Suds with Sophie: A Beer for Every Dish

St. Patrick’s Day beer pairings

When looking at pairing beer with food, there are a few simple rules to follow: location, intensity, compare and contrast. For St. Patrick’s Day food in particular, we should keep a few points in mind. 

First, although Irish food is distinctive, it does have a lot in common with English dishes. Therefore, for our purposes, any sort of English, Irish or Scottish ale will pair wonderfully with Irish food. These dishes are relatively low in intensity, so we need a beer that’s also on the lighter end. Look for light caramel notes that match the varieties of seared meat and baked items. For contrast, a light bitterness will nicely cut the greasy creaminess of many dishes without overpowering them.

I stopped by our local breweries to try some of their styles and pick my favorite at each establishment for this food-pairing fun.

First up was Sturgeon Bay’s Bridge Up Brewing Co. and its 1851 Zwickelager. This is a lighter, 5% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer modeled after a European-style lager. The 1851 is smooth and easy drinking, with a little bit of sweetness, very light bitterness and a mildly malty body. This beer and others from Bridge Up are available in cans in the taproom and at a variety of locations around the county.

The next brewery – Starboard Brewing Company – is also based in Sturgeon Bay, just across the bridge. From its current lineup, I chose its I’m on a Boat, an amber lager at 6.4% ABV that would make a great food pairing for its light, easy body and restrained bitterness. It has a little bit of sweetness, but the overall impression is dry and very similar to an American take on English-style bitter ales. Take it home in a growler or howler from Starboard’s Sturgeon Bay taproom.

Farther north in Egg Harbor is a taproom for the Madison-based One Barrel Brewing Company. For this brewery’s Irish-food-pairing selection, I surprised myself by choosing the Penguin Pale Ale: an American pale ale with an ABV of 5%. This beer is no new brew – it’s actually One Barrel’s flagship beer – but the light, sweet body and hop flavors without much bitterness won me over. The overall impression was similar to English bitter ales, but with less malt character. It’s available in bottles around the state or by the growler at the taproom.

Up the street in Egg Harbor is Shipwrecked Brew Pub. This bar and restaurant’s small brewing program makes a variety of beers, many of which are influenced by English styles. This makes most of its beers great choices for pairing with Irish food, but I especially liked the Captain’s Copper Ale. At 5.5% ABV, this American amber has an easy, slightly malty profile, with a touch of dryness that accentuates those smooth, sweet malts. The light caramel notes would pair perfectly with any seared meat or deep-fried breading. This beer and others are available by the growler inside the brewpub.

At Baileys Harbor’s Door County Brewing Co., I went with the Polka King Porter: a beer that sits at 5.3% ABV and is brewed in the style of an English porter. It has a dark color, but an overall light body with easy caramel notes. It’s available in cans at the taproom and at a few locations around the county.

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