We South Africans love our seafood, and what better way to enjoy a catch of the day than paired with a great beer. We’ve taken some of South Africa’s most loved seafood dishes and matched them with beers that bring out their best features.
Beer and food pairing, much like wine and food pairing, is a great way to explore and appreciate beer. To pair beer and food, consider different elements of the beer such as flavour, body, carbonation and intensity, and see how they vary depending on the food they’re paired with. Some foods will bring out certain characteristics in the beer by contrasting to or complementing, and vice versa.
While these recommendations are our guide, we suggest you also play around with pairings. You may find combinations that work even better! (If you do, please do share them with us in the comments section below.)
Crayfish with Grolsch
With the Crayfish Festival coming up in Lambert’s Bay, you may want to stock up on Grolsch. Grolsch could be considered the classic seafood beer. It’s a big-bodied beer that stands up well to the big flavours of a juicy, boiled crayfish with tartare sauce. Take a sniff of your Grolsch and you’ll likely get a whiff of the crisp, ocean air. There’s a certain freshness and brininess in the aroma, which when paired with seafood, brings out the saltiness of the seafood. You’ll find the complementary pairing of Grolsch and crayfish is hard to beat.
Note that if you’re eating crayfish, always make sure it’s of legal size and in season.
Creamy garlic mussels and a saison
Garlic and mussels are a winning combination! Add a good saison, and you’re in for a treat. A light saison brings an added sweetness to your seafood. Its peppery notes and earthiness highlight the subtle flavours of the sea while also allowing that garlic bite to shine. Saison and other light Belgian ales are also generally great with seafood.
Mozambican peri-peri prawns with Miller Genuine Draft or an amber lager.
Our neighbours on the east coast have perfected the garlic and prawn dish, and its popularity has spread far and wide. Peri-peri prawns are a wonderful combination of sweet and tender prawn meat combined with bright, fresh chilli and garlic.
A generally great pairing for this dish would be a Miller Genuine Draft. You’ll find its slight sweetness has a cooling effect after the heat of the peri-peri, without detracting from the prawns.
Another great match for peri-peri prawns is an amber lager. This is another slightly sweet beer, but with more balance of malt than MGD, which is a light lager. While the hops in this brew still add a spicy layer to the pairing, the maltiness brings more caramel flavours through.
Grilled calamari paired with Peroni
Calamari, grilled with garlic or lemon, is a much-loved menu item in SA. Many people enjoy it as a starter, main, in a salad or doused with cream in a seafood pasta. However you choose to enjoy it, we suggest pairing with a big bodied lager. Peroni pairs well as its intensely crisp, bitter notes lift the calamari, and its hoppiness brings out the herbal seasoning. Its subtle sweetness and big body balances well here.
Fish & chips paired with Castle Lager
This dish, best eaten fresh on the docks at Hout Bay, is a classic. Whether you choose battered hake, dorado or yellowtail, a good solid lager is a great bet. Our choice would be Castle Lager. Its medium body is a good match for a well-battered fish steak, and the hoppiness cuts through the fat to bring out the crisp, light taste of the sea.
Do be careful with the vinegar on your chips though. The acids here can have the disastrous effect of overwhelming your palate, making your taste buds numb to the flavour sensations.
Oysters paired with Castle Milk Stout
The Knysna oyster, eaten fresh with a dash of lemon and tabasco, is a South African favourite, and the annual Knysna Oyster Festival should be on every South African’s bucket list. Along with this, the remarkable pairing of Castle Milk Stout and Knysna Oysters is an absolute must. You’ll find the briny saline of the oysters accentuates the sweetness of the stout at a low level. It’s a classic case of contrasting flavours bringing out the best in each other and must be tried to be believed.
We suggest you also try this pairing with Castle Milk Stout Ultra Smooth. Grab a glass of this even smoother stout, infused with nitrogen for an even finer mouthfeel.
Got some pairing stories of your own?
We want to know what seafood pairings have worked for you! Have you tried Hansa Pilsner with milk-poached hake? Or how about lemon-butter mussels with Pilsner Urquell? Share your pairing experiments in the comments section below.
Note: Consume conscientiously
Remember to check that the seafood you’re eating is in season and is sustainably harvested. It’s always wise to check SASSI’s reference list to make sure you’re eating sustainably.