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The 3C's of Beer Food Pairings: What to Eat with that Juicy Ale, Crisp Lager, Or Creamy Stout!


What's a good meal without an ice cold pint to enjoy it with? When it comes to the topic of good food and beer pairings, some might say "why overthink it!?". And the truth is, they'd be right. At the end of the day, there's really no set formula and no "correct" way to pair food and beers, as it comes down to individual taste preference.

That said, if you're looking to be more explorative and conscious when choosing new flavour pairings, one of the most popular general principles of how to go about selected a beer-food combination is that of the 3C's principle. This refers to Cut, Complement and Contrast.

We'll go over what each of the 3Cs are, and how you can apply it to find a beer and food comination that anyone would be happy to toast to...

What Are the 3Cs of Beer Food Pairings?

Cut refers to a beer's ability to cut through textures and flavours of foods. Beer has the unique characteristic of offering carbonation, which gives it the ability to cleanse certain flavours from the palette. Generally, this is great when eating foods with fatty, rich or spicy flavours.

Complement refers to the act of pairing beer and foods with similar aromas and flavour notes in a way that is harmonious. For example, you want to pair intensely beers with spicy notes with spicier dishes, or a rich, creamy and chocolatey Stout with a fudgy, decadent dessert.

Contrast refers to the way certain beers and foods have opposing yet balancing flavours, creating an optimal level of contrast that elevates the flavour experience. Opposites attract: meaning you should match different flavours like sweet and sour or bitter and sweet.

How Does One Apply the 3Cs in Practice?

Some of our favorite ways to apply the 3Cs in practice are as follows:

If you’re drinking a juicy IPA… like the Archipelago Summer IPA, pairs it with spicy foods  such as sambal stingray, crayfish and squid or oilier, greasier foods like pizza. The carbonation cuts through the strong flavours and cleanses the palate between each mouthful.

If you’re drinking a crisp, delicate Lager…  like Heineken, consider pairing the beer with subtly briny, lightly refreshing seafood like salmon or oysters, as these have similar and complementary taste profiles.

If you’re drinking a creamy, thick Stout… like Guinness, make use of its rich, chocolatey, espresso notes and find a complementary dessert such as a chocolate brownies or choclate lava cake. 

If you’re drinking a sweeter, infused beer…. like the Tiger Soju Infused Lager Gutsy Grape or Cheeky Plum, pair its fruity notes with sour foods like kimchi stew or Sichuan sauerkraut fish. This will play up the contrast between the sweet and sour notes.

If you’re drinking a Sour beer like a Lambic, Gose or Fruited Sour…, dial up the contrast and enjoy it with saltier foods like cured meats or cheeses, or creamier, or make use of the tanginess in a Sour to cut through creamy cheeses or a fatty beef stew. 

This is of course by no means an exhaustive list so feel free to play around with Cut, Complement and Contrast however you'd like. If you have some holy grail food and beering pairings you've discovered for yourself over the years, be sure to share them in the comments below! 


Happy sipping!