Conventional wisdom says that accompaniment of seafood is the sole territory of white wine. We at Slow Food—along with a dozen craft beer producers who have filled the Beer Piazza at Slow Fish in Genoa this weekend—tend to disagree.
“Many fish dishes are delicately flavored, such as poached or baked fish, so you need a beer that doesn’t risk overpowering it,” says Eugenio Signoroni, editor of Slow Food’s guide to Italian beers. “In many cases, a light-flavored beer with low alcohol and mild hops would pair well.”
On the other hand, you can play on beers that have characteristics of spice. This doesn’t mean pairing spiced beers with spicy foods—on the contrary—but using a spiced beer almost to ‘dress’ a delicately flavored dish such as poached fish. In this case the beer almost plays the role of a sauce, rather than a reconfirmation of the flavors. For example, in the Beer Piazza this weekend you can find Ligurian brewer El Issor’s Cytrus, a Saison, which has fruity and peppery notes, that works perfectly with simple fish dishes.
Another option is to play on the acidity of some beers. Beer with a mild acidity such as a wheat beer, or stronger acidity such as spontaneous or mixed fermentation beers will work splendidly with fried fish, the acidity cutting through the fat. Craft brewery Kauss’s Bionda is a top example, the acidic freshness combining perfectly with Ligurian fritto misto being served up in the street food area just around the corner.
Acidic beers can also pair well with more intense flavors. Ceviche for example, the spicy South American dish of raw fish cured in citrus juices, or a sweet and sour fish dish like Veneto’s Sarde in saor could happily match the sharp acidity of some beers. Pugliese Birrificio Sveva’s Biancasveva wheat beer, flavored with orange rind and coriander matches wonderfully with the region’s traditional raw fish cuisine. “We eat a lot of raw fish in Puglia, and the citrus flavor pairs perfectly!” says brewer Vito Lisco.
Genoese beer producer Maltus Faber suggests a classic coupling of their Sweet Stout with oysters. “Oysters with stout is probably the only really traditional beer and food pairing,” says Eugenio Signoroni, the mild acidity and toasted notes of the stout complementing the sweetness and saltiness of the oyster. Maltus Faber’s Extra Brune, a high alcohol beer similar to some trappist beers, has rich aromas of caramel and chocolate with notes that recall, of all things, soy sauce, pairing perfectly with sushi!