The beauty in this arena is it’s all about you! If you think your tall glass of classic Pilsner goes with hearty, spicier foods, then don’t let anybody tell you they aren’t a compatible couple. As you peruse this article from your favorite Beer of the Month Club, keep in mind these are suggestions, not rules – and there are always exceptions!

If you are a conformist, you may want to enjoy that Pilsner with lighter food choices, like chicken, salads or salmon. Same goes for, let’s say, Barley Wine. Those in the know insist that this beverage easily overpowers most main dishes, and is best enjoyed with strong cheese or desserts. But if you like competition between your beer and food, serve it with seafood or chicken.

Here are some guidelines recently published that you can either heed or ignore:
Lighter food choices include chicken, salads, bratwurst, mild cheese, seafood (including salmon), and pork dishes. Some possible pairings are Cream and Blonde Ales, Kolsch, Helles and Dortmunders.

Strong dishes (pheasant and other wild game, roast turkey, crab cakes) and spicy foods (curry and Cajun dishes, Mexican/Thai/Korean cuisine, sausages, barbecue and chili) need a brew with a backbone. Reach for India Pale or strong Golden Ales, Oktoberfests, Viennas, Amber and Dark Lagers, Dunkels, Maibocks and Pale Bocks.

Smoked dinners of beef brisket, salmon, smoked goose and blackened fish long for a partnership with Ales (Doubles, Imperials and Scotch are good selections). Imperial Stouts and Porters deserve a shot, too.

Do you have a favorite unconventional beer/food combo? Send it in to Mr. Beerhead! He’s all about quirky!!


Each of our selections this month showcases the varying complexions and personalities of the ale family of beers. Ales are not recognizable by color, as they reflect whatever color the brewer and ingredients favor. Proof: dark Peak Organic Nut Brown Ale is darker than the pale Peak Organic Summer Session Ale; and Boone Brewery’s deep golden Blowing Rock High Country Ale is clear, while Blow Rock Summer Ale has a notable haze!

All ales are common in that they are produced with a warm fermentation, using strains of yeast that rise to the top of the vessel during production. A brew made this way is quite likely to have a fruit character in both aroma and taste, often with a rather complex overall flavor – more robust than lagers, as a rule. The term “ale” is an indication only of the method of fermentation and has absolutely nothing to do with the type of hops or malts used, or the color, flavor or strength.

Depending on which of the ales you are enjoying at mealtime, you may experiment with anything from soups to stews, to burgers and roasts, to pizzas and snacks and cheeses. The best part is ale is enjoyable shared with friends, and food is optional!

About the Author
Amy Heydt
Follow Amy