Seafood and Beer Pairing
We are certainly going through a beer renaissance in our country. Where beer can be as revered as wine when it comes to making elevated food pairings choices. Craft brews, micro brews and even big beer juggernauts have delved into the creative depths~deliciously so.
So where does seafood fall into the pairing matrix? Is there a beer for every type of seafood and vice versa?
Pale Ales are credited with being the inspiration behind the American craft beer boom. These versatile brews can range anywhere from amber and malty to golden, hoppy and citrusy. Pale Ales are well balanced (hop to malt ratio) and get their name for the style of malt used (pale malt) giving them a lighter brighter flavor and appearance than their IPA category cousin.
Seafood Pairing: Shrimp Cocktail and Oysters
Pale Ales, if they were to win a high school superlative, are the best all-around beer for seafood. You really can not go wrong with a Pale Ale pairing. For this chef, my favorites would be the seafood appetizer portion of the meal; shrimp cocktail and oysters (raw or cooked). Neither seafood nor beer would overpower the other, harmoniously, with just a little citrus or hop flavor to cut through the cocktail sauce or mignonette toppers and scoopers.
IPA’s are our super hoppy beers (IPA stands for India Pale Ale). You’ll even see boasting brewers putting their hop-of-choice on their labels: nugget, cascade, citra, simcoe, tomahawk and warrior~that’s how importance the hops are to these beers. Adding nuanced flavors of citrus, earth, bitterness and sweetness based on the hops or mixture of hops used. And range from light bodied to medium bodied based on their ABV percentages (alcohol by volume). All of IPA's pieces and parts equal into a wickedly popular beer.
Seafood Pairing: Lobster
Here’s where it can get a little tricky for a beer and seafood pairing. IPA’s are deliciously aggressive beers that, unlike the Pale Ales, if paired poorly could result in guests not being able to taste anything other than the IPA.
That’s where lobster comes in! Buttery, butter lobster. The butteriness counteracts the hoppy bitterness~smoothing and soothing the palate in between bites. Take a bite of lobster, a swig of IPA and repeat…perfection.
Porter and Stout
The Porter and Stout difference debate is one better left to the uber craft beer aficionados, for our pairing purposes we’re going to group these two stunners together. But I will touch on their overlapping flavors and where that comes from…
It’s all about the malt.‘Malt’ is a germinated (almost sprouted) dried cereal grain, in most beer cases thats barley. For Porters and Stouts the cereal grains are deeply toasted, giving them that dark color and characteristically coffee and toffee aromas and flavor. These are scrumptiously rich beers, not exceedingly high in ABV (ranging from 5-7%), but…cozy…if I can use that term to describe beers.
Seafood Pairing: Chowders and Stews
It is that ‘cozy’ factor that loves a good soup and stout pairing or porter and chowder mash up. These are stick to your ribs kinda beers that love stick to your ribs kinda food. Winter warmer’s and cold-weather comfort food’s best beer friends.
Belgian-Style and Wheat Beer
Going back to the high school seafood pairing superlatives theme, Belgian-style and/or wheat beers would be the class president. These beers are known for their zesty and citrusy punch~the Cadillac of seafood pairing flavors.
It is a combination of the specific yeast and wheat (Hefeweizen, the German wheat beer style, translates to ‘yeast wheat’) that is used that give these telltale flavors and aromas.
Seafood Pairing: Mussels and Spiced Shrimp
Belgium Beers and mussels are the pairing equivalent to peas and carrots~a must have on hand for either. I also like pairing seafood that’s a little on the spicy side with wheat beers, spiced shrimp in particular. The bubbly carbonation partnered with the citrus flavors can cool even the most spiced palate.
Pilsners and Lagers
All beers are classified into just two categories: Ales and Lagers. All of our other beers, now including our Pilsners, have been ales. The Lager stands alone. The reason I am bunching these two together is their pairing ability, availability (you’ll always find a good Pilsner and Lager) and versatility. These two, furthering our superlative matching, would be the ‘most likely to succeed’ beers.
Pilsners are super crisp and clean ales, a touch more flavor forward than the lagers, with more floral notes. The Czech’s know great beer and their addition to the world is spectacular (one of my personal favorite sippers).
Lagers are the casual sippers and where brewers usually go to get creative with other grains (like corn, rice and oats). Lagers are bubbly fun (usually higher levels of carbonation) with a much lower hop level than many of the other beers listed above, making them more on the sweeter side than bitter.
Seafood Pairing: Crab Cakes, Blue Crabs and Crab Legs
Boy howdy! Do these beers love crabs!! I would partner a Pilsner with crab cakes, the elevated flavor of the beer pairs well with the elevated flavor of a traditional crab cake.
For picking crabs (either whole blue crabs or crab legs) a Lager is the way to go! The crisp, clean flavor of the beer pairs very well to the rich crab meat.
Hungry? Stock up at Cameron’s Seafood
I know I’m hungry (and a little thirsty) after writing this article, and I’m sure I am not the only one!
Whet your appetite at our online store. All the seafood pairing suggestions listed above are available to order with fast and direct shipping~no need to bother with the grocery store (we’re fresher and better anyway).
Also, show us your favorite beer and seafood pairing combinations on social. We love to hear from our Cameron’s Seafood fans and can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @cameronsseafood
About the author
Patterson Watkins is a professional chef with over 17 years of experience. With a robust career in restaurants, contract dining and catering (including 4 Summer Olympic posts preparing food for the athletes!) Patterson joined the Cameron's Seafood team at the end of 2018 to concoct some delicious recipes with our premium seafood items as the centerpiece.