For much of the time since "culinary" became a word that people actually used, the focus on beverage pairings has been on fancy dishes and wine.
Not anymore. Two most welcome trends -#8212; the craft-beer boom and consumers' increasing comfort with the once-forboding world of wine -#8212; have brought us to a point where we can speculate, and of course debate, not just whether to have wine or beer with everyday foods (and Super Bowl party staples), but which type of each is best-suited for them.
So here's the lowdown from beer guy Michael Agnew and me, Bill Ward, the wine guy, on options for some of our favorite food-beverage combos.
No longer the province of the privileged, pairings put everyday food -#8212; and beer as well as wine -#8212; in play.
<strong>Beer:</strong> Burgers with the works benefit from the palate-scrubbing power of hops. A little bit of toasted or caramel malt is also good to pick up the browned crust on the meat. Try an American pale ale. It has hops and malt in spades, and the citrusy notes from the hops will complement the mustard and ketchup. Another option is a California common ale or "steam beer" such as Anchor Steam. It has a toastier malt profile and rustic, woody hops to scrape your palate clean.
<strong>Wine:</strong> The beef and bun matter less than the choice of condiments: mustard (plush merlot or malbec), ketchup (rich, peppery syrah/shiraz) or mayonnaise (buttery chardonnay, which also plays well with fatty beef). Not to mention mushrooms (pinot noir) and bacon with cheese (C?es du Rh?e red).
<strong>Beer:</strong> Vienna lager is a great choice for tomato-based pizza. Caramel maltiness counters the acidity of the sauce while subtle toasty notes pick up on the crust. It's neutral enough to work with virtually any topping you layer on. If you like a lot of cheese, go with an American amber ale. It has the caramel malt, but with extra hops to clear away all that gooey goodness.
<strong>Wine:</strong> The toppings matter, of course, but as long as it has tomato sauce, sangiovese is an easy call. Chianti Classico and other reds from Tuscany fit under the "If it grows together, it goes together" mantra, deftly dancing with the tomatoes. If you favor ham and pineapple on pizzas, you're on your own.
<strong>Beer:</strong> "If it grows together, it goes together" is what the wine people say. That works for beer, as well. A yeasty German wheat beer is the classic pairing with German sausages such as bratwurst. Light-bodied yet richly mouth-filling, it matches the brat's weight. Spicy notes from the yeast work with the seasoning of the sausage while fruity flavors offer a pleasing contrast. Effervescent carbonation clears it all away. If you don't like the banana and clove flavors of German wheat beers, try an American-style wheat ale. It has the bready wheat flavor and high carbonation without the fruit and spice.
<strong>Wine:</strong> Again, the toppings can be your guide, but brats are more strongly flavored than burgers. That means a strongly flavored red blend with ripe fruit. Some of these are referred to as "sweet reds," but they're not sugary-tasting, more in the bold vein, and usually have some major spiciness to them.