Experience — this is a word I throw around a lot when I talk craft beer. I don’t just drink craft beer because I think they taste better than light domestic lagers, I drink them because I am always looking to have the best life experience possible. Sure, I’ve had great experiences drinking a “_______” Lite, they have their place in everyone’s life, but there’s nothing quite like the blissful barrage of a craft beer beating down on your taste buds. One way you can enhance the flavor experience of any beer is to pair it with the perfect meal.
Now, Ron and I will argue that after a couple beers there is no food that pairs with our system than Taco Bell. But, that’s after a couple drinks, what should you eat while you’re enjoying your favorite pint? This is the first installment of The Brew Review Crew’s guide to pairing food and beer, and today we’re focusing on one of the most popular beer styles in the U.S., that Pale Ale.
American Pale Ales are characterized by their tendency to lean toward a citrusy, hoppy profile. They can have a stronger malt profile, but shouldn’t have caramel or toffee notes in them. On the opposite side, they shouldn’t lean so far to the hop flavors that they lean into IPA territory. I think of Pale Ales as a great middle-ground beer. Brewers can use some creativity mixing and matching hops and malts, but they should be mild, clean, easy drinking, and balanced.
English Pale Ales are very similar, but don’t have the addition of American hops. American hops are typically more tropical and have grapefruit, lemon and orange peel flavors in them. English variety of hops are typically geared toward earthy and spicy flavors.
There are plenty of foods that pair well with Pale Ales, since Pale Ales are mild and dry by nature. You have to really think about the flavors of your particular pale ale. For example:
Aggressively hopped Pale Ales: Hops like strong flavors to combat their bitterness. With a bitter Pale Ale, I’d choose a heavily spiced, but light dish. Think Blackened chicken or blackened scallops. Cajun Shrimp would also be a great pairing with a hoppy Pale Ale.
Citrusy American Pale Ales: Citrus flavors go great with Mexican flavors. Think cilantro and lime. I’d drink an American Pale Ale with ceviche, fish tacos, chiles rellnas, or quesadillas. Not in the mood for Mexican? Lemon-pepper chicken or pizza are also great complimentary dishes.
Malt-focused English Pale Ales: These beers are more suitable for slightly heavier dishes. Think fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and seasoned red meats. A great English Pale Ale and an herb encrusted leg of lamb would be a winning combination.
Since Pale Ales vary depending on the brewer’s idea of what a perfect Pale Ale should be, this is a beer style that compliments a lot of foods. But, as with life, when in doubt, go for pizza!