How To Host Your Own Beer Flight And Food Pairing

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How To Host Your Own Beer Flight And Food Pairing

A beer flight is, very simply, a beer tasting that gives you an opportunity to sample as many different beers in one afternoon or evening as possible. Beer flights have become so popular in recent years that many restaurants, bars, and breweries in most large and small cities host them on a consistent basis. And while there’s a lot to be said for standing around a bar and making no other effort than to drink until your heart’s content, hosting your own beer flight and small plate food pairing in the comfort of your home is a fun way to socialize and learn about various beers and the foods that complement their flavors.

Andrew Gerson, chef and head of culinary programming at Brooklyn Brewery, suggests selecting varying styles that cover beers’ full range of possibilities, which will ensure you will have something for everyone. “What I love most about these type of pairing experiences is that you really get a chance to celebrate beer’s versatility,” Gerson says. “You will begin to notice how many of these styles and flavor profiles tend to lend themselves to so many of these pairings. Each beer will bring out varying nuances, either harmonizing flavors, cutting through dishes, or creating an experience greater than the sum of its parts. Either way, making flights at home is a fun way to avoid the cold and drink in sophistication, in your pajamas.”

Plan your home beer flight using these beer flavor categories, which Gerson recommends pairing with complementary cheeses, appetizers, entrees, and even desserts. In an effort to test out these combinations, I hosted a beer flight using as many Brooklyn beers as possible (if only because they’re delicious), with a few additional beer types thrown in for good measure.

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Flavor: Crisp and Clean
Beer: Brooklyn Lager
Gerson says: “Pair Brooklyn Lager and aged cheddar cheese, Cabot clothbound two-year cheddar. Beer and cheese is a perfect match, the nutty caramelized notes of this cheese harmonize with the malt base of this Amber Lager while crisp dry hopping balances the sharp bite from the cheddar.”

My experience: A sliver of cheddar was light on the tongue and had a saltiness that complemented the crispness of Brooklyn Lager.

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Flavor: Sour, tart and funky
Beer: Brooklyn Bel Air Sour
Gerson says: “Bel Air Sour, Discreet Charm of the Framboise, or “k is for Kriek” sours and wild ales are some of the most interesting and flavorful beers. You can go with a triple crème cheese, or an oozy buttery and delicious brie. Kind of think of it as a blank canvas to allow the fruity and tart or funky notes to shine. You can go the dessert route with fruit sorbet or even a lactic tart frozen yogurt. I like seafood crudos and dry aged beef tartare with sour tart beers if you're feeling like a savory alternative.”

My experience: Holy yumness. The Sour is equal parts sweet and bitter. The brie was creamy and rich, and as a result they each seemed to be covering different taste buds. A sour beer is a must to include in your beer flight.

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Flavor: Malty and sweet
Beers: Brooklyn Brown Ale or Local 2.
Gerson says: “Play off those malty caramel notes with hard roasted vegetables — maybe make some roasted sweet potato fries with a creamy dipping sauce. Boil some wedges, cool coat them in oil, and blast in a 500-degree oven until crispy and golden. Salt liberally and enjoy. I like taking beers that seem to work with hearty meat dishes and showcase how well they lend themselves to vegetable dishes. You can always go with charcuterie here too. I Love La Quercia Tamworth prosciutto or Olympia Provisions Saucisson Sec.”

My experience: Brooklyn Brown Ale has a roasty, full-flavored taste that complemented roasted squash, zucchini, and red onion nicely. The veggies are light, while the Brown Ale is on the heavy side, so they are a well-balanced pairing.

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Flavor: Hoppy and bitter
Beer: Brooklyn Defender IPA
Gerson says: “Hop heads go nuts for IPA's but I find a nuanced balanced beer with lots of hop flavor and aroma to be my go-to when drinking IPA. IPA's tend to handle spice well, whether that's in the form of a sharp cheese or a spicy salsa and chips. I also think spicy shrimp or fish tacos with this rich West Coast-inspired juicy IPA.”

My experience: Defender paired perfectly with a spicy chicken curry plate. Each sip cooled the tongue just enough to prepare it for another bite.

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Flavor: Smooth, sweet, and bitter
Beer: Sixpoint Tesla

My experience: Wheat offsets the hoppiness of Tesla lager and the end result has a smooth finish. I tried treating it like a wheat beer and pairing it with a simple iceberg salad with olive oil dressing. To be honest, we were underwhelmed by the pairing — Tesla is delicious, but far too full-bodied for a meal with so little substance. A better alternative for your salad course would be a Hefeweizen.

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Flavor: Rich, toasted malt
Beer: Sixpoint Global Warmer (American Amber/Red Ale)

My experience: Amber/red ales go well with a variety of foods, including spicy dishes, roasted chicken, burgers, and even seafood. Sticking with a small plate theme, we opted to pair this beer with beef sliders. It's difficult to go wrong when pairing any beer with a burger, so Global Warmer certainly didn't disappoint, but the combination didn't blow us away, either.

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Flavor: Fruity and spicy
Beer: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
Gerson says: “This Farmhouse Saison loves seafood and is great with gravlax. Make a quick bite with cream cheese smeared on crostini, or tart goat cheese, lox, and pickled onions, a bit of dill. Or go wild and make seared scallops finished with a spritz of lemon. The underlying lemongrass and verbena notes allow subtle seafood notes to shine while elevating your experience with high levels of effervescence. You can't go wrong with Sorachi Ace and oysters either. Slippery sexy oysters with creamy flesh and a briny finish are incredible with our big bottles of Sorachi Ace for an experience that far outshines champagne.”

My experience: Goat cheese, crackers, and Sorachi Ace is a sensual pairing that proved to be the talk of the table for the rest of the night.

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Flavor: Dark and roasty
Beer: Black Chocolate Stout
Gerson says: “Here you can go sweet or savory. Chocolate is a way to pair like with like but for an aha moment try gorgonzola or a local creamy blue cheese for an out of body experience.”

Our experience: Unable to get our hands on Black Chocolate Stout, we instead paired Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter (Sixpoint 5Beans is another solid option) with chocolate and peanut butter cookies. The sweetness of the dessert didn’t compete with the hint of chocolate in the beer; they worked together in the same way as cake and port.

Photo by theNerdPatrol, CC BY 2.0