Beer Matching with Kerby Craig

Five beer matches with Bar Ume’s Kerby Craig

Wine isn’t the only thing you should be drinking with your lunch – beer presents just as fine a match. Bar Ume’s Kerby Craig breaks down how to do it right.


To put it plainly, Kerby Craig just really likes beer. “Japanese beer especially.” At his Surry Hills restaurant Bar Ume, beer is a large focus, matching his menu of umami-laden snacks such as Nagoya-style chicken wings, charcoal-grilled eggplant with white miso and sardines with ponzu sauce.

“There is a certain perception that beer is a masculine thing,” says Craig, “but that’s pretty sexist – everyone should be drinking beer. A glass of beer actually has less calories than a glass of wine, which I don’t think everyone realises. It’s also so varied, there’s always a certain style that will match whatever you’re eating.” Though his ultimate match would be a smoky, meaty burger with a malt-heavy brew, Craig has some more tips for those looking to steer clear of wine and head down the beer path when you’re next dining out, or eating in at home.

IPA (Indian Pale Ale) is super hoppy and bitter. Craig recommends pairing it with stronger flavours and more fatty foods. “Pork belly, katsu or gyoza with a bit of spice,” he says. “You don’t want to match a dominating beer with something light. It will overpower it. Just like you wouldn’t serve Shiraz with crab. You want strong and powerful flavours to match and pair together. That’s a general rule with any kind of alcoholic pairing.”

Pale Ale
“Pale Ales are also hoppy, but they’re a bit lighter and are really versatile and flexible when it comes to matching it with food,” says Craig. “It’s a pretty safe bet.” Nikujaga is a braised dish that immediately comes to mind for the chef, as do stewed dishes that are a bit more hearty, but not too rich. Think lighter braises and donburi, brothy, aromatic dishes using dashi and seaweed stocks rather than thick gravy sauces. Pale Ale will easily sit in the back row if you want to showcase a dish and simply complement it.

Czech style beers like Pilsner are a little bit bitter, but clean and crisp. “They work well with things that have light and crispy fruitiness,” says Craig. “Match Pilsner with salty, grilled things like salt-seared salmon or yakitori chicken with smoky, salty soy-sauce. Anything with a saline side.”

Wheat Beer
Bavarian-style wheat beers are super fruity, bright and fresh tasting. “You want the food to complement this beer rather than the other way around,” says Craig. Try matching it to fresh things like raw cold seafood or herbaceous seafood salads, scallops, crustaceans. Steer clear of briny seafood like oysters though, they’ll go well with Pilsner rather than Wheat Beer.

Stout is full of coffee and chocolate flavours plus roasted nuts, and it’s an ideal beer to match with dessert. “The chocolate, coffee and cherry notes in Stout almost make me think of red wine,” says Craig. “I think of winter – chocolate, Port and cherries. On the savoury side, pair it with barbecued meats with heaps of salty, smoky flavours. I wouldn’t serve it with scallops or a salad. Serve it a little warmer than a Pilsner, too. More depth = a warmer serving temp. Crisp fresh beers should be colder.”