The flavor profiling system developed by Greg Engert separates beer into seven categories: crisp, hop, malt, roast, smoke, fruit and spice, and tart and funky. He has described each flavor, identified its notable styles and paired just the right foods.
But what about people who ... [gasp] ... don't like beer?
David Leite: I have to be upfront right here: I hate beer. I really do. I find it very bitter.
Greg Engert: Well, that's a challenge, because beer’s calling card for most of our history has been bitterness. Hops is what gives beer its bitterness, and the roasted flavors you find in stouts and porters will give you an intense bitter quality. There's no way around that. I think you’re going to have trouble with most beers, but there are a couple different flavor categories we might be able to sneak in under your radar. We call these transitional categories.
The one that’s probably most approachable is the fruit and spice category, dominated by Belgian-style ales, which are now made all over the globe. These beers tend to be on the sweeter side. I would recommend Cellar Door from Stillwater Artisanal Ales.
For the wine drinker, I would go with a beer called Madame Rose from Goose Island in Chicago. It tastes more like a Burgundy red wine than it does your typical beer. That’s in the tart and funky category.
DL: What food would you pair with this?
GE: A number of things. I love lamb chops with this, because it’s got that red wine quality balancing against the gamey intensity of the lamb. Rib eye steaks, rich steaks, do well. This almost sauces the dish.
DL: Is it important to drink these out of glasses?
GE: Do not drink beer directly from the can or bottle, because flavor is 99 percent aroma. You should be swirling it like you would a fine wine. You should get your nose right in there.
David Leite is the publisher of the website Leite's Culinaria, which has won two James Beard awards. He is the author Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression, as well as The New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavors from Europe's Western Coast, which won the 2010 IACP First Book/Julia Child Award. His writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Pastry Art & Design, Food Arts, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Washington Post and the Charlotte Observer. His awards include a 2008 James Beard award for Newspaper Feature Writing Without Recipes, a 2006 Bert Green Award for Food Journalism, and Association of Food Journalists awards in 2006 and 2007.