Quite the pair: snacks and suds

Cicerone Angeline MacLennan plays matchmaker with local brews and complementary eats

Riley Smith

Nova Scotia’s only Cicerone, Angeline MacLennan, lays down the basics laws of pairing with favorite local beer styles and restaurant favorites.

Basic principles for beer pairing
Most beer styles are four ingredients: water, malted barley, yeast and hops. It is the interplay and ratio of the four basic beer ingredients, and the techniques used to combine them, that make different beer styles. Achieving balance within a beer, so that neither sweetness, acidity, bitterness, hops or a number of other factors takes away from the whole is a delicate craft. Pairing and the harmony between beer and food can be equally devastating to either party, if one element shines too brightly it can eclipse the others. For harmonious pairings follow these tips:

1.Match intensity “You don’t want your food or your beer to overpower one another, [...] order food and beer that are on the same level of intensity,” says MacLennan.
2.Complementary flavours A beer that has a similar flavour and aroma profile as a food will serve as a compliment, says MacLennan. “Think herbal beer with herbal food, fruity dishes with fruity beer, citrus with citrus,” when pairing, or ask for advice from the internet, a server or a cicerone.
3.Contrast flavours Creating opposition with beer and food can also be favorable.  Matching “bitter beer with salty food, or [buying a beer with] high carbonation can cut through fat,” says MacLellan.

PILSENER, like Boxing Rock’s Wild Axe Bohemian Pilsener
Pilsener is a beer style within the lager family, “they are lighter in body and don’t have fruity flavours like ales do, [pilseners are] a more delicate beer.” The Boxing Rock Wild Axe Bohemian Pilsener is slightly more malty, or caramelly, than most pilseners, and has a nice balance of bitterness and sweetness, says MacLennan. “Where it is a delicate type of beer it can go well with shellfish, or [deep fried] calamari,  [and] it’s also very effervescent so, with calamari, or anything that is oily, you’ll want something to lift the fat from your tongue and scrub your palate.”

HEFEWEIZEN, like Garrison Brewing Company’s Professor MacDougall’s Hefeweizen
“A hefeweizen is a german wheat ale [that’s] light in body, [...] very effervescent and they often have notes of banana and clove, that’s a signature of the style,” says MacLennan. Garrison’s Professor MacDougall was the winner of the Garrison’s homebrew competition this year, which called for homebrewers to make their best hefeweizen. “Brunch is the best time to have a Hefeweizen [because] it works well with richer foods like eggs and hollandaise sauce, therefore eggs benedict would pair well,” says MacLennan. The acidity and bubbles refresh the palate by lifting the fat.  

SAISON, like North Brewing Company’s Winter Saison What differentiates this style of Belgian beer from others is the amount of yeast. “Belgians [brewers] are unique in that they like adding a lot of herbs and spices to [their beer].” The Summer Saison by North Brewing follows that style by adding orange peel and coriander to the beer, and ginger and black pepper for the Winter Saison, says MacLennan. Whether summer or winter, the saison produced is quite herbal, floral, earthy, acidic, and not very bitter, says MacLennan.The flavour of seafood, or sea-briny flavours like seaweed, pair well. A Sushi maki roll, like a smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber roll, will match the freshness and intensity of the beer, and is acidic enough to go with the tangy cream cheese, says MacLennan.

INDIA PALE ALE, like Uncle Leo’s IPA Uncle Leo’s is in the style of American IPA, clean, dry, with notes of grapefruit, passion fruit, and malt balance out the bitterness of the citrus, says MacLennan. An ideal pairing for the Uncle Leo’s IPA is a mild to medium Indian curry, because the bitterness of the beer makes the mouth water to extinguish the fire. The herb and spice notes of the curry play nicely on the flavour of the hops in the beer, and both the IPA and the dish are bold, layered and complex, so neither outmatches the other, says MacLennan.

STOUT, like Big Spruce’s Cereal Killer Oatmeal Stout Stout is a dark, moderately dry beer, often with notes of licorice, molasses, chocolate and coffee, and like coffee, is often complemented by something rich and sweet, says MacLennan. A dessert made with dark berry fruit or chocolate, like chocolate lava cake, would create balance, she says. The depth of flavour in the chocolate cake will match the smooth, rich depth of the stout.


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