Good Beer and Food Pairings

cheers with beer

What are Good Beer and Food Pairings

Have you ever walked into a taproom and felt intimidated by all the choices and potentially good beer and food pairings? Don’t worry – whether you’re an expert taster or a novice, you can have an enjoyable meal as long as you know the basics. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the types of beer styles we offer to different groups, the best beer and food pairings, and how to enjoy your experience.


Styles of Beer

Hundreds of different beer styles exist. Typically, we divide beer types based on flavor, color, and aroma. We use two characteristics to describe beer styles – ABV and IBU. The style of beer determines whether it pairs well with a particular food.


What Is ABV?

ABV refers to alcohol by volume. ABV also stands for the percentage of alcohol per quantity in one beer. Brewers depend upon ABV to find the right balance between bitter and sweet brew tastes. ABV affects beer taste, so beers with more alcohol have an increased bitterness. If the ABV is very high, then the alcohol could neutralize the flavors while numbing your mouth. Strong drinks like this usually have added flavors to counteract the high alcohol. 


What Is IBU?

IBU refers to the international bitterness unit. IBU measures the number of bitter flavors within beers. To scale the bitterness proportions, IBU units begin at zero, with most beers averaging between 5 and 120 IBU. If the beer reads higher than 120 IBUs, most tasters will not realize the extreme bitterness.


Food and Beer Pairing Guidelines


The best beer pairings with food are often the simplest. While most flavors may not clash with beer, you should pay attention to a few critical guidelines for the best food and beer tasting experience: 



Great beer and food pairings often incorporate a balanced flavor profile. For example, medium to dark beers have rich flavor profiles that can easily overpower any dish. When creating your pairings, remain mindful of the strength of the brew. 


Cleanse Your Palate

Beers can serve as palate cleansers. Choose an appropriate brew to refresh your palate for particular beer and food pairings. For instance, a cool light beer will wash away the more robust flavors when eating spicy, fatty, or fried foods like chicken wings. However, some beers may be too strong – beers with a high IBU – so you might use fried foods or nuts to cut through the more robust profile. 


Complement Your Flavors

To complement specific beer pairings with food, match food and beers with similar flavors – match weak beers with less intense flavors and stronger beers with equally rich flavors. As a suggestion, accompany more decadent foods with heavy flavors found in stouts and porters—likewise, pair light or wheat beers with desserts, fruit, salads, and fish.


Contrast Your Pairings

Make our beer or food the highlight of your dish. Some of the best dishes focus on a single, dominant flavor and use other weaker foods to contrast the brew further. This contrast focuses the guest’s attention on the quality and flavor profile of the beer. For contrast, choose a beer from the following categories: sweet, rich, oily, or bitter. For example, stouts have some of the richest flavors; pair these stouts with oysters with briny flavors that deeply contrast the stout.


Beer and Food Pairings Based on Style

Here are some of our recommended food and beer pairings at Navigator Taproom. 



Here at Navigator Taproom, we offer several versions of cider with varying flavors – dry, traditional, fruity, and more. When considering exceptional food and beer pairings to make a fantastic meal, consider our shrimp puffs or one of our crab dishes, as shellfish complements almost any cider


Light Lagers

As one of the palest beers, light lagers have crisp, refreshing flavors. Since light lagers are very popular in the United States, most bar foods pair well with these flavors. The Hell or Weihenstephaner Original are excellent choices with a refreshing taste.

Some recommended food and beer pairings with light lagers include buffalo wings, french fries, and fried fish. Spicy pairings are best for this beer. If you feel like contrasting your drink with some heat, try our cumin lamb skewers or Szechuan dry spicy chicken. 


Amber and Dark Lagers

Our amber and dark lagers have more hop and malty or toasty flavor profile. If you still want to participate in a full meal, we recommend amber lagers over stouts. Although similar in taste, lagers pair well with equally refreshing meals, such as our vegetable shanghai spring rolls and crab claws, whereas stouts pair better with desserts.


India Pale Ales

IPAs, or India pale ales, typically have an amber color and bitter flavor profile. Brewers add citrus or herbal notes to make IPAs more enjoyable. Since various IPAs exist, ideal beer and food pairings can vary. Complement the differing style of IPAs with different foods. Try our french fries for a more moderate flavor profile or something spicy like our three chili chicken to turn up the heat. 



Since stouts have low alcohol levels and a distinct chocolatey flavor, they often pair well with desserts or even shellfish. Our best stout beer pairings with food involve pairing our Absence of Light Peanut Butter Chocolate Milk Stout with our fried calamari or crab rangoons. 


Benefits of the Right Beer Glass


Have you ever wondered if you are enjoying your beer the way brewers meant for you to enjoy it? Is there a right or wrong way to drink beer at all? While there is no exact wrong way to drink your beer, you may enjoy it more when using the right glass. 

Serving beer with the right glass will further complement its flavor profile, while also releasing the perfect carbonation-to-beer ratio. Whether you are pouring stouts, Belgian, or IPAs, knowing how to serve beer in the right glass will contribute to your enjoyment and the brewery’s success. 

When selecting the proper glass for your beer, consider the following characteristics: 

  • Size – A beer’s alcohol level determines the size of the beer glass. For example, we use larger glasses for lighter brews and smaller glasses for stronger brews. 
  • Base – The type of base determines the stability of your glass. However, if you choose glasses with a stem, you avoid warming the beer’s temperature with your grip. 
  • Rim – Always serve beers in glasses with rims free of chips and sharp edges – even the smallest defect can impact your tasting. 
  • Flare – Flared rims with convex glasses help move the foam to the front of your drink – when you sip, you will taste the foam first. 
  • Bulb – Glasses with bulbs are best for beers with excess foam. 
  • Bowl – Different types of bowls collect aromas and warm the beer. Each type of bowl allows you to concentrate on the aroma. Concave bowls are best for enhancing your drinking experience.

Have a Sit-Down Drink With Us

Whether you’re an expert in pairing food with different brews or still developing this talent, try out your skills with us at Navigator Taproom! Our taproom offers a vast selection of beer types, with knowledgeable staff who can explain the fine details of every brew. For memorably good beer and food pairings, come dine with us in Logan Square, either in-person, with takeout, or with a no-contact delivery for a truly exceptional experience.

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