How to choose the right beer for food

Landlord Paul Barton of the Queen Adelaide pub with steak and beer
Landlord Paul Barton of the Queen Adelaide pub with steak and beer

CHOOSING the right wine to go with food is a familiar concept, but until now it has not been a common idea with beer, apart from perhaps the standard glass of lager with a curry.

But now an increasing number of people are finding that there is a wide choice and some complementary flavours to be found among our ales that set off a meal a treat.

Paul Barton, who has been landlord at the Queen Adelaide pub on Manor Road, Kingsthorpe, Northampton, for the past nine years, even plans his menus and beer choices with that in mind, making sure that there are ales that will complement the food on offer.

He said that his customers appreciate a good ale and with increasing emphasis on food in the pub trade more and more of them want to match up their ale and food choices.

He said: “It’s gone crazy in the last five years.

“With wine you have got red or white and ok there are different levels of body and sweetness with those but really you are playing with two types. With beer you have a whole rainbow of a spectrum of flavours, different types of malt and 20 to 30 different types of hop which you can use to change the flavours.”

So here are some of Paul’s recommendations...

Roast beef or steak dinner


Adnams Broadside 4.7 per cent ABV, which is described by Adnams as being rich in almond and conserved fruit aromas.

Greene King Abbott Ale 6.5 per cent ABV, described by its brewer as being full bodied and mature with fruit cake and toffee flavours.

Paul’s advice: “With a roast beef or a steak you need something pretty full bodied and quite complex to complement it. You have to take account of how strong the flavours are in the food and the flavour from the gravy and the roast juices. You don’t want to take away from that, you want to complement it.”



Thornbridge Jaipur IPA 5.9 per cent ABV. According to Thornbridge this is a citrus dominated India Pale Ale with honey flavours and a bitter finish.

Pilsner Urquell 4.4 per cent ABV, described by its brewers as having a honey nut flavour followed by tart citrus and warm caramel bitterness.

Paul’s advice: “You don’t want to compete against the curry so a nice, light hoppy beer is good. The hop flavours and oils increase salivation and makes you want to pick it up and take another sip.”

Italian dishes


Nobby’s Guilsborough Gold 4 per cent ABV – full-bodied with a traditional hop finish.

Nobby’s Claridges Crystal 3.6 per cent ABV which the brewer says is a summer ale with a slightly citrus hop finish.

Paul’s advice: “With dishes such as pasta, look for a lightly hopped ale with citrus flavours.”



Concrete Cow’s Cloven Hoof 4.5 per cent ABV. The Milton Keynes-based brewery describes it as having a stout flavour with a “sweeter twist”. it is made with natural vanilla pods, roasted barley and dark malts.

Great Oakley Brewery’s Abbey Stout 5 per cent ABV is described by the Tiffield-based brewery as being a dark rich stout.

Paul’s advice: “With dessert go for chocolate and cherry flavours rather than citrus. We have done tastings with these beers and dark chocolate and it really works well.”


Great Oakley Brewery’s Tailshaker 5 per cent ABV which the brewery describes as a full bodied golden ale with a floral hop finish.

Fuller’s ESB 5.5 per cent ABV in cask, 5.9 per cent ABV in bottle is described by Fuller’s as bursting with cherry and orange balanced by soft malty toffee and caramel notes.

Paul’s advice: “These are quite strong heavily malted and you have a residual sweetness in there that cuts through a mature Cheddar taste.”