Weekend Stuff: Beer & Food

How to Pair Beer & Food

What to eat with your brew of choice — from the lightest lager to the heartiest stout

Written by RJ Firchau

Thanks to the snobbery of wine “experts”, the mere idea of pairing specific alcoholic drinks with particular foods induces a fair amount of eye-rolling. But unlike wine, the difference in the taste between different beer varieties is not elusive or subtle — and many great chefs have taken this to heart. It’s no longer uncommon to see a tequila pairing menu, an apertif and dessert pairing, or a beer recommendation under every entree. Wine expertise is no longer the was the pinnacle of culinary prowess. Want to prove yourself as a true food savant? Learn to pair the right brew with your grub.

Some of you might think of beer as, simply, your beverage of choice at parties, or the pastime best associated with Sunday night football. Honestly, that seems like a missed opportunity. You already know you love beer, and you definitely enjoy food (who doesn’t?), so coming up with creative pairings seems like a necessary next step to enhance your appreciation for that ice-cold cerveza. Below, we give you an overview of each of the main styles of beer, their flavor profiles, and what they might pair best with, food-wise. However, as a caveat, you should know that there are always exceptions when it comes to pairing food with liquor. With all of the available beer on the market these days, one IPA, for example, is going to be far-off from the next in terms of taste (say, Stone IPA versus a Green Flash Le Freak). In addition to there being a huge selection of offerings in any one category of beer, the taste of beer itself is also subjective, and something that tastes good to you might not work out so well for the next guy. So, take these pairings with a grain of salt (or, a squeeze of lime), and let them guide your beer and food exploration. Cheers, gents.

Pale Lagers

mussels-and-lager

Potluck Video

Such As: American lager, German helles, German pilsner, Czech pilsner

Flavor Profiles: Pale lagers are made with bottom-fermenting yeast that is more fragile than the yeast used to make most other beers, and therefore needs to ferment more slowly. This process produces a beer that is normally light in color, bright and light in flavor, and normally light to medium in terms of hops. Lagers are best served cold and should taste dry, flowery, and mildly caramel-y in sweetness.

Pairs Best With: American cuisine, spicy food, light seafood, salads, sushi, roast chicken, brie

Why? When pairing with pale lagers, you want to either choose a dish that’s either rich and bold, or nice and light. Bold dishes, like spicy food, American food, or herby chicken, pair nicely with pale lagers because they are crisp and light, allowing for a nice palate-cleansing contrast. The lightness in this beer also pairs well with lighter meals like fish or citrus for a more complementary approach. 

Try This: Herb-crusted salmon with lemon

Dark Lagers

Such As: Amber lager, Oktoberfest, Schwarzbier, Vienna lager

Flavor Profiles: Amber or dark in color with prevalent flavors of rich, smooth sweetness, subtle malt and hops, and a pleasant, slightly sweet aroma. Some variations, like Oktoberfest and Guinness, might even boast toasty notes of coffee, chocolate, or spice. 

Pairs Best With: German cuisine, spicy food, red meat, Mexican food, muenster cheese 

Why? Dark lagers and German food go hand-in-hand. Further, the complex, rich, slightly spiced quality of a dark lager lends itself nicely to the flavor profiles of spicy food, Mexican cuisine, and hearty red meat dishes. 

Try This: Bratwurst and sauerkraut

Bocks

bock-beer

Serious Eats

Such As: Traditional, Doppelbock, Weizenbock, Maibock

Flavor Profiles: Bocks start to enter slightly higher alcohol content. Traditional and Doppelbocks are full-bodied, darker lagers, whereas Weizenbock and Maibock are on the paler side and present notes of fruit, malt, and wheat. 

Pairs Best With: German cuisine, red meat, shellfish (Maibock), Camembert cheese

Why? The old saying for wine and food pairings goes, “if it grows together, it goes together.” The same can be said for beer. If you haven’t noticed, a lot of beers in the last few examples have German/European roots, and German food pairs exceptionally well in this arena. German bocks, therefore, pair fantastically with a plate of sausages, spaetzel, or Bavarian pretzels. The rich, dark, malty flavor profile of Bocks also play well with rich meats, like ham, pork, and beef. Finally, for a nice touch of contrast, a light cheese like Camembert is amplified by the dark, malty flavor of a Bock. 

Try This: Camembert and crackers

Brown Ales

burger-and-brow-ale

7 Monks Taproom

Such As: American brown ale, English brown ale

Flavor Profiles: Unlike lagers, in which the fermented yeast settles at the bottom, the yeast used in ales ferments throughout the liquid and settles at the top. This suggests the yeast’s higher tolerance to alcohol. Most brown ales are relatively dark, smooth beers with a caramel-y color, sweet aroma, and a full-bodied flavor profile. 

Pairs Best With: American cuisine, heavy meat-based dishes like stew and corned beef, gouda cheese 

Why? The dark, full-bodied profile of brown ales needs to be paired with dishes that can stand up to their complexity. Stews and red meat dishes are on the same playing field as brown ales and will enhance each other’s rich flavors nicely. 

Try This: Roast pork

Pale Ales

blonde-ale-and-tacos

The Taco Trail

Such As: Amber ale, American pale ale, blonde

Flavor Profiles: Pale ales are light and golden in color. They often possess either a notable hoppy or bitter flavor and are usually on the lower end of the alcohol content spectrum. 

Pairs Best With: American cuisine, English cuisine, and fried foods 

Why? American and English beers pair nicely with the foods of their respective motherlands if you will. And, the richness of fried food is nicely offset by the refreshing, slightly bitter quality of a pale ale. 

Try This: Burger and fries

India Pale Ales

IPA-beer-and-food

Such As: American IPA, imperial/double IPA, English IPA

Flavor Profiles: American and Imperial IPAs feature a strong, pronounced hoppy flavor, complemented by herbal or citrusy notes. Bitterness is a key profile for an IPA. However, English IPAs are often milder in bitterness and alcohol content than American IPAs.

Pairs Best With: American cuisine, Indian cuisine, gorgonzola cheese, sweet, rich desserts

Why? It is said that IPAs pair well with Indian food because they can stand up to the depth and complexity found in that kind of cuisine. Additionally, and which might come as a surprise to you, IPAs also pair well with rich, sweet desserts like cake or pie. The thick, rich taste of a sweet dessert helps take the edge off of the bitterness of an IPA, leaving you with a well-rounded flavor experience. 

Try This: Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting 

Porters

tofurkey-and-porter

Thom O’Hearn

Such As: American imperial porter, English brown porter, robust porter

Flavor Profiles: Porters are a rich, chocolatey brown in color and malty in sweetness. The alcohol content can vary, but most porters feature a flavor profile along the lines of caramel, coffee, or chocolate.

Pairs Best With: American cuisine, English cuisine, heavy dishes (roasts, BBQ, smoked meats, stews, and cream-based meals), chocolate, peanut butter, and fontina cheese.

Why? Porter demands a food pairing that is robust and can stand up it in terms of flavor. Anything less distinctive would simply get washed out and seem unpalatable when paired with a porter. 

Try This: BBQ ribs

Stouts

stout-and-food

Michael Warth

Such As: American stout, imperial stout, oatmeal stout, milk stout, Irish dry stout

Flavor Profiles: Stouts are very dark in color, and possess a strong malted flavor, sans hops. Some stouts give off a strong taste and smell of chocolate or coffee. Oatmeal stouts and milk stouts are distinctively sweet and smooth, thanks to the use of actual oatmeal and lactose sugar. Finally, Irish stouts are smooth, yet bitter, thanks to the addition of roasted barley. 

Pairs Best With: Heavy dishes, oysters, Mexican cuisine, beef, and aged cheeses.

Why? Bold, dark beers require strong, rich food pairings. The fat and flavor in heavy dishes and things like oysters and cheese stand up well to stouts, without overpowering them. 

Try This: Beef stew

Belgian

belgian-beer-food

Jocelyn Jiang Photography

Such As: Belgian pale ale, Dubbel, Tripel, Quadrupel, Belgian strong dark ale, saison

Flavor Profiles: Belgian style beers are fairly rich and malty. They are on the higher end of the alcohol spectrum and usually offer complex, fruity and earthy flavors. Some Belgian style beers are slightly more hoppy and bitter, like Tripels and Saisons. 

Pairs Best With: American cuisine, poultry, pasta dishes, BBQ, pesto, spicy foods, and tangy 

Why? Rich, herby dishes paired with a carbonated, slightly bitter Belgian style beer offer a nice palate-cleansing contrast. The high-alcohol content and carbonation of a Belgian style beer tackles rich dishes without overwhelming your taste buds. Belgian style beers also go well with spicy foods, but only if they’re on the lower end of the alcohol spectrum (thing 7% and less).

Try This: Pesto pizza with shrimp

Wheat

wheat-beer-and-salmon

Such As: American pale wheat, witbier, Berliner Weisse, Dunkelweizen, Hefeweizen

Flavor Profiles: Wheat beers are often light in color, with a light, sometimes fruity taste. Some wheat beers, like the Berliner Weisse, are slightly sour, too. 

Pairs Best With: German cuisine, Mexican cuisine, seafood, poultry, vinegar, salads, and soft cheeses.

Why? Most wheat beers pair well with salads, poultry, and seafood because they’re light, fruity, and refreshing. German wheat beers have a slight banana/lemon flavor to them and are light yet full-bodied enough to stand up to German and Mexican cuisine quite nicely. 

Try This: Salad with vinaigrette

Lambics + Sours

beer-with-salad

Real Simple

Such As: American sours, Belgian lambics, Flanders red ale, Belgian Gueuze

Flavor Profiles: Sours are made through ‘spontaneous fermentation,’ or rather when beer is exposed to wild bacteria and yeast. Sours, while not easy to make, are amazing canvases for experimenting with flavor and degrees of sourness. They can range from slightly sour to intensely punchy, and will often feature fruity or floral notes. Additionally, sours can range from being mild in alcohol to extremely strong. 

Pairs Best With: Fruit, salads, and strong cheeses.

Why? Sours and lambics are best paired with light, fruity dishes, like salads or fruit. Alternatively, for a stark contrast, you could pair a sour with a strong cheese to offset one another. 

Try This: Fruit tart

Barleywine

barleywine-beer-and-cheese

Serious Eats

Such As: American barleywine, English barleywine

Flavor Profiles: Barleywines, though definitely not wine, offer a distinctive strength and complexity, both in terms of flavor and sheer alcohol content. Barleywines possess a high level of malt and sweetness, with a strong dose of hops to keep things balanced. American barleywine is on the hoppier side of the spectrum, whereas English barleywine is a bit more mellow. Most barleywines will feature flavor notes like caramel, molasses, and toffee. 

Pairs Best With: Rich desserts, Stilton cheese.

Why? The most classic pairing for barleywine is Stilton cheese. The pungent flavor of the cheese stands up well to the alcoholic twinge of barleywine without being overbearing. Sweet, rich desserts also work to take the edge off barleywine, which can sometimes be overwhelming by itself. 

Try This: Creme brulee

Final Notes

brewing-beer-spout

Trillium Brewing Company

If this is all a little overwhelming for you, here are some parting rules to help guide your food and beer pairing exploits: 

  • If it grows together, it goes together (Thinking of sipping on a Weizenbock? Grab a bratwurst. Are you more of an IPA kind of guy? Go for the cheeseburger). 
  • The higher the alcohol content, the more rich, and less spicy your meal should be. If you were to pair a high alcohol beer with a spicy meal, heat amplifies heat, and your palate wouldn’t be able to catch a break. 
  • When in doubt, aim to complement. Light beers with light foods, rich beers with rich foods, and so on.

shoe guide

The Ultimate Men’s Dress Shoe GuideThe anatomy and style of classic men’s dress shoes.

Written by Jacob Sigala

Having a great pair of dress shoes in your closet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Even men who default to casual shoes and sneakers will eventually need to suit-up. Opportunity favors the prepared.

This guide is intended to help you make a wiser choice on your next shoe purchase. Once you understand the differences between the options available, you will be half-way to looking your best at any event, interview, meeting, or date that requires a formal shoe.

Take the quiz: What shoes should you wear with your outfit? 

Deconstructing the Dress Shoe

vamp, upper, sole, quarters, facing, toe, heel

In order to understand a particular style, you should first understand the components that make up a dress shoe. Working from front to back, a dress shoe is divided into four parts: toevampfacing, and quarter. It is the placement and construction of these pieces that help give a dress shoe its individuality.

TYPE OF DRESS SHOES

The Oxford

The Ultimate Guide to Dress Shoes: Oxford Balmoral

The Oxford is the most basic and timeless of the dress shoes, and a great starting point if you’re looking for a classic staple. They are a versatile option that can be dressed up with formal wear or down for a more casual arena. Gaining its name from its history at Oxford University, oxfords were a newer version of the popular Oxonians that were popular at the university circa 1800. This half-boot style was — at century’s turn – judged outdated, and students began looking for an alternative style. The oxford shoe was the fulfillment of longings for something modern.

The shoe is characterized by its facing being stitched under the vamp. This is called “closed lacing.” The facing’s placement provides a slim silhouette that hugs the foot’s contour.  It is on account of its minimalism (and ability to go with just about everything) that the Oxford enjoys its popularity. For general everyday wear, there are many colors from which to choose, in both leather and suede. For business attire, dark brown, cordovan, English tan, and black leather are your safest choices. If you’ll be pairing them with a tuxedo or other formal wear, black patent leather is your best bet.

The One Piece Oxford is a variation on the classic oxford, constructed of a single piece of leather rather than various pieces sewn together. This style has only one seam connecting the piece of leather to the back of the shoe while maintaining the original oxford shape and signature “closed lacing.” The limited stitching gives a sleek and sophisticated look that adds to the shoe’s simple, no-nonsense style.

Take the quiz: What shoes should you wear with your outfit? 

The Derby

The Ultimate Guide to Dress Shoes: Derby, Blucher

The Derby shoe, also known as the Gibson or the blucher, was originally intended as a sporting and hunting boot circa the 1850’s. At the turn of the 20th century, Derbies became accepted as appropriate footwear for the town. Derbies are often miscategorized as oxfords, as their shape is very similar and their differences are very slight. Though not obvious upon first glance, the difference lies in the placing of the face. The Derby shoe has the facing stitched on top of the vamp; with an oxford, tabs are sewn under the vamp. This construction, called “open lacing,” allows for a wider fit than is typical with an oxford. For many, this makes the Derby a more comfortable shoe. This simple detail has kept the derby reminiscent of its sporting roots, for which reason it is received as a less formal version of the Oxford.

Take the quiz: What shoes should you wear with your outfit? 

The Monk Strap

The Ultimate Guide to Dress Shoes: Monk Strap

A shoe with a monk strap is similar in shape and construction to an Oxford but in place of an eyelet closure, the monk strap has a wide swath of leather fastened across the front of the shoe. This is the “strap,” which is fastened with either a single or double-buckle closure. The shoe takes its name from the monks who originally donned them. The simple closed-toe design provided greater protection than the sandals traditionally worn by men in the orders.

How “formal” is a monk strap? All else being equal, the style itself lies somewhere between the Oxford and the derby. This classic alternative to laced dress shoes adds a certain panache to any outfit. While this has not always been the case, the monk strap is now regarded as a very versatile style of shoe style. It can be worn with cuffed jeans, or with the most dapper of suits. Monk strap attracts attention and may at times become the focal point of an ensemble. Monk strap shoes are often crafted out of leather or suede, and will sometimes decorative broguing.

Take the quiz: What shoes should you wear with your outfit? 

The Loafer

The Ultimate Guide to Dress Shoes: Loafer

The loafer is a moccasin-inspired shoe that is most recognizable for being a slip-on style. The loafer was originally intended as a casual house slipper made for King George VI of England. The loafer was neither acknowledged nor popular as a casual shoe until the King’s slippers crossed the pond. Manufacture of the loafer in the United States was underway in earnest by the 1930’s. It kept its status as a casual-only shoe until the 1960’s when American businessmen and lawyers began wearing loafers with suits. In 1966, Gucci introduced the bit loafer. This variant features a metal strap (in the shape of a horse’s bit) across the instep. Gucci’s innovation further elevated the loafer’s status as formal footwear — or at least confirmed that this was not strictly casual.

The loafer often features a saddle — a decoration that might be a plain strap, a strap with a slit (as with penny loafers), or a metal ornament. Tassels or a kiltie might hang from a saddle, while the minimalist version (the Venetian) has an exposed vamp absent embellishment or ornamentation. A signature characteristic of loafers (especially those nearer to a moccasin than a regal slipper) is an elevated seam that runs along the shoe’s toe. A very casual variant of the loafer is the driving moccasin or driving shoe. These are often made of softer materials, are less structured, and have soles and heels made to optimize wearer-comfort while driving.

Take the quiz: What shoes should you wear with your outfit? 

The Dress Boot

The Ultimate Guide to Dress Shoes: Dress Boot

dress boot is constructed like an oxford, and is very often the same shape, but with a longer shaft. This short, lace-up boot often features wingtip broguing on the toe and along its seams, typically rising over the ankle. This style traces its roots to the Victorian era when men’s footwear options were limited. The dress boot quickly became an accepted dress shoe option, appropriate for formal daywear. The place of the dress boot in menswear has remained much the same, and it is an attractive alternative to typical dress shoe styles.

When is a boot dressy enough?  It should be sleek, not too chunky, have laces thinner than those found on casual-wear boots, and should have soles which immediately distinguish the boot as a high-top dress shoe. Lug soles and commando soles will rarely be appropriate, though there are exceptions. If the boots are made of fine leather, their color doesn’t much matter so long as it compliments the suit. Unless you are an expert, assume that a suede dress boot is a contradiction (though it need not be).

Read: Essential Guide to Men’s Boots

The Chelsea Boot

The Ultimate Guide to Dress Shoes: Chelsea Boot

The Chelsea boot originated in Victorian England, reputedly with shoemaker J. Sparkes-Hall  (boot maker to the Queen Victoria). Then as now, the boots’ elastic gussets allowed for them to be pulled-on and slipped-off with ease, without compromising the refined silhouette of a laced boot. Indeed, the absence of laces contributed to their neat shape. The Chelsea boot became the practical alternative to the rigid Victorian boots of the age and quickly recommended themselves to the equestrian set. There was an uptick in sales the 1960’s when Mods took them from the paddocks to the pavements. Victorian naturalist Charles Darwin might have had a fondness for beetles, but The Beatles had a fondness for Chelsea boots. Thanks in part to blokes like them, the style remains popular today.

These boots are ankle length with rounded toes and low heels. The vamp and the quarters meet near the ankle and are joined by an elastic gusset. The Chelsea boot owes its clean, tidy look to the fact that – in dressier versions – the vamp and quarters are made from a single piece of leather. This keeps the stitching to a minimum. Classic Chelsea boots are absent decorative flourishes or embellishments. Their simplicity puts them in a class all their own: jeans get an upward lift, and traditional-style suits gain an edge.  If you purchase suede Chelsea boots, wear them only as part of a casual or smart-casual ensemble.

Take the quiz: What shoes should you wear with your outfit? 

The Chukka Boot

The Ultimate Guide to Dress Shoes: Chukka Boot

The Chukka has origins in the game of polo: it is the unit of time by which polo matches are measured. (A typical chukka is seven minutes long, and a polo match consists of four, six, or eight chukkas.)  Some have said that chukkas resemble shorter versions of the boots worn by polo players, but it is claimed also that they were intended to be a more comfortable version of polo boots that players could wear after the game — think the original Uggs and surfers.

Chukkas are ankle-length boots with two to three pairs of eyelets on each side for a lace-up closure. These eyelets allow for a snug fit around the ankle which, unlike regular boots, will not disrupt the shape of one’s trouser-bottoms. Chukka boots generally have a rounded toe, minimal stitching, and open lacing (similar to the derby). They are traditionally made of soft suede, but nowadays there are many versions from which to choose.

Chukkas are not to be confused with desert boots. Desert boots are a much more casual version of a Chukka boot and have a nearly identical shape. They are distinguished by soles that are not made of leather.

These are the least formal of the shoes we are discussing. They would not be appropriate for anything except casual attire, although pairs in high-quality leather compliment a smart-casual ensemble. Both chukkas and desert boots are exceptional.

Take the quiz: What shoes should you wear with your outfit? 

The Opera Pump

The Ultimate Guide to Dress Shoes: Opera Pump

Popular during the Victorian era, opera pumps were part of a formal evening wear ensemble. They are traditionally made of patent leather and are adorned with a grosgrain bow. Back in the day men would wear them with knee-high stockings and breeches to operas, dances, and other formal events. Though they are not as popular today, opera shoes will occasionally be seen at full-dress events, worn by fashion-conscious individuals.

Take the quiz: What shoes should you wear with your outfit? 

Dress Shoe Toe Styles

cap toe, wingtip, plain toe, medallion, apron, split toe

When making an investment in quality footwear, consider and take note of the details, because it’s all about details. As with everything relating to style, particularity about (and attention to) details enable you to bring elements of personality to your ensemble. When choosing your next pair of dress shoes, abide by the one golden rule: the toes of your shoes should be rounded, and never squared or pointy. There’s a time and place for this style of toe but we are now discussing investment in a pair of dress shoes.

Plain Toe

Plain toe shoes are as simple as it gets. The vamp is unadorned. The resulting look is clean and unassuming.

Cap Toe

A cap toe has a horizontally stitched line across the vamp of a shoe — it “caps” the toe. In most cases, this will actually be a separate piece stitched as the toe on the vamp, but sometimes the cap is accomplished by stitching. Many cap-toe shoes will be in the Oxford style, but the cap can appear on other styles too.

Split/Apron Toe

The split toe, otherwise known as the apron toe, features a seam that begins in the middle of the shoe, runs around the toe, and ends at the middle of the shoe on the other side. This toe style is more common in casual shoes.

Medallion

The medallion style has a plain toe and hints of brogue decoration at the toe.

Wingtip

This toe style has a winged cap that peaks in the middle of the toe. This toe style often features broguing in the center of the toe and along the seam of the cap.

BROGUEING

Any dress shoe style can have brogueing. Brogue simply refers to the decorative perforations in various patterns on dress shoes. Originally, the perforations were holes which were intended to allow water out of shoes: when yomping across crossing wet terrain (wet shoes being inevitable), the holes let water be squeezed out with each step. Brogueing is most often seen on Oxford, derby, and monk strap shoes, and is available in four different toe cap styles: full brogue, longwing brogue, semi-brogue, and quarter brogue.

full brogue, semi-brogue, half brogue, quarter brogue, longwing, long wing brogue

Full Brogues / Wingtips

Also known as wingtips, the wing-shaped cap extends around to the outside of the toes.

Longwing Brogues

Longwing brogues are most commonly seen on the derby shoe. The shoe’s brogued wingtip cap continues along the side of the shoe all the way to its center seam in the back.

Semi-Brogues

Semi-brogues, also known as a half brogues, feature broguing along the seam of the cap toe as well as some decorative broguing on the center of the cap toe. This is more subtle than a full brogue.

Quarter Brogues

The most reserved of the lot, the quarter brogue simply features decorative broguing along the seam of the cap toe, with no decoration on the center of the cap toe.

Take Your Pick

A signature pair of well-made dress shoes is an essential possession. Choose a well-crafted pair, and choose wisely. Ideally, your selection will express your personal style, and “fit” with the ensembles you are most likely to be wearing. You can add a little more dimension to your dress shoes through creative lacing or the addition of a colorful laces. Not every man will be able to spend a fortune on dress shoes. As you consider your budget, we recommend taking into consideration how often you will be wearing them, and where you will be most likely to be wearing them. If use is likely to be limited mainly to the occasional wedding, funeral, etc., there’s no need to break the bank. If you are most likely to be wearing your dress shoes as part of your business/professional ensemble, spend a bit more than you’d like to. If you will be wearing them regularly, we recommend spending as much as you can comfortably afford to spend, and that you consider a well-made pair of dress shoes a small investment.

Take the quiz: What shoes should you wear with your outfit? 

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The Ultimate Guide to Dress Shoes

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