Fish and Chips Beer Pairing

What beer do you pair with Fish and Chips? An English staple, fish and chips screams for an English ale. But this alternative beer pairing won me over.

This recipe came into my life from the back of a case of beer. That's right, on a regular ol' case of seasonal Full Sail Session Cream Ale, their summer offering. I had already poked fun at Andrew for buying this case of cream ale since, in all of my studies, they are the red-headed stepchild of the beer world.

I'm actually being very serious here. In the BJCP guidelines (possibly the best resource to distinguish different beer styles) cream ale is described as "A clean, well-attenuated, flavorful American lawnmower beer". Lawnmower beer?! How is that a term to describe a style of beer? And what kind of brewery would continue making these lawnmower beers? (Joke's on me...New Glarus Spotted Cow and Anderson Valley Summer Solstice, two of my favorite drinking beers, are actually in the Cream Ale category.)

The Beer

Okay, time to put my beer snobbiness away. "Time and a Place", I always say, meaning, every beer has a situation that calls for it. So in the case of cream ales, should we be drinking them while mowing the lawn? (Not recommended.)

Getting to the point, cream ales are not so bad. Actually, they are quite refreshing. They are the craft-beer drinker's option for a light beer with high drinkability without having to reach for a Bud or PBR. They were originally created as an ale to compete with the American lager style. So, they were intended to be light and refreshing. Okay, bad idea to give Andrew crap about buying cream ale. Now he won't share with me.

The Pairing

Disclosure!! These pictures were not taken with Full Sail Session Cream Ale. That's because I had it imprinted in my mind that fish and chips need to be paired with an English ale. Its only right, isn't it? Aren't fish and chips like the national dish of England?

With this dish, Andrew had the cream ale, I had an English ESB. They both went really well with the fish and chips. However, my ESB naturally had a little more bitterness to it. It was good because the bitterness cut through the fatty, fried fish and chips, but for some reason the cream ale just tasted better. The cream ale was nicely balanced between malt sweetness (think corn) and just enough bitterness. I think this cut through the fried fish AND played off the sweetness of the batter. It also went better with the sweet tarter sauce. Even though ESB is one of my favorite beers to pair with food (like in this awesome BLTA sandwich pairing) cream ale won this time. Which is totally awesome.

Examples of Cream Ales

  • Full Sail Summer Seasonal Session Cream Ale (my pairing in this post)
  • Genesee Cream Ale
  • Anderson Valley Summer Solstice (Seasonal)
  • New Glarus Spotted Cow

Other Fish and Chips Beer Pairings

Don't have any access to these cream ales or want a beer with a little more going on in it? As I said earlier, English Ales are naturals with fish and chips. And many other styles go with the dish too, thanks to the fried nature of the dish. Try:

  • English Bitter
  • English ESB (Firestone Walkder Double Barrel Ale is the most common American example of this style)
  • English Pale Ale (American styles might be too hoppy though so be careful)
  • Dusseldorf Altbier
  • California Common (such as Anchor Steam)
  • German Pilsner

The Recipe

Once again I'd sincerely like to thank Full Sail Brewing Company for putting this recipe on the back of their case of beer. It turned out absolutely delicious. Make sure you make some homemade tartar sauce to go with this as well!


Session Summer Ale Fish & Chips

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 30 mins

Total time: 45 mins

Serves: 4

recipe adapted from the Full Sail Pub recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 baking potatoes, julienned to make french fry strips
  • 11 oz beer (cream ale is what we used)
  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp old bay seasoning
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless cod fillets, cut into 1-inch wide strips (may be up to 5-6 inches long)
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.
  2. In a dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil to 375 degrees F (stick a wooden spoon handle to see if the oil is hot enough. If bubbles form on the spoon, the oil is ready)
  3. Fry the potatoes until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Keep warm in the oven while making the fish.
  4. Fish: to make the batter, pour the beer into a large bowl. Sift 1 1/2 cups flour into the bowl and add old bay seasoning, cayenne pepper, and baking powder. Stir gently until combined.
  5. Pat the fish dry and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Drop the fish fillets one by one into the batter to coat evenly, then into the frying oil. Fry each fish and turn frequently in the oil until deep golden and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. When each fish filet is done, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and onto a baking sheet with paper towels. Keep in the warm oven until all other fish filets are done. Fry the remaining fish in batches until complete.
  7. Serve the fish with the french fries.

Happy Pairing!