Beer and seafood have a long relationship dating back to the 1500s. Back then, seafarers setting sail for the Far East in search of spice would load their ships with barrels of freshly made beer. Jam-packed with hops to preserve it and full of protein and vitamins, beer was preferred to water, which was prone to infection and contamination, making beer a necessity rather than a luxury.
The beer would wash down whatever freshly caught offerings the oceans would proffer, and thus beer and seafood’s harmonious relationship was born.
Today, seafood lovers can cast their nets far and wide in search of a suitable beer to accompany the flavours in their favourite fish.
The most commonly eaten species of seafood in the UK are cod, haddock, tuna, salmon and prawns. Those five alone present a wide breadth of flavour from the delicate, flaky white flesh of cod or haddock to the stronger, distinctive taste of tuna. Then there's a myriad of other delicious ocean offerings including scallops, oysters, sea bream, bass, trout, pollock, seabass, mackerel and crab, all of which are readily available from your local supermarket, as are the styles of beer we recommend.
Couple all that fishy choice with various cooking methods - the most popular being grilling, baking, poaching, shallow-frying and barbecuing - and the flavours on your plate move up a level. Or you could go for sushi and pair it with a lager, a staple Japanese beer and seafood match.
From simple cod and chips to the smoky notes of barbecued trout, beer can accompany seafood seamlessly, ensuring whichever fish is on your dish, there's a beer for that.
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.
BEER STYLE & SEAFOOD
|Light lagers, wheat beers and light ales|
Cod, crab, lobster, baked salmon, poached halibut and turbot, sushi
|It seems right to start with fish and chips, where cod is most commonly used. Golden ales and lagers offer citrus notes that will complement the fish and carbonation that will cut through the texture. Wheat beers have a zesty, spritzy character that makes them ideal with salmon, and their subtly sweet flavours won’t overwhelm poached fish.|
|Pale ales, bitters, German wheat beers (weissbiers) and full bodied lagers|
Mussels, prawns haddock, trout, snapper
|Moving the flavour intensity up a notch. The sweetness of mussels is completed by the fruity flavours in many pale ales and bitters. You’ll also find the sour notes in a Gueuze and German wheat beers will contrast very well. Crisp, full bodied lagers have citrus, herbal notes and palate cleansing carbonation that pairs well with prawns while also maintaining the versatility to make a great match for haddock or trout.|
|Bitters, lagers, Belgian wheat beers (witbiers)|
Crab, lobster, sea bass
|Succulent lobster served with a squeeze of lemon is complemented beautifully by citrusy witbiers. A sharp, clean and crisp Pilsner will enhance the flavour of crab but not overwhelm its freshness. It will also do a fine job of scrubbing the palate after each bite, while the floral, bittersweet character of a classic English bitter will lend itself very well to the meaty yet moderate flavours of sea bass.|
|India Pale Ale, pale ales, full bodied bitters, dark lagers|
Monkfish, tuna, mackerel, glazed salmon, scallops
|Fruity and full bodied British bitters have the sweetness and aromatics to match superbly with scallops. The caramel notes in balanced pale ales will also complement very well. Glazed salmon coated in a sweet and savoury sauce like teriyaki is well suited to an IPA, cutting through the fatty oils and texture while also enhancing the spices. The sweet fruit and caramel of a dark lager ensures it works well with tuna but won’t overwhelm the fish.|
|Stouts, Porters, dark ales, dark lagers, brown ales, black IPAs|
Oysters, smoked fish, grilled and barbecued fish
|Oysters and a porter or stout remains a classic pairing. Dry and bitter varieties are better suited than sweeter versions with the bitterness contrasting the salty, metallic and briny oysters. These beers will also serve you well with the charred and smoky character of fish prepared on the BBQ. Dark lagers complement grilled fish and their decent carbonation offers much needed palate cleansing properties.|