How to pair beer with hot & spicy foods


Craft beer has exploded in recent years. There are new breweries, microbreweries and artisan producers appearing regularly. Beer consumers are spoilt for choice and are treated to some exciting and innovative brews. Many of us appreciate a good beer with a meal but how to you pick a beer that will work well with a hot, spicy dish? Well, we have a few suggestions…

Firstly, don’t overlook your favourite beer. Whilst we have suggestions for food pairings, if you have a beer you really like then stick with it. However, if your pallet is broad and you are open to suggestions please read on.

When it comes to spicy food, you can look at pairing beers in one of two ways. First is to seek out a beer than helps tame or accentuate the heat depending on your preference. The other is to pair the beer with the food itself and overlook the consequence of whether it will temper or exaggerate the heat.


Tempering heat:

Malted, darker beers are often sweeter than hopped beers. Of course, most beers contain both but those with a heavier malt influence can help temper the heat of a dish due to its natural sweetness. Malts are cereal grains which yeast likes to feed on and, in turn, converts the grain’s starches in to sugar. Alternatively, if you prefer lighter and more hopped beers, seek a mid-range level of alcohol (approx. 6% abv) which you can often find with some IPAs, Indian, Mexican and Jamaican beers. Believe it or not, higher or lower levels of alcohol can have the opposite effect when it comes to balancing the heat of a meal.

Accentuating heat:

Lighter coloured beers such as IPA and Saison tend to be hop-heavy. Much like grapes, the hop flavour is influenced by their growing environment (terroir). Related to cannabis, they can carry a hint of spice and bitterness which helps produce a strong and an intense flavour. It’s these bitter hops than can accentuate the heat of a dish so, if something is a little too mild for you, it may be worth reaching for a good hazy IPA.

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We could dedicate a whole website to pairing beers with spicy foods but we won’t. Instead, we’ve taken some of the more common beer styles and given suggestions which we hope you’ll find interesting and be willing to try. There’s no real right or wrong in our opinion. You can either go for contrasting or complimenting flavours.

Lagers – A good, crisp, clean and refreshing lager with work well with lighter meats. We enjoy it with buffalo wings, fries, hot dogs or lighter curries.

Pilsners - Particularly nice with seafood such as chilli squid and oily fish such as salmon with chilli and ginger.

IPAs – Pair with Asian curries, fajitas, burritos and even kimchi.

Amber Ale – Great with smoky dishes, jerk, chili con carne, BBQ meats (especially brisket) and sticky ribs.

Dark ales – Great with a chilli rubbed steak, spicy pizza, strong greens and nuts.

Wheat beers (White beer) – Nice with spiced sausages, light rice dishes, salads with bitter leaf, pastries and fruit tarts.

Porters – Our go-to beer for a BBQ. Especially good with a good quality burger, chipotle rubbed steak or chilli chocolate.

Stouts – We like to add it to our spicy stews but it’s also fine on the side. Serve with oysters with Tabasco or robust, heavy meals.

The key to matching a beer with a spicy dish is not to serve something that will overpower the food. Experiment and enjoy!

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