How to Master Food And Beverage Pairings

Wine has been paired with food for centuries, but the rising popularity of craft beer may change the way you think about pairings.

Since 2009, the number of craft brewer barrels produced has nearly tripled — from 9 million in 2009 to nearly 25 million in 2016¹. And that growth shows no sign of slowing down.

Use food and beverage pairings as a way to surprise and delight your customers — whether they dine in, or order for delivery or takeout. Here’s how to get started.

Focus on flavor and intensity

There are five basic taste elements — salty, sweet, bitter, acidic and umami (aka savory).

  • A contrasting pairing can actually be complementary, like how chocolate-covered pretzels balance the sweet-to-salty ratio. Consider pairing a hoppy India pale ale (IPA) with a sweet carrot cake, or a sour Lambic with salty french fries to bring together contrasting tastes.
  • Looking for similarities in flavor? Try pairing a rich stout or porter with chocolate ice cream or a brownie, and an IPA and bitter vinaigrette salad to make the perfect match.

Get to know the intensity of flavors you’re using to avoid one taste overpowering the other. Think of stouts, brown ales and red wines as “heavier” drinks, to be paired with red meat and rich desserts. While pale ales, lagers and white wines are better paired with vinaigrette salads, shellfish and chicken dishes.

Start with the classics

Need some inspiration? Begin with these common pairings, then experiment with new offerings.

  • An amber ale paired with aged cheese
  • An American pale ale paired with pizza
  • An IPA paired with a burger
  • A cabernet sauvignon paired with red meat
  • A pinot grigio paired with roasted veggies
  • A pinot noir paired with a caramel-chocolate dessert  

Get creative with marketing

Once you have the right pairings for your menu, promote them using your delivery and takeout offerings. Consider giving discounts on new pairings when they are ordered for delivery or takeout, or provide a promo code for online orders when customers try a food and beverage pairing for the first time.

Remember — there’s no right or wrong way to pair food and alcohol. It’s all about experimenting. The more you try new pairings, the closer you’ll be to mastering what food and beverage pairings work best for your menu.

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¹The Brewers Association