Beer Sommelier Greg Engert
Birch & Barley
1337 14th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 567-2576

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  • Greg Engert

    Rising Star Beer Sommelier Greg Engert of Birch & Barley and ChurchKey – Washington, DC

    Beer Tips for the Sommelier


    1.     When pairing beer with food, it is imperative that one serves the brew with as much care as the chef has demonstrated with the preparation of the dish. The beer must be served at the proper temperature and in the glass that will best accentuate the brew's flavors. Lighter brews should be well chilled and served in narrow vessels to maintain the effervescence that is pertinent for their flavor impact, while heavier, more complex brews must be served at higher temperatures and in wider-mouthed glasses to both encourage, and deliver, the heightened aromatic effect. Only after flavors have properly developed in the glass and on the plate can true efforts at pairing begin.

    2.     Beware of hops. Hoppy beers are delicious on their own, offering an array of aromas as well as a refreshingly dry, bitter finish. While one may be tempted to pair the aromas of such beers with a dish's flavors, all too often the bitterness will overwhelm the dish. As with tannic wines, hoppy brews should be reserved for only the richest of foods; this richness will mellow the intensity of bitterness and vice-versa.

    3.     Pay attention to the malt profile of the brew. I always talk about how brewing is so much like cooking, and the malt-effect is the most obvious link. As grains are malted, they are cooked to various degrees of intensity, and once employed for brewing can yield an array of flavors similarly pronounced through a chef's cookery—toasty, caramelized, roasty, and even grilled. Pairing beers and foods that have been cooked in a similar fashion is a rewarding way to approach beer and food pairing.

    4.    Belgian-style brews are flat out amazing with food. Generally speaking, the beers of Belgium are always excellent choices with most dishes. Why? First, they tend to have very little bitterness. Secondly, they show an array of malt profiles, so one can find a Belgian brew to reflect all sorts of cooking techniques. Third, and most importantly, their flavors are largely yeast-driven. The fermentation flavors of fruit, herb and spice are tantalizing in even the lightest and cleanest of the brews. So when pairing, one can match malt flavors and overall impact—whether the food is delicate or rich—while always having a host of aromatics to utilize in the pairing.