By Lucy Saunders
AUTUMN BRINGS HUES of gold, copper
and brown that flow as freely as red lagers,
pumpkin ales, smoked brown ales and
Belgian dubbels at Oktoberfests around the
country. The choices can be dizzying at this
time of year. But matching a beer for a meal
with friends shouldn’t be overwhelming.
Relax, this is only beer—and it’s so affordable,
you can splurge on several styles at once.
The first step is to increase your beer
savvy—and fortunately, this requires research.
First, see our “Beer pairing” sidebar for an
overview of beer styles, from Pilsners to lambics. You can get additional matching recommendations at sites such as RateBeer.com.
Next, try the experimental method:
Match your meal with a variety of beers,
including a favorite brew and several you’ve
not sampled. Play with various tastes, side by
side with your dishes. Present assorted beer
styles with small tasting glasses, so that it’s
possible to enjoy several different sips with a
Some beer styles are particularly food
friendly. For example, a brown ale goes well
with roasted chicken, playing up the roast notes
with plenty of caramel notes (see more tips in
“Cooking with beer”). A malty Oktoberfest
lager melds with the charred edges of grilled
salmon with spicy slaw. Potato and chard tarts
baked with Manchego cheese mellow the taste
of yeasty Belgian-style ale. Pumpkin ale, brewed
with warming spices such as ginger and cinna-
mon, blends with baked apples stuffed with
toasted oats, hazelnuts, maple syrup and raisins.
Next, think about intensity and setting. A
smoky porter may be a great match with a
grilled steak, but if the weather is hot and
humid, perhaps you’ll want a more refreshing
style such as amber lager.
Oily fish and strong cheeses partner with
malty beers, while yeasty unfiltered ales can
extend strong fishy flavors. Hops’ bitterness
works much like citric acidity, so find foods
with robust flavors, such as barbecue and
spicy dishes, to play up the bitter edge.
Enjoy the color and nuances of beer by
serving it in a glass. Decant the beer into the
glass at a slight angle to release carbonation
and enjoy more of the fermentation aromas
found in the foam. Aromatics can influence
the perception of taste, so serve beers at 40 to
45 F, chilled but not icy. Use a clean glass,
rinsed well to avoid chlorine or soap residues.
That said, many styles of beer are packaged in
cans, for settings where glass won’t fit.
So enjoy the process. Discover the range of
flavors, bitterness, carbonation, spice and richness to create memorable matches. The best
pairing is the one you enjoy, with each taste
building toward the next bite and sip. C
Lucy Saunders is a Costco member and the
author of Dinner in the Beer Garden (F&B
Communications LLC, 2013) and The Best of
American Beer and Food (Brewers Publications, 2007; neither is available at Costco).
Baked Ale-Maple Apples
1/3 cup raisins
½ cup brown ale
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter
6 McIntosh or Gala apples
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
Softened butter, to top apples and grease
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place raisins, brown
ale, maple syrup and butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and
remove from heat. Let raisins soak in ale-maple mixture while you prepare apples.
Wash and core the apples, hollowing out a
space of at least 1 inch, or slice in half and
remove pith and seeds. Place in buttered 8 x
8-inch or 9 x 12-inch baking dish. Mix brown
sugar, oats, hazelnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and
ginger in a medium-size bowl. Stir in raisins
and ale-maple mixture. Use a teaspoon to stuff
the mixture in and on top of the apples.
Dab the apples with softened butter if desired.
Bake 30 minutes, or until apples are tender.
Beer pairing: A pumpkin ale brewed with
warming spices makes a sweet match to the
maple and hazelnuts in the stuffed apples.
Pairing beer and food
In our digital editions
Click here for a video from Lucy
Saunders about pairing beer with
food. (See page 10 for details.)
The Costco Connection
Costco features a variety of beers, including
local craft beers, in select warehouses, along
with a complete selection of fine foods for
perfect culinary matches.