Chefs and sommeliers alike use one to enhance the other, turning to an intense merlot to bolster the beefiness of a ribeye or a crisp sauvignon blanc to match the subtle sweetness of a fillet of sole. But beer and food? Absolutely, says a chorus of America’s best chefs and brewmasters. “Good food can make good beer taste better, and vice versa,” says Aviram Turgeman, a cicerone (like a sommelier of beer) at Cafe D’Alsace in New York City. But like wine and food pairings, it’s not always obvious to the average Joe which will best complement the other. And when you’re trying to lose weight and decide to indulge in a delicious cheat meal, you really want to get it right. This ensures every single calorie is savored–and shouldn’t that always be the case?
To lend you a helping hand, we’ve asked Turgeman to share his intel. Here, he reveals the tastiest food and beer pairing out there along with some specific brand suggestions, too! And to make you feel better about indulging, we’ve also included some of the brews’ health benefits. Consider this your ultimate brewski pairing guide:
PILSNER + LAGER
Turgeman likes: Jever Pilsener, Stella Artois and Kronenbourg 1664
Pairs well with: Pizza and mackerel
Why it works: A crisp, dry brew with balanced hops can hold its own against strong pizza seasonings and oily fish. Plus, hops scrub your tastebuds between bites, enhancing the flavors of your drink and meal.
Health bonus: When steak was soaked in pilsner for six hours before grilling, a carcinogen in the meat was reduced by as much as 88 percent, according to a Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study.
Turgeman likes: Fischer Amber, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale
Pairs well with: Burgers, chicken and lamb
Why it works: “Strong flavors overwhelm light beers,” says Turgeman. That’s why you need a complex, heavier brew to handle this hearty fare.
Health bonus: Research shows that hops in a beer like an amber ale may help lower cholesterol and prevent blood clotting.
Turgeman likes: Saison Dupont, La Choulette Blonde and Castelain Blond
Pairs well with: Sausage and roast pork
Why it works: European beers + European food = great pairing. This lesson holds true for other cuisines, too. Enjoy an Asian beer with sushi, a Mexican cerveza with tacos and so on.
Health bonus: The barley used in ale’s brewing process contains cancer-fighting flavonoids.
Turgeman likes: Gruut Belgian Wit Beer, Hoegaarden and Blue Moon
Pairs well with: Eggs and green salad
Why it works: Light, citrus-filled wheat beers make food taste fresher and cut through the richness
of yolks or hollandaise sauce.
Health bonus: Compounds in wheat beers may lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, according to Austrian researchers.
TRAPPIST + ABBEY
Turgeman likes: Chimay Red, Leffe Blonde and Goose Island Matilda
Pairs well with: Cheese and salmon
Why it works: The yeasty undertones and slight sweetness of Trappist beers pair well with the charred flavors of smoked or grilled meats and pungent cheeses.
Health bonus: Brewer’s yeast is rich in protein, B vitamins and minerals, but it rests on the bottom in Trappist beer bottles. Pour your beer into a glass and swirl it around before sipping to reap the health-boosting benefits.
STOUT + PORTER + FLAVORED LAMBICS
Turgeman likes: Kriek Lambic, Smuttynose Robust Porter and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
Pairs well with: Chocolate and fruit
Why it works: “Experiment with sweet beers,” Turgeman says. “You can make great combinations.” To cap off a dinner date, pair chocolate with cherry lambic.
Health bonus: The black-cherry juice in cherry lambics is higher in disease-fighting antioxidants than cranberry and orange juice, according to UCLA researchers.