Sweets and suds: Pairing beer with dessert

Stouts and porters are the obvious choice for many of the richer dessert dishes. Red wine may compliment a chocolate mousse or volcano cake well, but consider an imperial stout like Cigar City Hunahpu or the Cappuccino Stout from Lagunitas. The roasted malt and coffee overtones blend perfectly with the cocoa bitterness and chocolate sweetness of the dessert, and can really make the flavors pop in both the food and the beer.

Cheesecake is a dessert enjoyed by many, and it also comes in many forms. The most popular is the “New York” style, topped with cherries. The richness and pungent aroma and flavor of a good cheesecake can take your palate in different directions depending on the pairing. A dry Irish stout like Cigar City’s Patio Tools or an oatmeal one like Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout will lend a roasty malt compliment to the dessert and bring out some of the creaminess and richness of the cheese and the tartness of the cherries on top.

When it comes to the lighter fare like berries and fresh fruit, it’s hard to go wrong with a nice lambic brew. Some styles are already fruit-driven, such as Lindemans Frambroise (raspberry) or Hanssens Oude Kriek (black cherries), while others just have the spicy tartness that matches so well with fruits like apples and blueberries. Experiment with a Timmermans Doux Lambic or a Lindemans Faro. These beers tend to be lower in alcohol and have a sour-sweet fruitiness to them.

[image-1]Not everyone likes sweet desserts; sometimes some assorted nuts and cheese are the perfect way to end a good meal. A plate of Gruyere, Gorgonzola, and Roquefort cheese sprinkled with almonds, cashews, and pistachios offers a nice assortment of flavors and textures to cap off the night. And to perfectly compliment this assortment: a barleywine. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Anchor Old Foghorn, or Stone Old Guardian are excellent examples of the style and readily available. If you can find it -- and price is no object -- Sam Adams Utopias is a must-try offering. All barleywines are high gravity, heavy, and sweet. They are for sipping, much as you would a scotch or bourbon. Complex and rich, they pair up very nicely with the cheese and nuts plate.

Overall, the general rule of pairing beer with any food (desserts included) is that there are no rules. Just because something should pair well does not guarantee you will like it. And if you don’t like it, try something else. Craft beer is about experimenting with flavor combinations, just as pairing beer and food should be of the same notion.

Cheers and Bon Appetit!

In the wine-dominated world of fine dining, craft beer is finally making inroads into better restaurants and finding a place at gourmet tables. More and more upscale establishments are adding artisanal beers to their offerings, and some even going so far as to have a “beer list” along with the wine list. Impressive beer lists can be found at restaurants like Savannah’s Café, 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House, and the Cajun Café that will serve as excellent opportunities to pair different styles of beer with different foods. Brewpubs like the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Peg’s Cantina, and Dunedin Brewery even offer pairing suggestions for items on their menus. Beer comes in such a wide range and variety of flavors, with a style to match any palate.

However, when it comes to dessert, even those with a good knowledge of beer and flavor pairings often find themselves at a loss. Beer with dessert? Unheard of! Port, sherry, coffee cocktails and dessert wines have always been the go-to drinks of choice to match with a cheesecake or chocolate soufflé. For most, the immediate thought is drinking a light macro-brewed lager with their decadent dessert choice, and the appeal is gone — as well it should be. What many don’t think about (or maybe even realize) is that there are some excellent craft beers that match up beautifully with the richness of creamy delicacies, the sweetness of berries, the bitterness of coffee or chocolate, and the tartness of pies and fruits.


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