A Vegetarian’s Approach to Craft Beer Pairings

By Ashley Routson

Save for a few exceptions, most pairing guides and beer dinners are heavily focused on animal products—especially meat. In fact, dessert is often the only meatless course, sadly making most beer and food-related events unappealing and unapproachable to devoted vegetarian and vegan craft beer lovers.

Although it has its place in the world of beverage pairings, meat isn’t the only food worthy of pairing with beer. The spectrum of flavors and textures in vegetarian and vegan cuisine is considerably broad—making veggie dishes just as, if not more, suited for beer pairings than their meat-centric counterparts.

But don’t take my word for it.

The following meatless dishes and pairings have been collected from respected professionals in various aspects of the craft beer industry—all of whom share both a love for craft beer and an abstinence from meat in common. Try one (or all) and see for yourself how amazing, fun, and flavorful vegetarian beer pairings can be!

Grilled Portabella “Burger” | Smoked Porter

The Pro: Angelo De Ieso: Founder, BREWPUBLIC.com; Beertender, Beer Revolution

Dish: Marinated and grilled portabella mushroom on a grilled ciabatta bun, topped with caramelized onions, vegan chipotle “mayo” and mixed greens.

Recipe: Vegan Chipotle Mayonnaise via CleanGreenSimple.com

Pairing: The thick, meaty texture and juicy, sponge-like quality of portabella mushrooms make them an extremely flavorful substitute for burgers. The earthy, charred flavors of grilled portabellas are a perfect pairing for the slightly burnt, bittersweet, and roasted malt character of a porter—especially smoked versions. Caramelized onions bring out a hint of sweetness in the beer, while the smoked flavors in the chipotle mayo are a dead match for the smoked malts.

Commercial Examples

Seitan Pot Pie | Dortmunder Export

The Pro: Tracy Hurst: President, Metropolitan Brewing

Dish: Seitan sautéed in a dash of peanut oil and plenty of soy sauce, baked with veggies, under a flaky, hand-made vegan crust.

Recipe: Seitan Pot Pie via The Mighty Vegan

Pairing: A well made dortmunder features balanced malt and hop profiles. Malty, sweet flavors compliment the savory notes of the pot pie; and the crisp, dry finish provides a balance to the heavier mouthfeel of the dish.

Commercial Examples

Vegan “Hawaiian” Pizza | American Pale Ale

The Pro: Jacob McKean: Founder and CEO, Modern Times Beer

Dish: Pizza with homemade tomato sauce, pineapple, onion, vegan sausage, and a sprinkling of dairy-free “cheese”.

Recipe: Jacob’s Vegan “Hawaiian” Pizza Recipe

Make or buy pizza dough. Make tomato sauce by mashing a can of whole peeled tomatoes and simmering with garlic, smoked paprika, Italian herbs, and salt until thick. Spread sauce over stretched dough and top with slices of pineapple, vegan sausage (recommended: Smoked Tomato Field Roast), and thinly sliced raw onion. Toss a handful of dairy-free cheese (recommended: Daiya) over the whole shebang, put it in the oven at 450° for 20 minutes, then revel in the fact that you just made a ridiculously good animal-free pizza.

Pairing: The dominant flavors of the pizza are smoke, tomato and sweet pineapple. It’s a shockingly delicious combination, and you want something that’s going to cleanse your 
palate between bites. At the same time, it’s bready so you want something you can drink in quantity. A hoppy pale ale does the job perfectly, and it’s also a no-nonsense style that won’t distract from the pizza or make the whole thing seem too formal.

Commercial Examples

Fire-Roasted Corn Chowder with Sriracha | Rye IPA

Photo © Leo Gong

The Pro: Randy Clemens: Media and Communications Linchpin, Stone Brewing Co.; author of The Sriracha Cookbook and The Veggie Lover’s Sriraca Cookbook (Jul 2013)

Recipe: Randy’s Fire-Roasted Corn Chowder with Sriracha I via The Sriracha Cookbook Blog

Pairing: Combat the corn’s natural sweetness with something nice and hoppy, though I’d stay on the lighter side of the color spectrum. Rye IPAs would be rad, especially if you opt for the coconut milk in place of the cream (vegan version). The added peppery character of rye really plays well off of the flavors in either version of the recipe.

Commercial Examples

Raw “Buddha Bowl” | Saison

The Pro: Win Bassett: All About Beer Magazine; Executive Director, North Carolina Brewers Guild

Dish: A layer of raw kale, massaged with raw apple cider vinegar, topped with cauliflower rice, an assortment of seasonal raw vegetables, avocado, homemade kimchi, and homemade purple sauerkraut.

Pairing: Garrett Oliver (Brooklyn Brewery) has called the saison the “Swiss-army knife” of pairings, and this combination of vibrant raw food and a dry, lively, and slightly hoppy farmhouse ale is no exception. While the creamy head of the French-and Belgian-inspired beer complements the soft avocado that sits atop a pile of greens, the spicy and herbal character of the beer heightens the kick of the similarly fermented kimchi and kraut that crown the dish.

Commercial Examples

Spicy BBQ Seitan with Tangy Slaw | American Red Ale

The Pro: Kory Stetina: Co-Founder, LOVELIKEBEER

Dish: A Korean-style spicy BBQ sauce over a rich, filling wheat protein and a tangy non-fermented Kimchee-like slaw.

RecipeKory’s BBQ Sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 cup orange juice, 8 cloves chopped garlic, 1 bunch chopped green onions, 1/4 cup peeled and sliced ginger, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup chili paste, 1/8 cup agave nectar, 2 Tbsp black pepper.

Mix all into a pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and reduce the sauce to desired thickness, strain.

Pairing: This is a play on a dish we created for LOVELIKEBEER’s menu series with Chef Tommy Fraioli at Sea Rocket Bistro. The caramelized crunchiness of the seitan is rounded out by the caramel malt of the beer, while the spicy sauce is accentuated by the bitter hoppiness. The citrus slices and acidic slaw pick up the same floral and citrus notes in the west-coast-style hops. The result is an intense, incredibly full-flavored pairing and a super filling meal packed with protein and complexity.

Commercial Examples

Avant GardeRatatouille Nicoise
 | Biere de Garde

The Pro: Ashley V Routson: Director of Awesomeness, Bison Brewing; Founder, DrinkWithTheWench.com

Recipe: Julia Child’s Ratatouille

Pairing: Medium-bodied, with great carbonation and a dry finish, the Biere de Garde is a very food-friendly style of beer. Its low hop bitterness and slight tartness pairs perfectly with tomato-based dishes. Boasting biscuit-like, sweet malt flavors with hints of wood, barnyard and earth, the Biere de Garde is a great match for rustic, French cuisine, especially Ratatouille Nicoise.

Commercial Examples

Photo © Leo Gong and Shutterstock

Ashley Routson, known amongst the craft beer community as The Beer Wench, is a self-proclaimed craft beer evangelist and social media maven on a mission to advance the craft beer industry through education, inspiration and advocacy. She is currently the “Director of Awesomeness” at Bison Brewing in Berkeley, Calif., as well as the founding editor of DrinkWithTheWench.com, BeerMixology.com and IPADay.org.

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