Baltimore Beer Week: Foods that Pair with Beer

Mike Cook

Baltimore Beer Week begins on the 6th, and that means you need to start thinking about what to eat. Not only will you need some ballast for your sail through the seas of suds, you'll want to find some foods that pair appropriately with all the ales you'll be sampling.

Wine gets all the fame for pairing well with food, but that's partially because this country's favorite fizzy yellow beers don't pair well with anything. The renaissance in craft beer making and increased imports mean you can now quaff much better beers while you stuff your face.

Sausages pair perfectly with beer, and I don't mean Oscar Meyer. The robust spices in brats and Italian sausages will blow away most wines, but the carbonation in beer will help cut the fat in the sausage and the malt and hops flavor will stand up to the spices. There will be plenty of excellent sausage at Oktoberfest on the 8th at the Timonium Fairgrounds.

Barbecue is another food that cries out for beer. JD's Smokehouse has more than one Beer Week event. I like the looks of the Life and Limb party on the 13th. Along the same lines of strong, spicy foods that require heavyweight drinks to stand up to them, there's chili. You can test your neighbors' home brewing and chili concocting skills at Chilibrew IV at the Load of Fun gallery on the 14th. Anyone that shows up can judge.

A lot of the foods that are traditionally eaten with beer may be considered low-brow or common. What is more pertinent is that they have very strong flavors and high fat content, like pizza or wings. There's a pitcher and pizza night at the Wharf Rat on the 14th, and an opening tap celebration on the 6th at Rams Head Live, which is just a door or two down from the second Joe Squared locale. I like James Joyce for wings (I know, an Irish bar for wings). They've got trivia running a few times during beer week. Just try not to get wing sauce all over your answer sheet.

Certain college experiences aside, beer is not something most people drink with breakfast. That doesn't mean a hefewiezen wouldn't pair well with some eggs, or that a porter wouldn't go nicely with some sausage gravy. You can try pints and pancakes at Mahaffey's on the 9th. I'm not sure what I'd drink with pancakes, but the hops of an IPA or pale ale might cut the sweetness of syrup pretty well.

Another pint night features oysters at the Rowhouse on the 16th. Since it's prime oyster season, you ought to get out there and slurp a few down. A hoppy pilsners or a stout, though they're on separate sides of the beer spectrum, both go very well with oysters

I think beer also deserves to be paired with cheese. Cheese often gets set up with wine, but they're a dysfunctional couple, according to some. I prefer cheese and beer, and I'm not the only one. Try matching Belgian Trappist ales with the cheeses made in the same monastery if you can, but lots of good options are around. Victoria Gastro Pub has a good cheese plate and beer list to accompany it.

Victoria also has a lot of beer dinners, which are occurring all over town throughout the week, particularly at places like Alewife and Metropolitan.

A quick glance at the long list of Beer Week events makes it clear there's much more to the celebration than getting tipsy, and a much bigger role for food than just something to soak up the brews. Make sure to match your enjoyment of local and craft beers this coming week with some of the great eats offered around town too.


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