We all have our favorite craft beers. But when it comes to enjoying them with specific dishes, it's a good idea to consider the food before you pour. As with wine pairings, you don't want to overpower the food, or lose your drink's best qualities with an off pairing.
Since different beers highlight different aspects of a dish, there are many good matches out there. Check out these tips for starters, then explore your own combos. All the suggested beers are brewed in Texas.
Spicy Asian and Mexican dishes
Beer styles: Vienna lager, Kolsch, golden ale or amber ale to tame the heat; pale ale or IPA to accentuate it.
Why they work: Lagers, Kolsches and golden ales aren't very hoppy, so they help tone down the heat in fiery dishes. Because they're not too complex, they don't fight with the meld of flavors in salsas, curries and moles; their light, refreshing quality helps offset the richness of sauces and dips too. Amber ales have sweet malty notes that dial back the heat even more, and they also complement meats well. If you prefer to play up the spiciness of a dish, choose a pale ale or IPA. The bitter hoppy notes and higher alcohol level will ramp up the heat.
Pour this: Lakewood Lager by Lakewood Brewing Co.; Buffalo Butt by Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.; Bulletproof Texas Pale Ale by Audacity Brew House; Mosaic IPA by Community Beer Co.; and El Chingon IPA by Four Corners Brewing Co.
Salty fried foods
Beer styles: Blonde ale, lager or Marzen (Oktoberfest)
Why they work: These refreshing, balanced ales help cut through the fattiness of foods like fried seafood and French fries. They aren't so heavily hopped or flavored that they mask fried batters and saltiness, and their clean finish primes the palate for the next bite. Citrusy notes in blonde ales are good counterpoints to the richness of fried foods, and the light maltiness of Marzen heightens the toasty, caramel notes in fried chicken crust and chicken fried steak.
Pour this: Dallas Blonde by Deep Ellum Brewing Co.; Level Up Lager by Southern Star Brewing Co.; Sympathy for the Lager by Karbach Brewing Co.; Oktoberfest by Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.; and Karbachtoberfest by Karbach Brewing Co.
Char-grilled, richly marbled steaks
Beer styles: Black IPA, black ale and a dry stout or porter with a good balance of malts and hops
Why they work: These full-flavored, hearty beers hold up to the rich umami flavor of nicely marbled steaks. The roasted malt flavors play well with the charred and caramelized steak crust, too. Although malty, they're balanced with enough hops to cut through the fatty richness of a porterhouse, rib-eye or T-bone steak.
Pour this: (512) Black IPA by (512) Brewing Co.; Boomstick by No Label Brewing Co.; and Crackin' Up Pecan Porter by 903 Brewers
Sushi, and tossed salads dressed in vinaigrettes
Beer styles: American wheat ale, white ale, Kolsch
Why they work: The delicate flavors in sushi and the lighter body and flavor of most salads call for lighter beers. These beer styles won't overpower the food, and they cut through the oiliness of the fish or dressing. The soft wheat sweetness balances the tangy vinegar in the rice or vinaigrette.
Pour this: White by Real Ale Brewing Co.; Community Witbier by Community Beer Co.; Blood and Honey by Revolver Brewing; and Golden Opportunity by Peticolas Brewing Co.
Tina Danze is a freelance writer. Follow here on Twitter @Tina Danze.