Beer is the New Wine...

If the 2000's was the decade where we learn more about and appreciate wine, this decade will be known for how we came to appreciate good beer. The craft beer movement is in full swing and although they still only make up about 6% of the overall beer market, there's plenty of choices on offer at beverages stores across the country. 

Beer, especially finely brewed craft beers are meant to be enjoyed with food and not simply something we guzzle at tailgate parties. However, before we can discuss what food goes best with what beer, we need to understand how beer is made to develop the knowledge of a given beer's flavor profile. 

Looking for Engagement Party Ideas?

With the craft beer movement in full swing, why not add a fun, entertaining twist to your upcoming Engagement Party by offering beer and food pairings. Sure, I know, not everyone likes beer, but chances are most people haven't really sampled all of the interesting craft and microbrews that are available today; from sweet Belgians to strong Stouts, there are so many options with a wide variety of flavors to please the various palettes. Plus, pairing with the right foods should present the beers in such a way that all of your guests will walk away thinking they didn't know beer could be that good! 

Whether it's an Engagement party, birthday bash, holiday gathering or what have you, beer and food pairings make for an excellent, generally affordable entertainment option. If you are to conduct a beer/food pairing, you must provide the proper drink insulation to maintain the beers' proper temperature; it will be especially important as you'll probably have several bottles open at a time to provide various samples to your guests. 

Coolaz Koozies provides the perfect drink insulation products for special gatherings that should be mark the event in self-expression. HIgh-quality digital printing enables Coolaz brand of koozies to offer a wide variety of stylish customizable designs that are really only limited by your creativity. You're not creative? Don't worry, Coolaz Koozies has a vast library of excellent design templates to provide a bit of inspiration; with your input, their designers will take you the rest of the way to produce a party favor that will be the life of the party! (after the beer of course). 

We're Engaged!

I Don't Know My Dunkler Bock from my India Pale Ale!?!

Just as in the world of wine, understanding the characteristics between different types of beers can be intimidating; Ales, Irish Ales, Pale Ales, Strong Pale Ales, American Wheat Ales, Old Ale (this one isn't as bad as it sounds), not to mention lagers and all of its derivations. Here's a quick tutorial on how to distinguish between the different types of beers. This is not an exhaustive explanation of all beers in the world, but a short overview so we're start to get an idea of flavors and body in order to select the appropriate beer to pair with food.

First and foremost, beer is an alcoholic beverage made with malted grains and fermented by adding yeast. As in wine, sugars, in the case of beer this comes from the malted grains is eaten by the yeast producing alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2). Simple enough. 

Why Malt?

In simple terms, grains such as barley are malted in order to extract the sugars required in the fermentation process. There are different types of malts ranging from light to dark that ultimately dictate the color and flavor of the beer. Malts such as Lager malts are used to produce, you guessed it - lagers while chocolate malts are at the other end of the spectrum and used for dark beers such as porters and stouts. In order to make beer, the malted barley is crushed and soaked in hot water to reactivate and accelerate the grain's enzyme activity, converting the barley's starch reserves into sugars in a short period of time. The resulting sugar is boiled with hops and fermented by the yeast to make beer.

What is hops and why is it used in the production of beer?

Hops are cone-shaped flowers that grow on the hop plant, a fast-growing vine and a relative of the cannabis plant. Commercial hops is a female plant with its flowers appearing as burrs that appear along the stem. Each burr eventually develops into a hop cone. The cones are then dried and are used as flavor components in the brewing of beers and ales. As with malts, there are different acids in hops that can provide more bitterness or more aroma. 

Hops is an important ingredient for four primary reasons:

  1. Counteracts the sweetness of the malt sugars to give balance to the beer
  2. Helps preserve the beer
  3. Adds a key bitterness flavor
  4. Provide aromatics

The specific malt and hops characteristics are used by the brewer to develop the various types of beers. 

Temperature is important in beer too!

To keep with the wine analogy, beer should be served at the proper temperature for maximum enjoyment. Too cold is not ideal, nor is too warm. Craft beers should be served ~43-46 F when paired with food. You might prefer a little higher temps if you're just quaffing them. I know, it's uncomfortable to learn new terms, but you can exchange guzzling for quaffing if you prefer! 

These beers are certainly not to be consumed up in the 60's or near/at room temperature. If you're having a party with many open bottles, people holding the bottles to admire the captivating artwork on the bottles, it is likely that the temperature of the beer will increase well beyond the recommended range. All is not lost! Coolaz Koozie's can produced eye-catching, photographic themed designs that will be well worth admiring too all the while maintaining the optimal temperature of your beers. 

Check with the craft brewer of the beers you'll be serving to see if they stock Coolaz Koozies so you can have your koozies match your bottles allowing your guests to look and touch without compromising the temperature of your beverages. If a custom craft beer koozie is not yet available from your brewer of choice, we recommend setting aside a bottle from each beer you'll pour or better still, display the empty carton near your serving location. If will give everyone a chance to learn a bit more information about the beer and give a nice, handy spot for the empties!

Back to Making Beer...

Ultimately, it's not the color, alcohol content or bitterness that distinguishes ales from lagers. The primary difference between ales and lagers is the yeast that is used in the fermentation process. Ales typically use a type of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae; this is known as a 'top-fermenting' yeast. Fermentation temperature also distinguishes ales from lagers. 

Ales are often fermented at temperatures between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. This relatively warm temperature range as well as short cellar aging times makes ales a popular beer for home-brew hobbyists. Flavors from ales fermented at these temperatures create beers that are fruity and floral often resembling bananas, apples or even strawberries. Again, as in wine, balanced flavors are important to a good product and the sweeter flavors in beers are balanced by the bitterness of hops. Ales with a higher fruity flavors are balanced by increasing the hops content. 

The process for creating a lager is almost completely opposite to that for brewing ales. Lagers are fermented at much lower temperatures (40-50 degrees F) with a bottom-fermenting yeast called Saccharomyces pastorianus. The lower temperatures slow the fermentation process and the cellar time is also much longer; 1-2 months or longer. As a general rule, the lower temperatures used in the production of lagers impart flavors that are more subtle than ales.

Tips For a Great Beer and Food Pairing Party

Many people have mastered the basics of pairing wine with food (don't pair reds with fish and Merlot goes with almost everything). Ok, let's see if we can get a sense of what foods go with what beers. 

Pour lightly
There's not need to serve a beer with each course. 1/3 of a bottle will do for 1-2 course. This will be a 'tasting', but your guests will most likely be swallowing too...if we get too drunk, we lose the ability to properly taste both beer and food so keep that in mind. Pound the remaining beer after all of the 'food and beer' pairing stuff is over! 

Eat and drink seasonally
If possible, match any seasonal craft beers you plan to serve (most brewers make seasonal beers) with local seasonal ingredients. It really isn't that difficult. Richer, darker beers beers pair well with roasted meats or even a hearty stew. 

Like wines, serve lighter before darker
"Start with lighter, simpler beers and move up to stronger, more complex beers," Paxton says. "If you kick off dinner with an imperial stout, you'll blow out people's palates." 

Balance Flavors
Cut or dull overwhelming flavors, like a very buttery pastry chicken pie with a light hoppy pilsner. Complement or pair similar flavors together; chocolate cakes can be paired with a strong porter which is a nice way to end the progression of beer/food pairing. Smoky meats contrast perfectly well with a pale ale. 

Beer Style Profiles and Dish Suggestions

  • Crisp/Light - American Pilsners, Light Lagers and Lambics
  • Hoppy/Spicy - Pale Ale, IPA, European Pilsne
  • Citrusy/Fruity - Pale Ale, Blonde Ale, Lambics, Hefeweisen
  • Sweet/Malty - Brown Ale, Barley Wine, English Mild, Scottish Style Ale, Wee Heavy
  • Dark Roasted Malt - Porter, Stout, Imperial Stout, Schwartzbier

Rich, Creamy, Buttery Foods
Think brie or camembert cheese. This cheese and other buttery flavors pair excellently with light lagers and american pilsners.

  • Contrast- Crisp/Light
  • Complement- Dark Roasted Malt

Sweet, Light, Tart, Citrusy Foods
Sushi pairs well with Hefeweisen or many American-style wheat beers.

  • Contrast- Dark Roasted Malt
  • Complement- Crisp/Light

Grilled, Seared or Blackened Foods
Amber ales are good all-around beers for grilled foods, or any food that receives a charring.

  • Contrast- Crisp/Light
  • Complement- Brown Ale

Savory, Brown, Gravy Foods
Rich brown and nutty beers are excellent choices for meals and dishes that contain a rich sauce or gravy.

  • Contrast- Citrus/Fruity
  • Complement- Sweet / Malty

Chili, Spicy Food
Asian foods pair nicely with lagers. Malty beers such as popular wheat beers are another fine choice for spicy Asian dishes.

  • Contrast- Clean/Crisp
  • Complement- Citrus/Fruity

Remember to make your party a hit with Coolaz Beer Koozie premium drink insulators!