The art and science of craft brewing has evolved from hidden monasteries in the Alps to a modern staple of the food and beverage industry. Walk into any gastropub and odds are you’ll be handed a beer menu that rivals a textbook.
The same could be said about vegetarian cuisines. Vegetarian food got a bad rap once the world started wrapping everything in bacon. Thankfully, modern cuisine has evolved to recognize that meat-free dishes often are just as delectable as meat-centric ones.
It was only a matter of time before the vegetarian chefs turned their sights on the craft beer craze and sought to find which beverages best complement certain vegetarian dishes. Craft beer, in its rich spectrum of tastes, flavors, and mouthfeels, is the perfect partner to test and pair with vegetarian dishes. John Schlimm, a cookbook author and fifth-generation family brewer, has done the legwork for us by seeking out what works with what.
While that textbook-size beer menu can be intimidating, John approaches a beer-and-food pairing with the casual attitude to drink what you love. This is also true, of course, of vegetarian dishes. If okra isn’t your thing, a wheaty Hefeweizen won’t miraculously change that. Though opting instead for the comforting and lush taste of sweet potato fries matches beautifully with the low bitterness of a Hefeweizen.
Mixing and matching is not only part of the fun of craft beer and vegetarian pairings, but also how you distinguish your own palette and preferences. Knowing the basic elements of your favorite craft beer, such as what you find sweet, smooth and malty versus strong, sharp, and hoppy, can help guide which foods will bring out different elements in your specific taste buds. What might be a subtle flavoring on your tongue will present differently to your friend. Conversely, that time you hated an IPA might be because your dinner choice was at odds with the flavor profile.
Another element to keep in mind is that craft beers aren’t limited to the main course. Knowing which of your favorite beverages pair nicely with the dessert menu not only heightens your enjoyment of the beer, but also how you justify ordering that slice of cake that will play oh-so-nicely.
Whether you want sweet or savory, hop-heavy or light, crisp and refreshing or dark and brooding, there is always a craft beer to quench your thirst. With this helpful guide, you can be confident when ordering a Pilsner with your pico de gallo or an Altbier with your rigatoni.