My colleagues in the beer and wine business assure me that pairing beer, not just wine, with food presents no difficulties.

Photography by Janet Warlick :: Styled by Muriel H. Wilkins


In fact, Dylan Yelenich of Lost Forty put it succinctly: “All beer is good with all food.” Building on that, Matt Beachboard of Diamond Bear said, “The trick with beer pairing is deciding if you want the food and beer to complement each other or to contrast with each other.” And, certified sommelier Jonathan Looney’s “beer rule” is that any food that pairs with champagne pairs with beer, and vice versa.

I was inspired to write about this topic while eating Afghan food at Sameem Afghan Restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri. My companion and I had stopped to pick up a selection of craft beer (and there are many choices in St. Louis), opting to open one with our dinner. The food — lightly spiced with cinnamon — was delicious, and the cold beer a perfect foil for the heat. Also, I was intrigued by Evan Rail’s essay “Why Beer Matters,” in which he writes that while wine is ephemeral – these grapes and this bottle of wine will never come again – beer is created from a recipe. Providing that you can obtain the ingredients, you can replicate old, and new, beers. As a bartender at Urban Chestnut Brewery told me, “…This beer is created from the recipe used to make the beer quaffed by Brits in India in 1875.”

Happily, interesting craft beer is widely available – on tap, in bottles and cans, by growler – throughout Arkansas now. With the surge of craft beer, and the changing and unusual flavor profiles, the natural follow-up question is:  What do I eat with this craft beer?

This month I introduce you to several entrees to pair with beer, pale ale to porter. Full flavor, deeply spiced cuisines like Thai, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, African and Middle Eastern are great matches.

Thai Curry Shrimp with Coconut Milk

(photo above)

Fortunately Thai kitchen products are widely available, so you can skip a number of steps. Thai curry paste is available in yellow (mild), red (moderate) and green (hot) varieties. We used red curry paste in the testing. We served this with corn cakes; however, rice or quinoa will suffice.



  • 3 tablespoons Thai red,
  • green or yellow curry paste
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, about ½ lime
  • Pinch of salt and pepper, if needed, to taste
  • 1 pound raw shrimp,
  • peeled and deveined
  • 4 ounces (about 8 to 10) baby bella mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 6 scallions, white and green parts sliced on the diagonal into ½-inch pieces


Heat curry paste in a small saucepan over medium heat for 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk, honey and fish sauce. Cook, stirring frequently, until reduced to about ½ cup, about 15 minutes. Reserve ¼ cup sauce for serving, put remainder in a medium bowl. Stir in lime juice, salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and scallions, stir to combine.

Heat a wok or stir fry pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat the sides. Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their moisture, about 4 minutes. Remove from the pan; set aside. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the pan; add the shrimp mixture and cook until shrimp lose their translucence and scallions soften, about 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, cook 1 minute more. Serve with reserved sauce. Yield: four servings

Suggested Beer Pairings:

  • Diamond Bear Paradise Porter
  • Saddlebock Dirty Blonde
  • Stone’s Throw Two Timing American IPA
  • Ozark IPA
  • Lost 40 Pale Ale

Asian Chicken in Lettuce Cups

Asian Chicken in Lettuce Cups

Asian Chicken in Lettuce Cups

Chop the bell pepper, mushrooms and water chestnuts into similar-sized, small pieces. Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking and be ready to serve immediately.


  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons rice wine or water
  • ½ cup plum or sour cherry jam
  • 4 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 3 ounces shitake or baby bella mushrooms, washed and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped water chestnuts
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 small iceberg or butter leaf lettuce
  • leaves for cups
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, to garnish
  • 2 teaspoons fresh mint, chopped, to garnish


Dissolve the cornstarch in the rice wine or water in a medium bowl. Add the chicken; set aside. Combine the jam, soy sauce, curry paste and sesame oil in a small bowl; set aside.

Heat a wok or stir fry pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, swirling to coat the sides. Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their moisture, about 4 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add ½ tablespoon oil and the bell pepper to the pan and stir fry for 2 minutes, remove and set aside. Add the remaining oil and the ginger and garlic, cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken mixture, and stir fry until crumbly and no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper, water chestnuts and mushrooms; stir fry until pepper is soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving bowl. Stir in cilantro and sauce. To serve, spoon chicken mixture into lettuce cups, garnish with sesame seeds and fresh mint. Fold and eat by hand. Yield: four servings

Suggested Beer Pairings:

  • Diamond Bear Presidential IPA
  • Saddlebock Amber Lager
  • Stone’s Throw Common Sense
  • Ozark American Pale Ale
  • Lost Forty Bare Bones Pilsner

Three cold beer


Central Arkansas

Lost Forty Brewing

brew year-round | seasonal beers

  • available on tap
  • growlers in the taproom
  • in area bars

Stone’s Throw Brewing

brew year-round | seasonal & rotating craft beers

  • available on tap
  • growlers in the taproom
  • in area bars
  • liquor stores
  • restaurants

Diamond Bear Brewing Co.

brew mostly year-round | some seasonal beers

  • available on tap
  • growlers in the taproom
  • in area bars
  • liquor stores
  • restaurants

Northwest Arkansas

Ozark Beer Company

brew year-round | some seasonal beers

  • available on tap
  • growlers in the taproom
  • in area restaurants and bars

Saddlebock Brewery

brew mostly year-round | some seasonal beers

  • available at liquor stores
  • in bars and restaurants throughout Arkansas

 Additional Beer Recipes:


Smokey Hot Beer Shrimp

The sweet heat in this recipe — with just a hint of beer taste — is outstanding! We used Guinness Extra Stout in the recipe testing.


  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste or catsup
  • 1/3 cup wheat or stout beer
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • ¼ cup chopped or snipped cilantro, to garnish and serve
  • 2 cups cooked rice, to serve


In a saucepan over medium-high heat, stir to combine the smoked paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, chili powder, chili flakes, tomato paste or catsup, beer, honey, salt and pepper. Add the butter, and bring to a strong simmer, stirring frequently until reduced and thickened, about 5 minutes. In a separate skillet, heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the shrimp, and cook until just pink on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the sauce over the shrimp and continue to cook until shrimp are no longer translucent and are cooked through, another 2 minutes or so. To serve, arrange the shrimp on a bed of cooked rice and sprinkle the cilantro on top. Serve with green salad of romaine, avocado and grape tomatoes dressed with herb vinegar.

Servings: 2 to 3


Guinness Stout Brownies

These brownies are decadently chocolate and on the fudgy side. The eggs lighten the final product, and the stout enhances the chocolate — you will not taste it.


  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
  • 12 ounces or 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup stout (Guinness or Young’s Double Chocolate recommended)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Coarse sea salt, to garnish
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon stout, to garnish
  • Mint leaves, to garnish


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper or non-stick foil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa and salt. Set aside. Melt butter and bittersweet chocolate chips in a double boiler over very-low heat, stirring constantly until completely melted. Alternatively, use a large glass bowl and heat in the microwave in one-minute increments just until chocolate begins to melt. Stir to finish.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the melted chocolate mixture, beating on medium until combined. Beat reserved flour mixture into the chocolate mixture a spoonful at a time. Stir in the Guinness by hand. The batter may seem a bit thin.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Drop the semisweet chocolate chips evenly on top of batter. Bake 25 to 30 minutes on center rack in the oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle sparingly with the sea salt. Let brownies cool, uncovered, to room temperature. Serve with a spoonful of stout whipped cream, and garnish with a mint leaf.

Yield: about 38 brownies, depending on the size you cut them.

Beer Note: The beer should be at room temperature. The recipe uses 8 of the 12 ounces in a standard Guinness bottle, so there will be enough left for the stout whipped cream and for the cook. Do not include the foam in the measurement. Either spoon out the foam or let the beer rest until the foam subsides.