Lake Minnetonka Beer Pairings

Next time you’re planning a party, look to beer as the perfect pairing.

Bryan Buser’s buddies had their doubts on the advantages of specific pairings of beer with food.

“Before, they thought that, of course, you like to drink beer with dinner because beer is great and everyone likes beer,” says Buser, a certified cicerone (beer expert) and the store manager at The Four Firkins in St. Louis Park. “But it really emphasized that when you get the right beer and the right food, it can make a regular meal into something fantastic.”

At a gathering of friends, Buser brought a 2008 J.W. Lees barley wine with some blue cheese. His friends sipped the beer and weren’t enamored. Then, they ate the blue cheese and washed it down with the beer.

“It completely blew their minds,” Buser says of his favorite pairing of the funky cheese and the fruity beer. “They still talk about it, like a year later.”

That’s what precise pairings do, Buser says. They make you “fall off your chair.”

Gina Holman, a certified sommelier and director of liquor operations at Wayzata Wine and Spirits, as well as Wayzata Bar and Grill, says spring is a perfect time to introduce a new party favor.

“It’s the time to celebrate a new season,” she says. “During these times of food and fun, many people think of wine as beverage of choice while entertaining, [but] with the craft beer craze among us, try these great food and beer combinations as a new alternative while entertaining. These are some of my favorite food and beer pairings I love serving my guests.”

Here are eight suggested pairings from Buser and Holman.



Buser’s Bets:

Duchesse Du Bourgogne with coconut-crusted shrimp or scallops

The coconut would play off the slight coconut flavors in the beer, and the beer is also tart and has some passion fruit flavors. It’s also decently effervescent, so it cleans your palate off.

Steel Toe Size 7 Indian Pale Ale with buffalo wings

The IPA will enhance the spiciness, if you want to amp up the heat.


Holman’s Hints:

Liefmans Cuvee Brut with a brie puffy pastry and cranberry compote

The fruity yet tart Cuvee balances extremely well with the creamy brie and the flaky puff pastry along with the delicious, bright flavors of the cranberry compote. This is a perfect starter to any party.

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale with stuffed mushrooms

The Bell’s pairs perfectly with the rich flavor profile of the mushrooms. Delightful!



Buser’s Bets:

Sam Smith Organic Raspberry or Strawberry Ale and chocolate cake

The sweetness and the fruity tones in those beers really have a great contrasting tone to the chocolate while still complementing it very, very well.

Brooklyn East India Pale Ale with carrot cake

There are some caramel tones in the base malt of the IPA that play off of the base flavor of the carrot cake. The sweetness of the cake is mitigated by the bitterness of the hops in the IPA.


Holman’s Hints:

Lindeman’s Kriek Lambic with a cherry cheesecake or cherry tart

Lambics are unique as the brew master awaits a spontaneous fermentation and then adds black cherries creating a secondary fermentation. The acid in the beer refreshes the palette and balances with the residual sugar in either dessert.

Dragon’s Milk with a chocolate flourless cake 

Pairing a lovely, sweet stout from New Holland Brewing with a decadent rich dessert like a chocolate flourless cake is always a winner. The rich, dark flavors from this barrel-aged stout compliment the bitter chocolate in the cake.



For more help on perfect beer pairings, visit:

The Four Firkins, 5630 36th St., St. Louis Park; 952.938.2847

Wayzata Wine & Spirits, 747 Mill Street, Wayzata; 952.473.7191