Sommelier Says: Beer Pairings

Michael Nagrant / 07.17.06

The complexity of beer is underrated. There are almost an infinite combination of malted barleys, herbal hops, and brewer’s yeasts that can be combined to yield uniquely crafted beers.Harvested barleys are roasted like green coffee beans yielding different taste characteristics. “Terroir”, the character of the earth in which a plant grows, is important to beer, and also like wine, there is probably a beer for every food or occasion.

Newcity decided to ask some of Chicago’s top sommeliers, wine directors, and beverage experts how they would steer a customer who might be a beer enthusiast, or who didn’t particularly like wine, in three classic food scenarios:

Steak with a red wine reduction sauce like Merlot

Foie Gras on brioche toast with a fruit sauce like cherry or huckleberry.

Lobster in a white wine butter sauce.

We also asked the sommeliers to recommend their favorite personal “go to” or “under the radar” beers.

Alpana Singh, Director of Wine and Spirits, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

Steak Pairing: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout –“It’s heavier and richer with the same weight as red wine. Any beer that you can’t see through, that’s got more of a brown chocolaty color to it, or a dense mouth feel that can stand up to the intense red wine reduction is good.”

Foie Gras: Hoegaarden white ale.  “It can act like a Burgundy white.”

Lobster: Lindeman’s Gueuze “It’s light and crisp to counter the butter sauce.”

Go To Beer: Stella Artois


Brian Duncan, Wine Director, Bin 36

Steak: Bell’s Stout

Foie Gras: Bosteel Tripel Karmeliet

Lobster: Mendocino Red Tail Ale. “It’s got a creamy consistency that will play up the richness in the lobster.”

Under the Radar: Three Floyd’s Alpha King


Matthew Gundlach, Sommelier, Moto restaurant

Steak: Summit Great Northern Porter “I think of a porter, the bold flavor going with the bold flavor of the steak. We used the Summit in a wine progression paired up with a black bean soup with chocolate marshmallows.”

Foie Gras: “I would probably just grab a mix and match six pack and have a lot of fun with this.”

Lobster: New Glarus Spotted Cow. “It’s an amber with light fruity flavors.”

Under the radar favorite: New Glarus Uff-da Bock


Joe Catterson, Wine Director, Alinea restaurant

Steak: Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

Foie Gras: Binchois Reserve “It’s a Belgian beer, off dry, rich with a nice touch of spice.”

Lobster: Pilsener Urquell “It’s light and clean”

Go to beer: Guinness Stout


Adam Seger, Wine Director/Bar Chef, Nacional 27

Steak: Chimay Blue “I’d go towards Belgium, because you get the higher alcohol like you would with a full bodied wine.”

Foie Gras: Lindemans Kriek

Lobster: Anchor Steam “Nothing too hoppy. I’d go more towards a lager because of the lighter acidity.”

Under the Radar: Goose Island Pere Jacques