Pairing beers with specific dishes can be a winner for food venues

Pints of beer alongside spicy-looking food
Pairing the right beer with the right food is a great upselling opportunity

By Dave Hunter

Time was that food and drink matching was exclusively the preserve of wine, with diners looking for the right glass to match with their meal. That’s no longer the case. 

As food has become a more important part of the mix in Scotland’s pubs and bars, so too has the ability to recommend just the right glass to pair with each course – whether that’s wine or something else. 

While wine is unlikely to be knocked off the top spot anytime soon, these days it’s not uncommon to see venues suggest a variety of pairings for their dishes – or host dedicated dinners – pairing everything from single malt to cocktails. 

And beer is also said to be a popular choice for food pairing, with the different beer styles each suited to particular types of cuisine. 

“Recommending a particular beer to accompany food on the menu is a great way to trade consumers up and keep them engaged,” said Crawford Sinclair, commercial director at Innis & Gunn, adding that the company recommends steak frites as a pairing for its Innis & Gunn Original and fish and chips for its Innis & Gunn Lager.

Steak, chips and beer
Steak Frites and a nice Innis & Gunn … I need no convincing of the logic behind this offer.

At Belhaven, food matching has been identified as an important string to the company’s marketing bow, and the team has been working with chefs to come up with the best pairings for the historic brewery’s range of beers. 

Fiona Matheson, senior brand manager at Belhaven, said: “At Belhaven Brewery, we’ve worked with several talented chefs over the years to understand how and what foods our beers pair with perfectly. 

“We’ve created lots of dishes that match with our brilliant beers, and you can’t beat a plate of fish and chips accompanied by a pint of Belhaven Best or a sticky toffee pudding with Belhaven Black. 

Belhaven Black – ideal with a sticky toffee pudding!

“Best is also ideal for adding to pies, to create that true steak and ale flavour, or to a stew to add that richness to the dish.”

With beer such a popular choice in on-trade venues, and the category boasting such a variety of styles and flavours, food pairing would seem to be a no-brainer. 

And yet John Price, head of marketing at Kingfisher Drinks, said food and beer pairing ‘is probably an under-explored opportunity for many pubs and bars’. 

“We always say to outlets that the most important thing to consider when looking for beers which make great accompaniments to food is to find credible and authentic brands which have been designed for that purpose,” said Price. 

“In fact, a recent survey revealed that 69% of beer drinkers look for drinks that were specifically crafted to partner their food. 

“In our portfolio we have brands like our Bombay Bicycle IPA, which is a perfect match for Indian food, Sagres for Portuguese food and not forgetting Ichnusa, which since 1912 has been the island of Sardinia’s leading beer and comes with a hoppy but moderately bitter taste and pairs perfectly with Italian cuisine.”

With so many products and profiles available, beer and food matching could be a tasty opportunity for Scotland’s bars and pubs.