How to pair Middle Eastern food with beer? Some tips from the Lebanese '961' brewery.
Even if you know little about food and drink pairings, you might think it a safe bet to stick with the general rule of white wine with fish, red wine with meat. But what about beer? There are those who believe beer has a more sophisticated flavour profile than even wine - and Mazen Hajjar of Lebanon’s 961 Beer is one of them.
«It’s actually more complex to offer beer with food than wine,» says Hajjar. «You can pair them better. There’s a great book co-written by Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head brewery called He Said Beer, She Said Wine. He’s competing with a sommelier about comparing beer and wine with food».
According to Calagione, beer and cheese are the perfect match, as the carbonation of beer exfoliates your palate between bites. Lagers can be considered similar to white wines, as they are more subtle in flavour, whereas ales are likened to red wine because their flavours are more bold.
In Middle Eastern cuisine, where there are lots of acidic flavours from lemon juice, sumac, za’atar and verjuice, hoppy beers such as wheatbeer are a great match. Likewise sweet Arabic desserts such as baklava and pastries with sugar syrup go well with a red ale or a stout.
«In lots of restaurants now you already have a beer sommelier,» says Hajjar. «I went to Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in London and they actually offered me beer with food. I want to educate people that beer has a wider palate than even wine. Beer is one of the most complex beverages on Earth.»
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