Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

A Guide To Hosting A Food & Beer Pairing Event

By Jay Brooks
Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 at 11:54 am in On Beer.

It’s time once again for Bruce Paton, better known as the Beer Chef, to share some of his culinary magic with us, this time around on the subject of hosoting your own food and beer pairing event.

Bruce Paton, the Beer Chef

Food & Beer with Bruce Paton

A Guide To Hosting A Food & Beer Pairing Event

Pairing food with beer is a wonderful way to jazz up a house party whether your having friends over to watch a game, hosting a barbecue or just showing off your cooking skills with a candle lit dinner for your in-laws. Beer can go with everything from nachos on up to steak and lobster and there are several beers available to fit any occasion. There are several ways to go about tasting beer and food ranging from tasting a variety of beers with a selection of finger foods, as one would do while viewing a sporting event all the way up to a sit down dinner with each course matched with a particular beer. So first you must decide what sort of event you are going to have and remember the whole idea is to have fun while educating yourself and your friends to the joys of beer and food.

The next and the most difficult task is choosing which beers your are going to taste. To accomplish this daunting chore you can go to your local liquor or grocery store, see what is available and pick up a couple of bottles to try out. If there is a pub in your area that carries a variety this is also an excellent option.


Here is the first secret tip. Relax (remember, this is fun), taste and pay attention. The professional beer tasters, judges and brewers have a system for tasting and it is not rocket science. First pour the beer into a clean glass and leave a little room at the top. How does it look? Then gently swirl the beer and take a healthy sniff. What do you smell? Now sip about an ounce into your mouth and swirl it around so it hits all your taste buds and then swallow. What flavors are apparent? Now take another sip, close your eyes and swallow it while thinking “What would taste good with that?” You haven’t even invited your guests over and you are already tasting beer and it gets even worse. After tasting several different beers you have to make a decision and narrow it down to the few that you want to serve to your guests (you may find that you really like all of them) and the very worst part is to get good at this tasting process you have to practice a lot. I have been doing this tasting choosing thing for the better part of fourteen years so I definitely feel your pain. Remember you are looking for flavors in the beer that will accentuate the food. A very simple example is discovering a citrus flavor in a beer and pairing with something that you know will like citrus such as fish or shellfish.

My method for a “Dinner with the Brewmaster” is to choose four beers of different styles made by that particular brewer, using the lightest beer for a reception with snacks and pairing three dishes to go with each of the remaining beers. The progression usually goes from light to dark or mild to heavy. For example I might have an Amber for the reception then move on to a Pale Ale for the appetizer, a Porter for the main course and a Barleywine for dessert. This of course is not a rule written in stone but it is a good way to start out if you are doing your first pairing. However there are a couple of good rules for a successful evening of beer entertainment. First keep the pour amounts within reason so your guests don’t have “too much fun” and are able to get home safely. Second is the basic dinner party rule of not attempting any dishes that may be beyond your culinary scope for the first time when friends are dining in your home.


So remember relax and have fun. This is not rocket science or surgery and everything is going to be just fine. Go out pick up some beer and get started.


Chef Bruce
The Beer Chef

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  • Scott B.

    Hi Bruce,
    Thanks for the monthly posts to this website. I have a question for you: why does your website ( say “The End of an Era?” Are you taking a break from beer dinners? I hope not!

  • Val

    I heard from Bruce that the Cathedral Hill Hotel is closing.

  • Carrie Oliver

    Hi, Jay,

    Tried to send you an email to but got a permanent error, address doesn’t exist. Would love to meet you and your team next time I’m home in the Bay Area as I host artisan steak tastings through my Artisan Beef Institute. It’s fun to pair different wines or beers with beef from different farms.