Steak and patty pan squash sautéed in stout.

An Ale (or Lager) for Every Palate

This article originally appeared on Frontdoors.

By Chef Joshua Hebert

It’s been said that beer is the basis for modern static civilization. Not in the sense that is has a paralyzing effect on those who drink it (though it can), rather the discovery of converting barley into beer gave nomads a reason to stay put – to tend to their crops and the brewing process.

This early discovery sparked a passion and the creation of a beverage that would eventually become a staple in many cultures. With the variety available today, there’s never been a better time to be a beer drinker.

Alas, not everyone can palate beer, but if you’re looking to get into it, approach it the same way you would wine – progress from light to more full bodied. If you follow the history of beer in America, our palates have, almost by default, been trained to this natural progression.

A country of lagers
Nearly every beer out there can be traced back to an ale or lager. Of course there are some other styles that don’t fall into either of those categories, but for simplicity sake, I won’t get into those. Prior to the “beer renaissance” much of what American palates have been accustomed to was the American-style lagers, which is the style produced by most of the major beer conglomerates in our country.

Over time, ales began to hit American taste buds, which sparked the thirst for more malty, hoppy, rich flavors. Enter India Pale Ale (IPA), Imperial IPA, double IPA, Dunkel, and Bock to name a few. American-style lagers, in many regards, have served as the gateway beer.

It’s been said Deschutes noticed this same phenomenon and created their Twilight Summer Ale as an entry beer to some of their more full-bodied beers like its well-known Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter. Supposedly it worked. Those who once thought pale ale was too bitter, began to progress to the Mirror Pond.

A work in progress
If you are new to beer, take the cue from history, and Deschutes, and start with an American-style lager, then something a little more adventuresome like a hefeweizen. From there, a pale ale, then maybe an IPA, then you’ll be on your way up the beer tree advancing to new richer, heavier branches.

Of course the right pairing always makes the transition more palatable too. As some general rules of the thumb, match strength with strength and try to find similar flavor combinations. For example, hefeweizens pair well with lighter seafood dishes, pale ales with salmon, IPAs with burgers, and stout with steak, to name a few. Cheers and happy pairing.