Hearty Pairings: Craft Beers and Homemade Stews

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In recent years Canada has seen an eruption in the craft beer industry with exponential growth in both domestic and international markets-- and with winter quickly approaching, now is the best time to explore a truly satisfying combination: cold, frothy pints and piping hot stews.

The conversation surrounding stews and soups is rather simple: you have your ingredients and your cooking pots (and thankfully, SWEETESTHOME has the cooking pot discussion thoroughly covered.)

But when it comes to beer it gets a bit more complicated. Many argue that brewing is more of an art than a science, and it may be important to first define a couple of terms commonly used in the world of craft beer, as well as some general pointers.

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Beer Qualities and their Ideal Pairings

Though craft beers have many different unique elements, the most important qualities can usually be reduced to three main categories: Lightness/Darkness, Sweetness/Bitterness, and finally Hoppiness. These three aspects of a beer define how the flavors interact with each other, as well as how they might interact with a bowl of grub. Below are some tips on the various types of beers and their ideal pairings.

Lightness/Darkness

Although these terms seem like more of a description of the brew’s color, they can often be a strong indicator of the flavor as well. Lighter beers are known for more of a crisp and refreshing taste, whereas darker ones are much richer and heavier.

The Pairing for Lighter Beers: Spicy Chili. The clean taste of a light beer helps keep you cool and acts as a nice palate cleanser for when the heat becomes too much.

The Pairing for Darker Beers: Classic, Hearty Beef Stew. Heavier, thicker beers tend to complement similar flavors and there’s nothing heavier or thicker than this.

Sweetness/Bitterness

Some beers have a much sweeter taste than others thanks to a higher barley content, and others more bitter as a result of various brewing processes. When pairing strongly flavored beers with food, it’s very important to not overpower the food’s flavor and to instead complement it.

The Pairing for Sweeter Beers: Sweet Potato Stew. Beers with high barley content like stouts or porters complement sweet dishes, often times turning the main course into dessert.

The Pairing for Bitter Beers: Chowder. In contrast to sweeter beers, bitter beers are more pronounced when contrasted. Creamy stews like chowder help to cut the bitterness, which allows for a cleaner taste.

Hoppiness

And finally, everyone’s favorite recent trend: hoppiness. Hoppiness can be a bit of a wild card when curating a balanced supper, as each beer will taste differently depending on when in the process the hops were added. In the best case scenario, hoppy craft beers can enhance the distinct flavor of the dish, but in the worst of cases it can completely mask it instead.

The Pairing for Hoppy Beers: Beef Stroganoff. An especially hoppy beer will serve to balance the rich flavors of a Stroganoff, providing a more well rounded dining experience.

Experimentation


Of course, it’s best to try out as many combinations as possible, and with Canada’s booming artisanal beer industry, there is much to discover and of course, much to taste. There’s never been a better time to be alive for craft beer exploration!