Not much in life is better than finding the perfect meal that goes along with your favorite beer. Today, we’re going to look at some ideas to pair with a classic beer style — Red Ales. I want to note that there are plenty of other meals that will taste good with Red Ales, but the goal here is to help you avoid bad or conflicting flavor profiles.
Red Ales are famous for a few things: Caramel and toffee malt notes, notes of slightly roasted grains, and a crisp dry finish. There isn’t a hop characteristic in a classic Red Ale, and, if there is a hop presence, it is usually only in very low levels. Because Red Ales are malt forward, it is best to find flavors that are deep and savory to hold up to, and compliment, the dry, roasted notes in the brew. It might sound a bit obvious, considering Red Ales are classic Irish Beers, but a lot of these flavors pair perfectly with the flavors you’d expect to find at an old Irish Pub. In our beer pairings for Pale Ales, I broke down Pale Ales into three different commonly-found flavor profiles. Since Red Ales seem to be more consistent, I’m going to guide you through a full three-course meal to be paired with your your favorite Red.
The sweet malt flavors of a dry Irish Red go perfectly with almonds, walnuts, and mild or fruity cheese flavors. To start off our meal, I’d serve a Smoked Almond and Goat Cheese Salad. Drizzle a vinegar-based dressing over top, and you have a great combination of toffee, almond, some acidity from the dressing, and light savory, creamy flavors of the goat cheese. When pairing a first course, think nutty and savory, not fruity or spicy.
Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s Pie, Mutton — all of those would make great entrees to eat with a delicious Red Ale. When you’re trying to pair flavors, you should steer towards roasted or grilled meat. The roasted malt flavors of the beer compliment smoky and gamey flavors well. Avoid Mexican, Thai, or other spicy cuisines as they will overpower the flavor of the brew.
Our entree is going to be roasted pheasant and stewed root vegetables. Savory and slightly gamey, the pheasant is a wonderful partner-in-crime to a malt-forward ale. Starchy potatoes and caramelized onions add more depth and character to balance out the dry finish of the beer.
The way I’d approach a Red Ale with dessert is to think of the beer as a caramel source. The darker malts in the beer can lead to caramel and toffee flavors that compliment many deserts very well. I’d avoid citrus fruits, and embrace cream-based desserts, and vanilla flavors. BJCP suggests that creme brulee is the perfect pairing for a Red Ale, but I would like to finish the above meal with a light, airy, vanilla cheesecake with a graham-cracker crust. I think the graham crackers would echo some of the toasted flavors of the beer, while the sticky, creamy vanilla cheesecake would be need to be washed down with caramel-like beer. Sounds perfect to me.
Like I said, this isn’t the only combinations of flavors that would accent and harmonize with a Red Ale, but it’s a good start and guide to keep you enjoying your beer to the last drop, and meal to the last bit. What are your favorite Red Ale food pairings? Leave comments below and let us know!