How to pair beer and food

Everyone knows burgers and beer go together. But not everyone understands why.

“When you’re eating juicy hamburger meat and take a swig of a light lager, the carbonation will scrub your palate of all the richness of the meat,” Tin Roof CEO Jacob Talley explains.

By the time you take another bite, it’ll feel like the explosions of flavor are hitting your tongue for the first time all over again.

There is a science to pairing food and beer. Talley practices it by partnering with local restaurants for Tin Roof beer pairing dinners. And back when he was brand manager for Mockler Beverage and Kalurah Street Grill’s Kelley McCann was chef at Galatoire’s Bistro, the two worked on dinners together all the time. “We’ve done some crazy stuff together,” Talley says, remembering the time they carved small pumpkins to use as cups for pumpkin stout.

When pairing, Talley is mindful of factors like carbonation, alcohol content and the bitterness of hops, which can help balance a dish’s sweetness or emphasize spiciness.

“You don’t want to overpower your beer with food—or vice versa,” he says.

Of course, there are general rules. Burgers, pizza and foods with a good bit of greasiness or fattiness will always be good with a wide range of beers.

But how does Talley know to put together a big, fudgy brownie with an imperial chocolate stout, or that a funky blue cheese is just the thing for an IPA? He offered some guidelines for pairing like a pro.

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This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.