Forget Fine Wine, Pair Your Pint

I never used to like beer. In fact, I avoided it until I was a student working at the neighbourhood pub. I was encouraged to try everything on tap in order to help guests make informed decisions about the pints they’d order. And fast-forward many years (and many pints) later, my palate for beer has come in handy as I am invited to take part in Muskoka Brewery’s tap-to-table event.

Chef Brad Long of Café Belong and Muskoka Brewery’s Gary McMullen walk us through a series of beer and food pairings. Not until now had I considered pairing my beer and food with such attentiveness. But with craft beer taking over, it has turned many into connoisseurs of the brew. And after being walked through a tasting that started with Muskoka Brewery’s Detour India Pale Ale  (recently named LCBO’s Best New Beer) with its hint of peaches and subtle pine flavours, paired with a sweet and sticky pork belly in a steamed bun with kimchi – I was a changed woman.

Forget wine pairings! Why aren’t we looking for the right beer to go with our cheese plates and marinated meats? And so, I’ve curated this simple list to help you please the beer-drinkers in your life at your next dinner party. Enjoy!

– If you’re having some guests who haven’t completely warmed up to beer mixed with beer lovers, try something light. McMullen started the tasting with Muskoka’s Detour IPA, which he calls a “sessionable” beer, meaning it will please even a pickier palette. Something light like the Detour is best paired with light, fresh meals. Try this Mandarin Chicken Salad the sweetness of the mandarins and saltiness of the dressing will make for a flattering match. Or this sweet chutney chicken salad.

– British-style pale ale is always easy to pair so if you have no clue what to match your meal with – this is your best bet. Try Muskoka’s flagship beer. The Cream Ale will go really well any barbecue staple – think ribs, salmon and smoked meat! Try these salmon cakes with yogurt sauce or these oven-baked ribs.

– The beauty of a stronger hoppier beer like the Muskoka Brewery’s West Coast IPA Mad Tom or Twice as Mad Tom is that it can stand up to stronger flavours. Mad Tom is -64 on the bitter scale, and Twice as Made Tom is -84 on the scale, so don’t be afraid to pair it with bold tastes like curries, spices, smelly cheeses and smoked fish. Try it with jerk chicken or this chickpea curry.

– And who said you can’t have beer with dessert? While wheat beer like the Summer Weiss can be paired well with savoury meals like lobster, its citrus, fruity flavour is also complemented by sweet meals. Try it with this Peach Crumb Cake.