The “I Don’t Cook” Guide to Beer Pairings

A good food and beer pairing can be a wonderful experience.

On one end of the spectrum, you’ll see a lot of beer pairings for foods such as mussels, gruyere cheese and Belgian endive salad. These are all well and good, but mussels take some effort, and Belgian endive salad requires having Belgian endive on hand.

Sometimes you just have to open a bag or pop something in the microwave. For the culinary slacker in all of us, there are still plenty of good pairing options.

For example…

Frozen Bean & Cheese Burrito: Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel

Ayinger and Burrito

A staple of any lazy cook’s kitchen, the frozen bean and cheese burrito calls for a malt-forward, medium-bodied beer.

Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel, a classic German dark lager, is a perfect accompaniment. There are plenty of aromas and flavors on hand here: toffee, caramel and coffee, to name just a few. The usage of Munich malt also imparts a bready character that adds an extra layer to the overall goodness of your bean and cheese burrito.

(Alternative: A brown porter, such as Samuel Smith Taddy Porter, is another dark, medium-bodied beer that will highlight the fine bean and cheese flavors.)

Leftover General Gao’s Chicken: Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca

Calabaza Blanca and General Gaos

While the merits of reheating many foods are up for debate, there is little question that Chinese food is one of the best microwaveable options out there.

General Gao’s chicken starts with some tangy sweetness before giving way to a pleasantly spicy finish. A complex leftover demands a complex beer, such as Jolly Pumpkin’s Calabaza Blanca.

A witbier aged in oak casks (as are all of Jolly Pumpkin’s beers), Calabaza Blanca has a refreshing tartness and plays off the General’s various traits brilliantly. The coriander lends additional depth to the spice of the chicken; the beer’s citrusy notes do the same for Gao’s tanginess.

(Alternative: We’ve always enjoyed brown ale – particularly one with a mild sweetness, like Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar – with our Chinese food.)

Cold Pepperoni Pizza: Tripel Karmeliet

Tripel Karmeliet and Pepperoni Pizza

We’ve all had that party where we order too much pizza, or our friends are too conscious of how they’ll be perceived if they eat six slices in one go like they normally would at home. Now, you’re left with some leftover pizza in the fridge for tomorrow.

Since microwaving leftover pizza is an abomination, it’s time to just eat it cold. But what beer to pair with it?

Tripel Karmeliet is a wonderful complement. Its full body and subtle spice notes will play off the pepperoni beautifully. And, while complex, it won’t take anything away from the experience of cold, delicious pizza.

(Alternative: Pale Ales and pizza of any temperature are a guaranteed hit. Try Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale or another hop-forward American Pale.)

Entire Bag of Potato Chips: Sierra Nevada Nooner Pilsner

Nooner-Chips

It’s 3 p.m. on a lazy Saturday afternoon and you’re looking for a snack to hold you over until dinner. That bag of chips calls to you. ‘I’ll just have a handful,’ you say to yourself.

We know how that goes.

If you’re going to down an entire bag of potato chips, you’ll want a beer that’s not too heavy, but still has enough character to balance that salty goodness.

Sierra Nevada’s Nooner, a recent addition to the California brewery’s stable of world-class beers, fits the bill. A German-style pilsner with a notable, spicy hop bite and clean finish, it will leave you wanting more.

Sorta like that bag of chips.

(Alternative: A good hefeweizen, such as Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier.)

Microwave Mac & Cheese: Boulevard Tank 7

Tank 7 and Mac & Cheese

Ahh, the classic. Few among us haven’t craved the gooey goodness of microwave mac & cheese. A true “I don’t cook” treat demands an equally great beer.

Boulevard Tank 7 is one of the finest American-made farmhouse ales out there. Lemon-like citrus notes and a moderate hop profile lead to a nice, dry finish with hints of pepper that marry quite well with mac and cheese.

The substantive body of Tank 7 will stand up to the creamy cheese, but won’t overpower the soft macaroni.

(Alternative: A big IPA with a resinous character – such as Lagunitas Hop Stoopid – to cut through the thickness of the mac and cheese and can provide a completely different, but equally tasty, beer/food sensation.)

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