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.