Although many of us still automatically reach for wine when seafood is on the menu, the possibilities of beer for pairing with seafood are worth exploring. The beer renaissance means that many options are available, and they can elevate your seafood. But which beer is best to use for which seafood?
The best beer to serve with seafood is Altbier, but many other styles, such as Saisons or Gose, have their place. In addition, pale ales, wheat beers, and lagers are solid choices instead of white wine. Even IPAs, which are generally too bitter to work with seafood, pair beautifully with lobster.
With beer containing nutrients such as folate, potassium, and magnesium, pairing your seafood with beer is a healthy option.
But with the bewildering array of styles that beer comes in, knowing what sort of beer to pair with what sort of seafood can be tricky. Let’s try to unravel the enigma.
The Best Beers To Use For Pairing With Seafood
When pairing it with seafood, an excellent general choice of beer is to choose an altbier such as Alaskan Amber that generally pairs well with any fish or seafood. But if you want more specific recommendations, we’ve got you covered.
Below are some of the best beers that pair with different seafood dishes.
If you’re at a crawfish boil, beer is the natural drink to reach for, and a wide range of styles would work. However, we recommend avoiding high ABV beers.
All the salt and cayenne will mean you’ll want to drink quite a bit – stick with something sessionable.
In addition, the heaviness and roasted flavor of stout and porter are not a good fit, and neither is the bitterness of IPA, as it will compete with the crawfish too much.
That leaves you with plenty of choices: pilsner would work well, as would pale ales, blonde lagers, or wheat beers. Or for something special, try a sour such as Gose, or a Saison, which pair superbly with seafood.
If you’re eating lobster, you want something that will cut through its rich, buttery flavor, accentuated by the melted butter. In this case, a bright, bitter beer is exactly what you want.
Try a Belgian tripel or an American IPA, or for a milder option, a wheat beer. The lobster’s buttery smoothness counteracts an IPA’s aggression to perfection.
Alternatively, try accentuating the lemon you’ve squeezed over the lobster with a citrusy ale.
Try Springdale Beer Company’s Pearly White Ale, with its notes of orange and coriander, or Citrus Got Real Tart Ale, with its grapefruit and orange zest flavor.
Lavenade Tart Ale has the sourness of lemon juice and a peel mingled with mint and rosemary notes from being brewed with lavender.
Crab meat is also rich; whether you’re eating blue crabs, king crabs, or snow crabs, it’s sweet meat. This meat demands a slightly bitter, light, and crisp beer to balance the flavor. Lagers fit the bill admirably, particularly pilsners.
In contrast, shrimp has quite a delicate taste, and you can easily overpower it with a strong beer. So whether you’re serving it grilled, in a stirfry, a souffle, or a shrimp cocktail, keep it light and pair it with a pale ale.
Oysters are a delicately flavored mollusk, so you’d expect us to recommend a light beer to pair it with.
However, dark, roasted, malty stout, porters, or even Scottish ales such as Ballast Point’s Piper Down work phenomenally with briny oysters, toning down the salt.
But this isn’t your only option. You could also try a mildly sour beer such as a Berliner Weisse or a Gose with oysters or clams.
Delaware brewery Dogfish Head brews SeaQuench, a tart, citrusy, salty hybrid of Gose, Berliner, and Kölsch designed to pair with seafood such as oysters.
Fried calamari is a rich dish due to the batter. Cut through the rich with a light, crisp beer like a pilsner. On the other hand, grilled octopus is an intensely flavored food that benefits from a more bitter beer such as a session IPA – avoid the hop monsters.
In contrast, scallops are sweet meat that benefits from a bitter beer to balance them. A hop-forward single IPA such as Ballast Point’s Fathom IPA is a good choice.
Although you probably know this San Diego brewery for Sculpin, that would be too bitter. The Fathom hits the right amount of bitterness.
Alternatively, try the bright citrus notes and clove undertones of hefeweizen beer with the rich sweetness of pan-seared scallops.
Thick, dairy-based chowders are perfect for cool weather, and the rich, roasted coffee and toffee flavors of dark beers like porters and stouts are the ideal match.
If you insist on eating chowder in summer, try it with amber ale or an altbier.
Steamed mussels don’t only benefit from cooking with beer; they’re great served with beer – choose a wheat beer such as Allagash White, a phenomenal Maine witbier.
Fish is easier to pair with beer, and many pairings will work well. However, sea bass and salmon go particularly well with Saisons such as Belgian brewery Brasserie Dupont’s Saison Dupont.
Cold smoked salmon also pairs nicely with hefeweizen, such as Frankenmuth Brewery’s “The Hef.”
On the other hand, hot smoked salmon works better with heavier beers with malt notes such as bock (try the Texas Shiner Bock) or Scottish ale.
Grilled fish pairs best with mildly hoppy beers like a session IPA or a pale ale, although you can also try Irish reds or Altbier.
Although it’s not strictly seafood, we’ll tell you what to use for trout: a sour such as the previously mentioned SeaQuench Ale.
The tart, salty, citrus character of the beer perfectly complements the flakiness and delicate flavor of the trout.
With delicate, nuanced flavors, meaty fish like swordfish and tuna need careful pairing. So, try a tart Gose such as Victory Brewing’s Kirsch Gose or a wheat beer such as a witbier.
Light, delicate fish, such as sole, served with a drizzle of lemon and butter, or even meatier fish, such as monkfish, goes well with the slight hoppiness of Kölsch.
Although the combination may sound unusual, blackened fish goes well with black lagers, particularly German ones.
Fish and chips work well with something nice and bitter, like a West Coast IPA or a highly carbonated lager, pilsner, hefeweizen, or Kölsch.
If you’re using beer in the batter, stick with something highly carbonated to give the batter an airy crispness. On the other hand, fish tacos are made for Mexican light lagers such as Pacifico, Victoria, or Modelo Especial. So stay away from Tecate or Sol.
The Japanese would typically serve sushi with a low ABV rice beer, but that can be hard to get Stateside.
Instead, opt for something that complements the ginger and the fresh, delicate flavors – the best choice is a crisp white ale with hints of citrus. We recommend Blue Moon’s Belgian White.
Spicy Seafood Dishes
Finally, we come to the category of spicy seafood dishes. The spice will stand up well to hops, whether it’s fish curry, ceviche, or Picante fish tacos.
The best choice in such cases is a sessionable single IPA.
There are so many wonderful beers out there; choosing the right one to pair with the seafood you’re preparing or serving is an art. But with these tips, you can find the right combination of beer and seafood to wow your dinner guests.
Don’t be afraid to experiment – it’s all part of the fun! Bon Appétit!
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