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Beer Pairings in the West

Beer, like wine, pairs expertly with food. Try these combinations in California, Oregon, and Idaho.

Ale and steak at Woodsman Tavern, Portland, Ore., image
Photo caption
Ale greets steak at Woodsman Tavern in Portland, Ore.

What to serve with fish? With beef? As craft beers multiply, they’re earning the kind of attention paid to wine. “A brewer can create a range of flavors that are very food friendly,” says Mike Reis, codirector of the beer program at the Abbot’s Cellar in San Francisco. It’s a heady trend around the West.

  • Diners who order the daily four-course tasting menu at the Abbot’s Cellar in San Francisco’s blossoming Mission District receive tips for pairing the dishes with particular beers. Even for items ordered à la carte, servers have ideas to share. They have to, considering that the place offers 130 beers, including bottled brands poured by the glass. (415) 626-8700,
  • In Boise, Bier:Thirty Bottle & Bistro co-owner Chris Oates likes India pale ale with a sandwich of shaved rib eye with arugula chimichurri and horseradish Havarti. “The vinegar’s acidity, the arugula’s pepperiness, and the cilantro’s floral notes blend with the hops,” he says. (208) 342-1916,
  • At Portland’s EastBurn, brews inspire dishes at casual, monthly beer dinners that chef Joe Dougherty likens to “a backyard barbecue where the brewer showed up and brought his beer.” Other inspirations? Ground rabbit and pistachio meat loaf with a lightly bitter pale ale. (503) 236-2876,
  • “Keep an open mind,” says Ryan Dehn, dining room manager and beer director at Raven & Rose in Portland. “There is always room for experimentation.” His suggestion: Put a bold, dark Belgian quadrupel together with beef short ribs. (503) 222-7673,
  • To match the Woodsman Tavern’s roasted trout in crazy water—broth seasoned with Calabrian chiles and Mediterranean herbs—beverage director Evan Zimmerman favors a Reissdorf Kölsch. Its faint bitterness “accentuates the dish while letting the trout’s delicate flavors shine,” he says. (971) 373-8264,

Photography by Robbie McClaran


This article was first published in July 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.