Varriano

Lastly, don’t discount cooking with beer as a way to pair it with your foods. Try using pilsner in the popular beer can chicken method, or as Johnson suggests, substitute items with a low viscosity (watery) beer when baking, broiling, or even making rice. 

Like a hefeweisen or marzen? “Those are all really great beers to pair with very traditional brunch foods, the French toast, the waffles, the bacon, all those dishes we think about when we fantasize about the romantic vision of brunch,” says Johnson. Beer floats are also a delicious way to marry beer and dessert. Johnson likes Irish stout with coffee ice cream.

Watch Ginger’s secret tip for using leftover beer:

“All beers are not created equal… they all have their own profiles and personalities,” says Johnson. The goal of pairing beer with food is a match game, you are matching flavors and intensities, and trial and error is your best bet on the road to success. So crack open a few beers. You might hit a home run.

Share your flamin’ best beer + food combo down under in comments? Let’s raise a pint or two!

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