One of the best things about living in Colorado, besides the 300 days of sunshine, is the wide and varied selection of Colorado brewery beer. Whether you get it in a 32 oz Crowler™ can to-go, pick up a six pack at your local liquor store, or order with food from your favorite local brewpub, enjoying local craft beer with an appetizer or meal can maximize your experience.
Although there aren’t hard fast rules to pairing craft beer and food, there are some things to think about to help you elevate the flavors of each. No matter if you are a craft beer enthusiast or just a beer lover, the beer you will find in Longmont Colorado is some of the best you will find around regardless of what you have it with. Focusing on complementing or contrasting your flavors can help you with choices to make your next homemade meal, to-go food, or brewpub experience even better.
Get started with these five styles and use the foundations to create your own pairings with the hundreds of styles of locally-brewed Colorado craft beer available. And remember, it’s all about having fun, there are no wrong choices when you have a craft beer in your hand!
Light Lager Pairings and Light Ales
Often when people refer to loving lagers, they mean crisp, light beers. But lagers encompass a wide range of styles from rich dark Dunkels to caramelly Märzens to lighter Helles to the very light and crisp Kölsches or the Light Lagers your Dad might have had a fridge full of.
Lighter lagers are characterized by spicy and ﬂoral aromas (often from Noble hops), as well as a crisp ﬁnish and will vary in degrees of sweetness. If you are purchasing from a Colorado craft brewery without a selection of lagers, look to a cream ale or lighter ale like a SMASH (Single Malt and Single Hop) or a Kölsch.
These styles also have that clean and refreshing finish you might be craving without a bitter hoppiness. Lighter styles are great paired with rich foods—pork belly, hamburger, grilled cheese, poutine—as they cut through the fattiness and make going back for each bite a delight.
They also work great with lighter foods like salad or salmon as the beer flavor won’t overpower these dishes. Crisp lagers and Cream Ales with a touch of sweetness are especially lovely with spicy Mexican food, or Southern food as they provide a “cooling off” between bites.
Our Blue Corn Maiden Cream Ale is the perfect refreshing companion to the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich, especially if you’ve chosen to burn your tongue off with the Reaper heat level!
Red or Amber Ale Pairings and Amber Lagers
Red Ales, and their Lager cousins, such as Amber Lagers and Märzens, get their color and flavor from caramel and crystal malts which lend a malty toastiness and fuller body with sweet hints of caramel. Ambers tend to have a smooth finish and are balanced with subtle hop notes of pine, citrus or fruit.
They are easy drinkers, very versatile and well suited to almost any food but complementary pairings work great as this beer’s maltiness enhances grilled foods like hamburgers, grilled chicken or salmon but are clean enough to cut through fried chicken, a tangy cheese or even spicy foods.
Our favorite pairing with our Rabbit Mountain Red Ale is the Colorado Chicken Sandwich. The smooth, rounded flavor of red ale doesn’t overpower the subtle spicy sweetness of the honey glaze, and the crispy fried breading brings out the biscuit malts in the beer, yum!
Wheat Beer Pairings
Wheat beer is another style that encompasses a lot of variety. One national wheat beer brand has set the standard for what “wheat beer” means but the reality in the Colorado craft beer industry is wheat beer can mean anything from a Berliner Weisse to a Belgian-style Witbier to a Hefeweizen.
Wheat beers tend to be highly carbonated, lightly sweet and fruity with a spicy finish. You may taste flavors of coriander and bananas. They may have varying levels of clarity due to yeast remaining suspended in the beer.
Try this style with pasta, rich but mild cheeses, salads, wraps, roasted chicken. You might also try a spicier Wheat Beer with Thai food. Some people drink their wheat beers with an orange or lemon slice in the beer.
If you like it, do it. There are no rules, make yourself happy. However, try the beer first without, so you can appreciate all the ranges in flavor of this style.
India Pale Ales (IPAs) can really pack a bitter punch or they can be fruit in a glass. In the case of IPAs, complementing intensity rather than contrasting is often the best way to go.
Pairing IPAs with spicier foods – like spicy but rich Indian food— can actually make a strong IPA seem milder and work as a palate cleanser between bites—but go for a lighter (not imperial) IPA in this case.
Try a piney, ﬂoral IPA with Ahi tacos or Jerk Chicken or Korean BBQ. For more fruity, hazy IPAs, think brighter flavors like asparagus, fresh garden peas, tilapia or an Asian noodle dish.
An imperial IPA, like our Trail Marker IIPA can have a maltier backbone with a piney undertone and is delicious with the underlying rich, sweetness of our Birria Tacos.
Bold, rich and gloriously dark, stouts are characterized by malty sweetness and roasted bitterness, with notes of coffee, chocolate or figs. Stouts are almost a meal in themselves but they are a remarkable complement to rich, hearty, and sweet flavors like mushrooms, oysters, steak, stews, smoked meats and cheeses, and chocolate. Our Old Burlington Stout is delectable with the Bacon Onion Jam Burger, or Pork Belly Dreams Sandwich.
The Most Important Thing is to Have Fun with Colorado Brewery Beer & Food Pairings
In short, remember these things when pairing the best Colorado brewery beers and food. Think about complementing and contrasting flavors, as well as the strength of those flavors. Is the dish you are eating salty, rich, spicy, fruity and do you want a cleansing effect, balancing effect or a building effect?
Think about what qualities in the beer you enjoy and what sort of foods might mask those flavors or allow them to shine. Remember to trust your palate, as every palate is different. If you don’t like a pairing someone suggests, it doesn’t mean they are wrong or right—everyone’s taste is right. Also, you are drinking craft beer, so you are already a winner.
Host a (Virtual) Tasting Event, or a One Person Tasting Party:
Pick up a 4-pack of canned Crowlers™ to-go (get the screw off lids if it’s just you, so you can enjoy the “leftovers” at a later time). Create a four course meal of pairings and what beers you think will taste best with each course, or do all one thing—cheeses, chocolates etc.
Try the beer with the food you think it goes best with BUT also try the other beers with them and see how the beer flavors and food flavors morph with each style. Have palate cleansers on hand (water and bland crackers or pretzels).
Make it a virtual party with friends by inviting them all to pick up the same Crowlers™ and menu to-go dishes from their favorite local craft brewery/brewpub and/or restaurant. (Support local craft!) Meet on your favorite web conferencing app and let the fun ensue.
Tips on Tasting:
Try a sip of the beer ﬁrst without taking a bite of the food. Make mental notes about mouthfeel, aroma and ﬂavor (hoppy, bitter, roasty, clean, sweet, malty, fruity, spicy).
Then, take a bite of food and note the aromas and ﬂavors you are experiencing. Then combine the two. Note how the ﬂavor of the beer and food changes when you combine them.