Chipotle aioli on fish tacos, searing spices on ribs … It’s easy enough to reach for a cold one, but which beer works best with these foods? And what’s the wine lover to do?
We chose five favorite Sunset recipes and asked a beer and a wine expert to pick the ideal drink for each--and give additional tips on what to pair with popular types of summer foods. Self-described “publican” Sarah Pederson—who says a great beer and cheese pairing has been knownto make her “feel like turning on the Clash and setting off some fireworks”—owns Portland’s Saraveza craft beer shop and tavern. And Brandon Tebbe, a Master Sommelier, still craves thought-provoking reds (and a flavor challenge like this one) even after a long day guiding wine fans to exciting bottles for Synergy Fine Wines in Denver. Use their spot-on pairings to drink outside your beverage box this summer.
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Baja Fried-Fish Tacos
Best beer: Nectar Ales “Nectar IPA.” “The citrusy hops make the tartar sauce pop,” Pederson says. “And the light malt flavor gives the fish a hug, instead of overpowering it.”
Best wine: Pacific Rim 2011 Wallula Vineyard Biodynamic Riesling (Horse Heaven Hills; $24). Tebbe’s take: “It refreshes your palate after every bite with notes of lemon-lime.”
Follow our experts’ principles to make your own terrific matches.
Sarah Pederson: A fatty piece of meat stands up to high-alcohol beers. If your meat is smoked, go for a malt-based one like a porter.
Brandon Tebbe: Tannins break down the fat in meat and vice versa, so put a wine with hefty tannins, like a Cabernet, with a well-marbled rib-eye.
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Thomas J. Story
Pairing tips for seafood
SP: Citrusy hops in beer do good things for seafood and the fresh herbs we tend to cook our fish with. But if it’s salmon on the grill, make it a malty altbier.
BT: Put light, crisp wines like Sauvignon Blanc with lighter, flakier fish and delicate shellfish like oysters; fuller-bodied, richer whites (Chardonnay) with fleshier fish and shellfish (lobster); light reds like Pinot Noir with meaty tuna, salmon, and swordfish; and bubbles with raw fish—they refresh your palate after every bite of crudo or sushi.
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Pairing tips for fried foods
SP: Hops do the trick. A beer with a generous citrusy, bitter kick from West Coast hops gives your palate a lift between bites.
BT: Acidity is the key. It cleanses the palate for the next bite. Try Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, dry rosé, or bubbles.
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Pairing tips for spicy food
SP: Hoppy beers are great. But with really hot stuff, it’s nice to have some malt.
BT: Avoid high-octane wines. The alcohol and heat accentuate each other. Go for lower-alcohol wines with generous fruit.
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Pairing tips for dessert
SP: Chocolate and stout … yum.
BT: Make sure your wine is sweeter than your dessert.