Are Beer Pairings Better Than Wine Pairings?

The guys behind this world-renowned bar think so.

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Brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø and chef Daniel Burns have a lot to celebrate. Together they helped elevate beer to a level of respect usually reserved for fine wines: Jarnit-Bjergsø through opening the critically-acclaimed Tørst bar (aptly named after the Danish word for thirst) in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood, and Burns by running Luksus, the hidden restaurant within the bar—which holds the honor of being one of the only Michelin-starred restaurants to offer beer pairings, in this case with its Scandinavian-inflected menu.

Berliner Weisse paired with a meat and cheese plate.
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Their latest milestone is the forthcoming release of their joint manifesto, Food & Beer (Phaidon), which makes the vision of both Tørst and Luksus available to beer fans everywhere. (The book is split into two sections: one covering Jarnit-Bjergsø's exhaustive beer knowledge, the other focusing on Burns's refined recipes.)

Food & Beer shatters the preconceived notion that beer is not a worthy companion for fine dining. You'll learn that Belgian strong ales make for a perfect pairing with dry-aged ribeye with pickled ramps; a fine saison is matched with a hearty, Danish rugbrød bread covered in a generous slathering of farmhouse butter; smoky pilsners are used in tandem with the smoked fish in kedgeree, a curry-tinted rice dish featuring trout, eggs, and parsley.

A look inside the discreet Luksus.
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In short, you won't find any of the dishes you've come to expect to be served with beer. Buffalo chicken wings? Not a chance. Although there is a recipe for spicy nachos—but these are nachos only a Michelin-starred chef could produce. (Burns's girlfriend, who helped develop the recipe, also happens to be Daniela Soto-Innes, the chef de cuisine at Cosme, another of New York's most exciting restaurants.)

Jarnit-Bjergsø opens Food & Beer by diving into the 10 flavors that beer and food tend to share: bitter, funky, sweet, earthy, sour, smoky, tart, spicy, fruity, and tasty. And, while you'll have to get yourself a copy to learn the nuances within each category, we asked for some standby rules of thumb to help us, and you, ace our next pairing opportunity.

A spicy beer in one of the bar's signature glasses.
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Here, Joey Pepper, Luksus' beer manager, gives us his advice. We've also got a simple recipe for radishes with sorrel dip to try at home from chef Burns. But can you guess the perfect beer for it first?

Match Flavor Intensity:

Licorice-cured trout on a thick rye bread.

If you have a delicate, raw fish course, you'll want to pair it with a beer that's light yet flavorful. A couple of good options would be a low-alcohol Berliner Weisse or a grisette [Ed note: this is a light, Belgian-style beer]. On the other side of the spectrum, if you have a wonderfully roasted piece of meat, consider a beer that can stand up to those strong and rich flavors. Depending on what else is on the plate, a rich brown ale, a strong Belgian dark ale, or even a dark sour ale could pair well.

Use Complimentary Flavors:

Roasted beets with a rich almond dip.

If there's a citrus element to the dish, a Belgian white with coriander, or a clean and fruity saison would be good options to consider.

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Surprise! Contrasting Flavors Are an Option, Too:

A Belgian beer with a side of meat pie and rhubarb crisp.
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We've done a few desserts at Luksus which have paired beautifully with bone-dry saisons that have been secondarily fermented with a yeast called Brettanomyces [Ed note: this is a strain of yeast that often produces funkier beers]. Sweet versus dry, or sweet against sour can be fun pairings to play around with.

Try Different Styles When Pairing a Course:

This is the beer you want to be drinking.

Trying a couple of extra beers in a tasting that weren't your first instinct can actually be helpful. Sure, most of the time it reinforces your first pick, but occasionally you'll find a beer that pairs magically—and you never would've thought about giving it a shot.

Don't Overthink It:

The scene at Tørst is always a good one.

If it can stand up to the flavors of the food, you can always just drink the beer you want most in that very moment! Sometimes it's less about pairing the flavors and more about what would make you the happiest.

Radishes With Sorrel Dip

Servings: 8

The Perfect Pairing: Light in terms of alcohol, but with a backbone, American-style pale ales like Evil Twin's Bikini Beer, at 2.7% ABV, are expansive enough to accommodate the range of flavors but not so assertive that they clash, says Jarnit-Bjergsø.

Meet the ideal pairing.

Ingredients

3½ ounces sorrel leaves, washed and thoroughly dried

2 cups yogurt


4½ ounces fresh goat cheese

½ cup fromage blanc

½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 bunches radishes, cleaned with nice tops on

Maldon sea salt

Celery salt

How to Make It

Combine the sorrel leaves with the yogurt in a blender and blend for 10 seconds. (Be careful: sorrel leaves, if blended too much, will discolor and take on a bitter flavor.) In a deep bowl, whisk the goat cheese with the reserved sorrel base until smooth. Fold in the fromage blanc and whisk until smooth. Season the mixture with lemon juice and salt as needed.

Cut the large radishes in half. Sprinkle with celery salt. To serve, pour the dip into a small, shallow dish alongside the radishes.

Food & Beer by Daniel Burns and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø with Joshua David Stein is out May 16 (Phaidon), $50, phaidon.com.

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