Beer and dessert are great friends. Malt provides sweetness and flavours including bread, toffee, caramel, chocolate, vanilla and coffee. Then there’s yeast, another key ingredient in beer, that can impart flavours such as raisin, plum, apple, peach and pear; all welcome flavours in lots of desserts. And beer has carbonation, which cleanses the palate after each bite leaving the mouth ready for more dessert. These characteristics of beer ensure there’s no other alcoholic drink better suited to desserts

The Three C’s

So, how do you know which beer to pair to with a given food? The key is in the “Three C’s”: complement, cut and contrast. Learn more about these principles here.


Considerations when pairing beer and dessert:

Sweetness

The first thing to consider when pairing a beer with your favourite sweet treat is the amount of sugar in your dessert. This will affect how the accompanying beer tastes. If the dessert is very sweet and sugary they can taste dry and the flavour elements usually balanced by the sweetness from the malt in the beer (bitterness, alcohol and acidity) become more pronounced and can ruin a pairing, so try to ensure the beer you choose is as sweet or sweeter than the dessert you’re pairing it with.

Intensity

In addition to the Three C’s, another good rule to follow when matching beer and food is to pair the intensity of the beer to the intensity of the dessert. The chocolate and coffee notes of porters and stouts are heaven sent with chocolate desserts. A wheat beer and a banana split sit very comfortably together, with the creamy body of the beer melding perfectly with the creaminess of the dessert and the distinct banana notes of the beer complementing the banana in the dessert. Or the sweet and sour of a cherry beer such as a kriek will contrast the sweetness of a dark chocolate mousse, with some flavours coming to the fore that are greater than the sum of their parts.

beer style and dessert

Tasting notes

Beer pairing

Stouts, porters, Belgian ales, brown ales

Chocolate based desserts

Brown ales bring a welcome nutty element to chocolate desserts, while Belgian ales can o er a dark fruit, syrupy character.

• Marston’s Oyster Stout
• Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
• Fuller’s London Porter
• Grimbergen
• Camden Ink
• Westmalle Dubbel
Fruit beer/kriek, wheat beers, English bitters, abbey beers, porters and stouts

Fruit based desserts

Abbey and trappist beers abound with fruity yeasty flavours, while German wheat beers (weissbiers) have a banana and clove profile that will work well. Fruit beers are a very complementary, incredibly delicious match for fruit based desserts. Porters and stouts beautifully contrast the sweetness of an apple crumble.
• Liefmans Kriek
• Belle-Vue Kriek
• Cantillon
• Chimay
• Brakspear Bitter
• Blue Moon
• Meantime Raspberry Wheat
Barley wine, oak-aged beers, brown ale, strong ales

Caramel and toffee 
based desserts
Barley wines are dense and sweet, often with earthy, smoky, raisin and toffee flavours so they match perfectly. Hops are taking a backseat so let the caramel and toffee from the malt and fruity flavours from the yeast pair with these, the sweetest
of desserts.
• Fuller’s Golden Pride
• Charles Wells Sticky Toffee Dessert Ale
• Black Sheep Ale
• JW Lees Harvest Ale
• Innis & Gunn Original
• Leffe
• Affigem
IPA, strong ales, stouts and porters, fruit beers, brown ale, wheat beers, oak-aged beers

Cream based and whipped desserts
Wheat beers will complement these well. Tiramisu on the other hand, with its chocolate, sponge and coffee requires a bigger beer, so a porter or stout fits the bill. The latter will also add some chocolate notes to cheesecake, whereas a brown ale will o er
a nuttiness.
• Worthington’s White Shield
• Thornbridge Jaipur
• Titanic Plum Porter
• Lindemans Kriek
• Amoor
• Innis & Gunn Rum Cask
• Sharp’s Wolf Rock
• Franciscan Well Friar Weisse
Barley wine, stout and porter, fruit beer, pale ale, strong ales

Cakes

A kriek will perfectly complement a Black Forest Gateau, finding sour cherries in both with the beer also contrasting the chocolate. With a rich fruit cake the big flavours of a barley wine have the depth to deal with the cake’s heaviness. A coffee and walnut cake will be complemented by coffee notes of a porter, while a lighter cake such as lemon polenta would benefit from the citrus notes of a blonde or golden ale.
• Robinsons Old Tom
• Purity Longhorn
• Sam Smith’s Raspberry Fruit Beer
• Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout
• Dark Star Imperial Stout
• Timothy Taylor’s Landlord
• Adnams Spindrift
• Fuller’s Brewer’s Reserve


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