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Today's beers offer complex and intriguing flavors and features. With subtle and robust flavors that pair admirably with food -- better than wine does in some cases -- craft brews invite partygoers to venture beyond sports-focused drinking and into the realm of sophisticated party mingling. To get to know beer better, you should learn the difference between lagers and ales. Most beers fall into one of these categories.
Lagers are fermented in cooler environments, where toasted or sweet malt flavors characterize the brew. Lagers are clean, refreshing beers with typically light aroma and flavor. They are best served cold and can pair easily with a wide variety of foods.
Ales are fermented at warmer temperatures, resulting in complex, flavorful beers that grip the palate and leave a longer aftertaste. Many are served closer to room temperature and contain rich aroma and flavor. Their complexity makes pairing more selective but highly rewarding.
Specialty beers include the remainder of beers that aren't categorized as ales or lagers. Lambics and fruit beers are becoming increasingly popular in this category.
Within the broad categories of ale and lager, individual styles have specific characteristics. Those characteristics influence how beer pairs with food.
The perfect pairing of beer and food makes both elements shine. In our free guide, available below, you'll discover tips for creating ideal beer and food matches. For more about individual beer varieties, check out the following slides. Each includes recommendations for delicious food pairings with each beer variety.
This medium-body beer is noted for its rich caramel-like flavors. It has a smooth, light feel in the mouth and a clean, crisp finish.
Food Pairings: Barbecued chicken, barbecue-sauced wienies, grilled steaks, fried calamari, pizza, nachos, and chips
This reddish-amber brew is masterfully blended with roasted malt, which creates a harmony of sweet flavors, including caramel and toffee. Traditionally brewed for fall release, some brewers offer this full-bodied style of lager year-round, but it's still most popular during the autumn.
Food Pairings: Grilled meats (especially bratwurst and pork roast), poultry, pretzels with mustard, potato wedges, and pizza
This amber-hue beer is typically strong (6 to 7 percent alcohol content) with a robust malt character.
Food Pairings: Chili dogs and pretzels with mustard
These brisk ales contain distinctive fruity flavors with ripples of spice, such as clove or coriander.
Food Pairings: Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Caribbean dishes
Most of us know beers by brand names rather than variety. Check out this list of beer brands identified by type to make it easy to shop for beers to complement your food.
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