Whatever you are eating, there is probably a perfect beer to go with it. Despite its success as a versatile beverage, beer struggles to conquer the world of desserts. The question is: Should it? And if so, how should you approach this potentially exquisite combination? How to pair beer and dessert?
To get you acquainted, we had a chat with Anikó Lehtinen, a beer expert with a sweet tooth. Lehtinen is a Finnish author, radio host, and a beer connaisseur of the highest caliber.
Rules of Beer Tasting
Talking about the proper equipment for tasting beer Lehtinen says, “A good wine glass is good for beer tasting as well. A convex-shaped glass is paramount to get the most out of your beer.” This is good news for most people. You don’t have to save space in your kitchen for those big and bulky beer glasses. They might look good among your beer-swigging friends but for proper tasting opt for the wine glass.
Lehtinen urges people to play around with different beer and dessert pairings. One option is to pick a pair that compliments each other or go for contrast. “Dark chocolate pairs well with dark and toasty beers. The bitter components of the chocolate harmonize with the bitter components in the beer, creating a more complex entirety. Or you go with a fresh and fruit-forward beer that cuts some of the dessert’s weight on the palate.”
A common mistake is to overdo the pour. We usually consider beer as something to be enjoyed in large quantities, but pairing with desserts, less is more. “You don’t need to have the biggest pint available, especially when pairing with food. That’s probably why some shy away from the combination because they think a bottle of beer is too much with a dessert. You don’t have to drink the entire bottle! Small portions are the way to go.”
“If there’s a party and you are serving cake, why not serve a glass of Lambic beer instead of sparkling wine. It has less alcohol, which is good for a casual soirée. Every occasion where there is sparkling wine, you could go for a beer option. It's nice also because it’s a bit different. In my experience, the guests are always pleasantly surprised. It’s something you wouldn’t expect; hence it’s interesting.”
Here is Lehtinen’s cheat sheet for pairing beer with dessert.
New York Cheesecake
“With chocolate desserts like fondant or brownies, you should try a full-bodied and slightly toasty Imperial Stout. Try the barrel-aged Founder’s KBS, or for something lighter Little Valley Vanilla Porter.”
Berry Pie / Fruit Salad
“Desserts with some sharp acidity need some sweetness from the beer. Belgian Ale, moderately hoppy Golden Ale and sweet fruit beers. Try Rodenbach Alexander."
Tiramisu / Chocolate Chip Cookies
“With tiramisu or chocolate chip cookies, you should opt for darker Ales, perhaps a slightly sweet but not too strong Brown Ale. Try Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.”
“A proper ice cream, maybe with some butterscotch, is a good match with sour beers. The mouth-coating creaminess of the ice cream finds balance and freshness from sour flavors. Try anything from the Mikkeller Spontan series.
“Liquorice is nice because it’s quite versatile when it comes to beer. For example, St. Louis Kriek’s cherry is a classic combo with licorice. For a ‘go big or go home’ approach you could try Birrificio del Ducato Verdi Imperial Stout."
“Cheese is absolutely a dessert. One of my favorite beers to have alongside a cheese board is Chimay Blue. Also, Fuller’s Vintage Ale is a good one. For a fruitier style, you should try La Trappe Witte Trappist. It's delicious!"