pairing separately below. But, what we
do agree on is this: Beer and wine are
more alike than different, and both
deserve a place at the table. Although
personal preferences may run more to
one than the other, and each has pairing
strengths and weaknesses, there’s no
question that both beer and wine are
world-class food partners.
Sam: Beer Is Better
I’ll admit that wine can be delicious,
but I don’t understand why people
assume it’s superior with dinner.
Beer averages half of wine’s alcohol,
so you can drink more of it with your
meal. Plus, its carbonation exfoliates
the palate after rich food. Further,
wine has a few Achilles’ heels when it
comes to pairing. When it comes to
the complex flavors of asparagus, curry
and spicy wings, beer pulls up a bar
stool and makes itself right at home.
There are no “bad matches” in
food-and-beer pairings, so no need to
stress much over which brew to select.
The best place to start exploring beer
pairing is with some loose comparisons. One useful generalization is that
ales are most comparable to red wines
(lush, robust and complex), while
lagers are more like white wines (crisp,
delicate and refined).
Like wine, body and strength are very
important too. Stronger, fuller-bodied
beers pair best with rich, flavorful foods,
like winter stews and barbecue. Lighter-bodied beers, lower in alcohol, are more
flattering with delicate foods and fresh
produce, like summer salads and lightly
Give a few craft brews or premium
imports a try, and you’ll find good beer
can give any wine a run for its money
when it comes to finding mutually flattering pairings.
Marnie: Wine Is Finer
Sam’s got this all backwards. Wine
is stronger, but this is an asset at the
table, not a liability. Drinking more
beer with dinner just fills you up, while
small sips of wine pique the appetite.
And, while beer bloats the belly with
bubbles, wine’s natural tang acts to
cleanse the palate between bites, the
perfect counterpoint for universal
food components like salt and fat.
84 Arrıve • September/October2008 • AMTRAK.COM
Whether you choose beer
or wine, remember these
pairing basics when it comes
time to pour a bottle at your
• Choose lighter-bodied, lower-
alcohol beverages with low-
fat or subtly seasoned foods.
• Serve fuller-bodied, higher-alcohol beverages with rich
or intensely seasoned foods.
• Pairing “like with like” is
often successful, such as
sweet, malty beers with
sweet teriyaki, tart white
wines with vinegary salads,
roasty stouts with dark chocolate or oaky red wines with smoky grilled meats.
• Color and flavor go hand in hand, both in spectrum and depth. Pale foods, like chicken or
fish, are often terrific with pale wines and beers, while deep, dark foods, like steaks and
stews, are often better with deep, dark wines and beers.
• Alcohol exaggerates the “burn” of spicy heat, so think light-bodied with the spiciest
• The taste of wine changes more dramatically with food than the taste of beer, largely
because of its tangy acids. With salty foods, wine will seem markedly less acidic and more
mellow—with sugary foods, more thin and acidic. Beer flavor holds steadier flavorwise
with both salt and sugar.
Like a squeeze of lemon or splash of
vinegar, wine’s natural acidity enlivens
the flavor of any food.
And, yes, I confess that choosing
wine may be complicated by the need
to avoid a few unpleasant combinations. However, this is a small price to
pay for the wine’s unparalleled ability
to amplify the pleasure we take in food.
I’ll grant that beer may not rival wine’s
infamous pairing lows, but neither
does beer rival wine’s famous pairing
highs. With no risk, there is no reward.
Beer may be wine’s equal when it
comes to everyday eating. But, there’s
a reason wine is still the top choice in
The Perfect Pair
Beer and wine have more in common
than the casual observer might realize.
Both are naturally fermented beverages, made from wholesome ingredients, barley and grapes. Wine and
beer acquire unique layers of flavor
through fermentation, much the way
cheese tastes more complex than
milk. And, like any other product,
both can be exploited for volume on an
industrial scale or crafted by artisans
aiming for quality over quantity.
Worldwide, the trend is to
drink better. Delicious wines, once
a hallmark of privilege, are more
accessible and affordable than ever.
Beers, long pigeonholed as bland and
lowbrow, are pushing the envelope
of quality and style as well, thanks
to an international beer renaissance.
In fact, the greatest difference bet ween wine and beer may be how
each is perceived.