Shannon Mulligan, our resident marketing specialist / hostess with the mostest, offers easy tips for hosting a casual beer dinner at home. Spoiler Alert: it’s totally OK to order pizza.
First of all, don’t worry. As long as you have beer, and the dinner, things will be fine. And even if you completely forget to make a meal because you’re so excited about all the cool beers you’re serving, just order a pizza. Everyone loves pizza.
Hosting a beer dinner doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Sure – you can teach yourself calligraphy and hand-make tasting notes, hire the chef from Drake’s new restaurant, and fly in the head brewer from each of the breweries you picked (and please invite me if you do), but you can also spend a little time matching beers to your food, throw on the soundtrack from Reservoir Dogs and everyone will still have a good time.
Whether you’re trying to impress your date, or just want a fun evening with friends, here are a couple things to keep in mind that will help ensure your evening’s a success.
Some people like to start with the beers and pair the meal to the drinks, and some people like to start with the food. It’s entirely a personal choice, but since I work for a brewery, let’s start with the brews.
Unless you want to see how one type of beer pairs with a bunch of different foods, a good rule of thumb is to pick several different styles, ranging from easy-drinking to a bit heavier, either in alcohol or flavour. Lagers, pilsners, and wheat beers are great bases to begin with, while IPAs, stouts and ales are excellent beers to end off the night.
A note on serving size: If you’re going to have several pairings, keep the beer serving size smaller than normal; a half pint per person is plenty. This allows your guests to be able to finish their beer before moving on to the next, and keep the pairings together. And of course, it leaves room to revisit your favourite before the night is over.
If you’re a fantastic chef, great! Please invite me to all your parties. But if, like most of us, you’ve mastered one or two dishes for when your parents come over, don’t sweat it. Prepare what you know. Is your appetizer a charcuterie board? Delicious. Is your main dish spaghetti? Fantastic. Are we having Popsicles for dessert? Please save me a grape flavoured one. Better to have a well-prepared, yet simple dish that allows the pairing to shine, vs. having your friends trying to figure out if this salmon is supposed to be served raw and forgetting all about your beer pairing.
Beer + Food = True Love Forever
Finally – the fun stuff! (Or the stuff that makes you nervous. But don’t be nervous. Is this making you feel more nervous? I’ll stop.)
When pairing your food and beer together, it’s most common to follow one of three categories; cut, complement, or contrast. Any quick Google search will give you an example, but here’s a basic run down:
Contrasting flavours mean taking two very different taste profiles and pairing them together to create something new. Think opposing flavours or aroma. A well-known example is sweet & sour.
- Try Summerweiss with some dark chocolate
When following this principle, think of ‘cutting’ through one dominant flavour with another one, allowing each one to have a moment to shine, rather than collaborating together.
- Mad Tom IPA and an aged cheddar are a great example
Perhaps the easiest way to pair food and beer, here, you’re matching similar flavours and aromas with each other to allow them to increase in intensity with each other
- Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout and Black Forest cake. Need I say more?
- Beer, food, and music. The ultimate trifecta. Find your favourite Spotify playlist and have at it
- Don’t worry about trying to fit in all your favourite beers. Less is more – a good number is around four pairings
- Let your guests be part of the dinner. Bring out the beer bottles and cans for them to check out. Want to take it a step further? Some background info on each brewery and the beer style can be an interesting introduction to each new pairing
- I’m a big fan of games; a little dinner trivia, or a round of Cards Against Humanity afterwards is always a good time
- As always, if people are having a few beers, ensure public transit and taxi numbers are available
There you have it. Not so bad, right? The good news is, if you select some great beers, and have some awesome food available, it’s hard to go wrong. Even if a pairing isn’t perfect, it gives your guest an opportunity to talk about the different flavours they’re experiencing. As you finesse your tasting palate, you’ll be sure to come up with some unique and winning combinations.
Suggested Muskoka Beers to Serve, In Order:
1. Craft Lager
2. Cream Ale
4. Mad Tom
5. Twice As Mad Tom
For more beer dinner wisdom, follow Shannon on Twitter: @ShannMulligan