Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Beer vs. Wine - Which Goes Better With Food?

A while back I read an article in Beeradvocate.com that mentioned a contest between a winery and Stone Brewery that involved pairing wine and beer with food. The idea was that each course would be served with one wine and one beer and the diners would judge which one made a better pairing. The entire concept is flawed, of course. You can't judge them that way - it would have been better to have a wine dinner one day and a beer dinner (with the same food) on another day and let the diners rank the pairings each time to decide the winner. Plus there's the problem of wine-drinkers vs. beer-drinkers and bias by the diners. Still, I was curious to find out the results but didn't see anything until I came across this blog from Food and Wine magazine that details them (scroll down, it's near the bottom).

I found the results interesting. Rose wines were used twice and were trounced by the beer (not surprising, since rose has delicate flavors). The Shiraz beat the Stone Vertical Epic handily when paired with lamb. Again, not surprising since red wine and red meat is a pairing made in heaven. I was surprised by the choice of beer for dessert: the Russian Imperial Stout. That's a huge beer to be pairing with sweet food, no way will that beat a Moscato.

So what's the verdict? To judge by the contest, beer and wine are equally good with food. My opinion? Wine beats beer for the most part, although beer is a better pairing for certain foods. The primary reason is just numbers - there are far more styles of wine than of beer because the different species and types of hops and barley used for beer is dwarfed by the different species of grapes. Ask a beer expert to rattle off every type and style of beer he can think of and you'll be there about 20 or 30 minutes, if that. Ask a sommelier to name every type and style of wine and you'll be there, quite literally, all day. With that many more options you're bound to find more precise pairings.

So what do I like beer with? Beer makes a great pairing with Asian food in particular, be it Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, or whatever. I also find beer is better with spicy food than wine. But people have different palates. What do you prefer with beer and what do you prefer with wine?

5 comments:

Kulpreet said...

Hey,

However vague the contest might look like, it sure is intriguing. I agree with you that wine beats beer hands down with certain food. But according to me a lot depends on the surroundings, the weather,and the company etc, besides the food alone.

Personally for me, beer primarily goes well with Thai and Indian food, but also with Italian, Mexican and Greek. In short, if you are sitting outdoors with the temperature in excess of 25 degree C, most foods will taste great with beer.

Cheers!

Olivia said...

I love beer with mexican food. Dos Equis is one of my favorites. I also think that beer and sushi are a fantastic pairing seeing as I am not a huge saki fan.

But over all I think that wine covers all areas beautifully whereas beer is only good in some.

Ciao!

Eve said...

There's a certain romance to beer, too. Situations in which only beer feels right. Cold beers at hot summer barbecues, or with chilis or stews on freezing winter days. I love beer with a crab feast or grilled seafood.

E.S. Delia said...

Well, if you haven't already done so, I'd suggest checking out the Beer Judge Certification Program's style guidelines. While these may be hotly contested in the beer world, they provide a glimpse at the nuances that beer styles encompass. Therefore, there are subsets that are and are not recognized in different circles, and an intense beer aficionado may be able to go on a lot longer than half an hour about these.

It's been said that beer is a better match for food due to its ability to combat spices in places that wine can't, in addition to lifting fats and proteins from the palate with its carbonation. This is also a bit of a stab at the whole notion of wine and cheese being a perfect match.

I say, if you enjoy it, then pair it. For me, it's beer that will match most any type of cuisine, but for others, a good vino will do. As long as it leads to a higher level of appreciation, then it's worth it.

Xenon said...

"the different species and types of hops and barley used for beer is dwarfed by the different species of grapes. Ask a beer expert to rattle off every type and style of beer he can think of and you'll be there about 20 or 30 minutes, if that. Ask a sommelier to name every type and style of wine and you'll be there, quite literally, all day."

your beer "experts" seem to need more training. perhaps it still won't match the alleged "all day" you attribute to pontificating on wine, but surely 30 minutes will not be enough. a simply google search will give you:

http://beeradvocate.com/beer/style

http://beeradvocate.com/beer/101/hops

http://www.brew-monkey.com/brewschool/maltguide.php