Chef Adam Dulye: How american craft beer can elevate food

birra e cibo

Adam Dulye, Executive Chef for the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American craft brewers, is one of the world’s leading experts on beer and food pairings and the author of The Beer Pantry. Here, he explains how to cook at the intersection of craft beer and great food:

“Pairing American craft beer with food can elevate both to a whole new level – says Chaf Adam Dulye – and I’ll be cooking/talking about how to make the most from beer and food pairings at Beer Attraction  in Rimini on 18 February in the Food Attraction Lab.

Here are a few starting tips for planning your pairing strategy:

  • Think of beer as one of the flavour components of a dish, the only difference being it’s in a glass not on the plate!   When cooking ask yourself one question: does an ingredient make the dish taste better.  If so, good,  if not don’t add it.  Beer is fuel for food, a companion made to pair and flatter flavours, not detract from them and the ultimate goal is to develop flavour without compromising the integrity of the ingredients.
  • Avoid incorporating American craft beer within a recipe because the cooking process drives off the flavour, and depending on the beer in use, may enhance bitterness. There are exceptions, of course, such as mussels in a smooth witbier or a beef casserole using stout, but pairing a beer with a dish allows the diner to taste all the flavours in the food and all the flavours in the beer.
  • Foods with spice, heat, acid and complex flavours are a great way to showcase and utilize certain beer styles. Hops can calm heat and spice, carbonation can cleanse the palate. The malt in beer works to balance acidity on the palate.

A wide and varied range of flavour combinations will provide interesting pairings for beer such as:

Rosemary, juniper and herb-based dishes with American Pale Ale;

Cinnamon, cumin, pepper, cardamom, ginger and clove with Robust Porter;

Pineapple, tangerine and clementine with IPA;

Brown sugar, butter, caramel, maple syrup, vanilla, coconut and toffee with BarleyWine;

Date, fig, raisin with Belgian-style Quadrupel;

Chocolate, truffle, coffee, cocoa with Milk Stout.

As beer is becoming more ingredient driven and new styles are added by innovative and quality driven brewers, I find it a better approach to go with flavour first and style second. Beer lovers new to American craft beer may not know what an IPA is or what to expect from a Porter.  By using words everyone can relate to from bitter to citrus, pine to floral for IPA or chocolate and caramel for a Porter the brain sends waves to the palate that say “Yes. I like this.” As opposed to “We don’t understand”.

Beer styles can be broken down into six flavour profiles which I call, the ‘six-pack’ ie:

Crisp & Clean – refreshing, delicate and slightly dry, these styles work well with lighter flavours.  Pair with pasta dishes, creamy risotto, salads, vegetables.

Beer styles:  Blonde Ale, Pilsner, Helles, Kölsch

Hoppy & Bitter – great with foods that need a bit of competition on the palate, think spicy, fatty or acidic.  The bitterness of hops lifts fat from the tongue leaving you ready for the next bite.  Hops can be intensely flavoursome with notes of citrus, resin, tropical fruit, pine, herbal or floral.

Beer styles: Amber Ale, Barley Wine, IPA, Imperial IPA, Pale Ale

Try with: spicy foods, curry, pizza, cheese, carrot cake

Malty & Sweet – sweet notes of nuts, toffee, caramel and dried fruit from roasted malts complement food that is roasted, crispy or browned.

Beer styles: Amber lager, Brown Ale, Belgian-style Dubbel, Dunkel, Scotch Ale

Goes with: roast chicken, pork, duck, salami, cheese

Rich & Roasty –  intensely deep, dark, rich flavours; barrel-aged bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, coffee and sometimes a smoky aroma, they work with dishes that have roasted fat such as red meats, nuts or chocolate.  They’re great with anything charred, barbecued or grilled or with a clean, briny finish such as oysters.

Beer styles: Brown Ale, Stout, Porter, Schwarzbier

Pair with: ribs, burgers, meat casseroles, barbecue, spicy foods, oysters, chocolate

Fruity &  Spicy – flavours  are mainly driven by yeast and can include notes of stone fruits, citrus, ginger, salt, banana or clove.  Spicy aromatic foods that go well with rosé or red wine would be good accompaniments here.

Beer styles: Belgian Blonde Ale, Witbier, Hefeweizen, Saison, Tripel, Quadrupel

Works with: shellfish, seafood, fish and chips, sushi

Sour, Tart & Funky – often barrel-aged and may have fruit or natural sugars added.  Farmhouse, leather, hay, grass and even wet socks may not sound appealing but if you like acidic, biodynamic wines you’ll love these!

Beer styles: Brett, Sour, Flanders Ale, Gose, Geuze, Lambic

Food suggestions:  creamy desserts, cheesecake, crème brulee, tiramisu, chocolate gateau

Always serve craft beer in style-specific glassware for a more premium dining experience.  If you don’t have the correct glassware, the most common glass for a beer pairing is a Belgian-style tulip or curved snifter glass.  This allows the optimum delivery of aroma on the nose and balance of flavour on the palate.

Chefs, caterers and food lovers are welcome to make use of the wealth of free resources, available on including the newly updated and expanded Beer & Food Professional Course, downloadable free of charge at

More information is available on

The Brewers Association will be sampling a range of innovative, diverse and high quality American craft beers at Beer Attraction , Adam Dulye will be speaking about updates and trends in American Craft Beer on Sunday 17 February.

Credit:  image © Brewers Association

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