Can I see your dessert-beer list please waiter
If a lot of people out there don’t know beers ability to partner well with food - then even more don’t know about beer and its ability to partner with sweet food.
Obviously beer comes in many assortments of flavours, colours and strengths. Amongst the obvious to buddy-up nicely with sweets are the Lambic fruit beers of Belgium. These are spontaneously fermented - meaning they don't have any yeast added - they actually use wild yeasts in the air to set off fermentation. These wild yeasts add a sourness and extra complexity to the flavours.
However, talking about sweetness here, the Lambics are often flavoured with fresh raspberries, cherries, peaches and other fruits and berries. So a happy marriage is formed between the sour and sweet in the beer - making a very tasty balance.
Some of the less-aged sweeter Lambic varieties like Mort Subite Kriek are quite delicate and sweet. In the middle, you have Lambics like Boon Kriek and on the more sour side you have varieties like Cantillon Kriek.
All of the 3 varieties mentioned are called "Kriek" after the luscious Kriek cherries grown in Belgium that are added to produce these beers. Chocolate and chocolate-based deserts are one of our favourite pairings with the Kriek beers.
A great example that demonstrates this matching potential is Boon Kriek with 80% cocoa chocolate. Very simple, but very rewarding! A general rule to try is upping the intensity of the dessert with the flavour power of the beer it's matching.
Other fantastic beer varieties to look out for when partnering with sweet food are Stouts and Porters. These beers are very dark because of their use of roasted malts. These malts, when smelt and tasted in there raw forms, are quite often akin to roasted coffee beans and even cocoa beans.
So, not surprisingly, chocolate can be a great matching partner for these beers. Again, it's a good rule-of-thumb to use more intense flavoured deserts with more intense/heavy/thicker Stouts and Porters.
Another thing to consider is that you need to think of the flavours involved and whether it might be very different to proposed food but is very complimentary. For instance, it may be a chocolate Stout, and that this chocolatey flavour inherent in this beer is appropriate with, let's say, cream flavours. Chocolate and ice cream sound good?
Be careful with things like over bitterness or over sourness mixing with a food type - so if you are unsure, try a couple beer ideas to get it just right before serving it. Maybe don’t use a 5 year old super sour cherry beer with a Crème brûlée (although it could still be worth a sample). It may not only potentially over-power the flavour of the dessert; it may have an unpleasant reaction in your mouth.
Having said that, we here at The Beer Boutique have been mesmerised by the sweet pairings we've tried where we expected it to fail - so go hard and experiment. Even think about whether a beer can be used "in" the dessert (see below picture).
Some of our favourites include: Dark Star Imperial Stout with strong/dark chocolate, Mort Subite Kriek with pannacotta, Boon Kriek with berry tart and Dark Star Espresso Stout with traditional vanilla ice cream.