Eating Kimchi? Pair With Beer

By Dila Lee

Traditionally, when thinking of what to “pair” with your food, wine comes to mind. However, with the explosion of craft breweries in recent years, beer and food pairings are getting more attention.

Your pairing choices can be a combination of contrasting and mirroring to bring out the best in your food, and to balance the food and drink in your mouth. While food and beverage pairings can be highly personal, some foods lend themselves well to particular drinks. 

When eating foods that have kimchi as a primary ingredient, like a kimchi jiggae, you’ll want to go with beer instead of wine. In Korean drinking culture, alcohol is always accompanied with food and spicy stews with tofu are a popular choice to go with beer and soju. The salty, spicy dishes served with drinks are called anju, or 안주. Anju is comprised of both small plates and entrees.

So why is beer the drink of choice here? Fermentation is the process that converts sugar to acids, gases, or alcohol. Both kimchi and beer go through the fermentation process, so go together nicely.

While kimchi can be made at different spice levels, most kimchis found in the market would start from “mild.” Spicy food generally goes best with crisp lager beers, beers that are not hoppy, bitter or malty. Lager beers help temper the heat and strong flavors of kimchi. The top 3 popular Korean beer brands are Hite, Cass and OB. All these beers have many different styles as well as their lager style.

It is easy to find these beers at Asian grocery markets or some might even be available in your closest grocery store (depending on where you live). If you would like to discover domestic or other imports, stick with a lager! You can never go wrong with Budweiser which positively crushe – sales-wise – every other beer in America!

I personally love doing a kimchi flight paired with a beer flight. The taste/ structure of the kimchi is highly influenced by the vegetable it is made with. One of the best ways is to enjoy it with friends so you can try different beers without getting bloated!

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