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I eat fish often, and as a beer lover, would like to know how I can drink a beer that would best complement a fish such as tilapia or hake.

When it comes to wine, it's said that white pairs well with fish, and red with meat. Is there any similar rule with beer?

12

Take your cue from recipes for fish cooked in beer/ale. "Ale" (not usually specified further) and "amber beer" (example) seem to be the most common, and I can say from personal experience that these work well both for poaching fish and drinking alongside baked, broiled, or grilled whitefish.1 Of course, how your fish is flavored may affect your beer choice, but that might be a question for Seasoned Advice. If the dominant flavor isn't the fish but, say, curry or habenero, that's a different matter.

Anecdote: In the context of a renaissance-themed event I once cooked from a 15th-century recipe for whitefish poached in ale. I consulted my local brewing experts and together we made the ale (recipe and documentation). They told me that the key difference in that time period was that ale didn't use hops. There were no leftovers. Based on that experience, I usually reach for a low-hops medium-strength beer to go with whitefish.

1 I don't eat a lot of deep-fried fish so can't advise there, sorry. @Hunse suggests in another answer a sturdier beer for deep-fried fish.

  • Does it matter how the fish is prepared? For example, the fish cooked in beer/ale that I've seen tended to be deep fried. If the fish is grilled or baked (and perhaps seasoned), would an ale or amber still be appropriate or may there be a better option? – Thomas Owens Jan 21 '14 at 23:26
  • @ThomasOwens good point. When I think of tilapia and similar fishes I think of poached, baked, or grilled, not deep-fried (which I don't have a lot of experience with -- I don't deep-fry at home, and when out the beer options may be limited or non-existent). – Monica Cellio Jan 21 '14 at 23:29
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My simple rule would be to pair lighter beers with foods with lighter, more delicate flavours, and heavier beers with foods with heavier flavours. You don't want to pick a beer that will overpower your meal, or vice versa.

As @ThomasOwens pointed out, preparation does make a difference. I would drink a heavy beer (like a stout) with deep-fried fish and chips, but a lighter beer (light or amber ale, or a lager) with pan-fried tilapia.

  • 1
    I'd go for a pilsner, or perhaps a pale ale for fish and chips, because you want something easy drinking to wash the grease down with. – dwjohnston Jan 22 '14 at 4:50
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Lighter beers typically pair well with fish. Darker beers are much better with steak then seafood.

  • While this isn't strictly true, can you add some additional details about which specific styles of lighter beer work well with fish, and the reasons why? – Xander Mar 6 '16 at 17:03

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