Craft beers are no longer always “heavy.” Many new-school light American craft lagers—meaning, modern takes on the traditional canned beers of yesteryear—are straightforward, clean-tasting, and refreshing brews that don’t skimp on flavor, but won’t overpower light, bright flavors, or the subtle sweetness of fried foods, like these tasty fish and herbal cilantro combos. Our pick: from LA’s Golden Road Brewery. Add a slice of key lime to punch it all up.
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Carne Asada con Mojo with Double IPA
Beer Pairing: Double IPA
With this dish’s char, lime, and citrus, only a double IPA, amped up to a mouthwatering tang, will do. Properly made, not only do IPAs and Double IPAs have their own citrus-grove-like tang that works well with actual citrus flavors, their herbal components tend to bring out the fiery dimensions in other dishes. Meanwhile, most have some residual sweetness to balance it all out, which can echo the umami and sweetness of medium-rare beef. Our pick: ’s Road Warrior out of San Diego, CA.
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Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas with Munich Dark Lager
Beer Pairing: Munich Dark Lager
This is a copper-to-deep brown, clean-tasting lager with faint spiciness and an assertive, biscuity maltiness. The classic commercial version is Negra Modelo, but these days, many craft brewers are pulling off delicious versions of this time-honored style. Hood River, Oregon’s Full Sail released its smooth a few years ago, and the accolades have just kept coming.
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Grilled Seafood and Chorizo Paella with Saison
Beer Pairing: Saison
Whatever else paella brings to the party, from shellfish to piquant sausage, saffron rules them all, and it’s both too delicately delicious and dear to overpower. Enter saison, traditionally brewed in Flemish farmhouses for seasonal workers. The most traditional versions are a touch sour, which, Albariño-like, cuts through paella’s richness. It’s a super versatile beer style: think delicate spiciness, cracker-like malt backbone, and tongue-scrubbing carbonation. Our pick: Surette, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Denver, CO; www.crookedstave.com.
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Spaghetti Carbonara with Belgian Abbey Dark or Dubbel
Beer Pairing: Belgian Abbey Dark or Dubbel
Belgium’s famous abbey brewing traditions have yielded many a great beer style, and one of the most unsung is dubbel, also known as abbey dark. With complex, rich flavors of raisin, treacle, and stonefruit, this beer style might not seem an obvious combo for pasta, save for its magic ingredient: bacon. Like a robust red wine, this Burgundian beer style was made for matching up with rich, cheesy dishes (and that smoky, fatty deliciousness). Our pick: Lost & Found Abbey Ale, Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA; www.lostabbey.com.
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Broccoli Rabe Skillet Pizza with White IPA
Beer Pairing: White IPA
White IPA is a hybrid of two rather dissimilar beer styles: wit, or white beer, which hails from Belgium and is brewed mainly with wheat malt, orange peel, and coriander spice, and IPA, a reddish-hued, hops-forward English-style ale Americans have fallen head over heels with (maybe you’ve heard of it). It works here because the witbier-like sweetness plays well with the sweet, rich cheese and peppers, while its crisp, hoppy edge can stand up to the bitter rabe. Our pick: Anchorage Brewing Co., which has an added earthy kick from a wild yeast strain brewers have gone gaga for called Brettanomyces.
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Thai Chicken Coconut Soup Beer Pairing with Saison, White IPA, or Porter
Beer Pairing: Saison; White IPA; or Porter
With Thai food’s complexity—a single dish can be sweet, sour, salty, spicy, meaty, bitter, and herbal all at once—beer pairing is tricky, but you have options. Saisons, being so multi-layered, are adaptable to many flavors in food (try the superbly fresh and balanced , from Portland’s The Commons). Alternately look for Thai-style ingredients in actual beers, like Upslope’s Thai-Style White IPA (Boulder, CO), brewed with ginger, lemongrass, and Thai basil, among other things; or Maui Brewing Co.’s CoCoNut Porter, rich with the essence of toasted coconut (www.mauibrewingco.com).
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Sunset Classic Barbecued Ribs with a Quadrupel
Beer Pairing: Quadrupel
No fat, no flavor. Properly seasoned and grilled pork ribs satisfy some of our most primal urges, and nothing less than a bold beer pairing is called for. Wine lovers would likely reach for a brawny Zin or Barbera. The beer pairing you need for ribs is a quadrupel, the Belgian abbey brew that marries huge layers of rich, stonefruit flavor with peppery yeast strains without the astringent tannins of big red wines. Look for Mør Mør from Brouwerij West in Los Angeles, CA; www.brouwerijwest.com.
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Sauteed Peaches over Pound Cake with Strong Ale with Peaches
Beer Pairing: Belgian-style strong ale with peaches
To pair this dessert with a delicious beer focus on the peaches themselves, which ought to pop with a bit of tartness. The classic summer staple fruit has found its way into many a new craft beer lately, from lighter wheat and pale ales to big, rich dessert-y creations. Look for Great Divide of Denver’s , a limited annual release generally clocking in around 12% ABV. Rarer still is Peche n’ Brett, a peach-infused lambic style sour beer from , outside of Hood River, Oregon, that will powerfully contrast the sweet ice cream. Based in the Bay Area? Almanac’s could also be just the ticket.
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Coffee Sundaes with Salted Peanut Butter Caramel with Salted Caramel Stout or Old Ale
Beer Pairing: Salted Caramel Stout; Old Ale
Coffee, peanut butter, and salt don’t exactly come to mind when one thinks of beer, but the fact is there are now more and more beers on that end of the flavor spectrum. You can thank roasted malt—a.k.a. barley, the grain that gives body and booze to beer, which is kilned for color and taste, from the faintest bready taste to full-on espresso—for this versatility. Portland, Oregon’s has even released a , a unique collaboration with Portland’s ice cream company and fleur de sel from , which harvested from Oregon’s craggy Pacific shores. In other words, you won’t find many others out there. If you can’t spot one, look for an English-style “old ale” —yes, it’s aged and will age longer—like North Coast’s warming , which approaches the strength of many wines (11.8% ABV).