What Beer Pairs Best with Sushi? (Style and Tasting Notes)

While it may not be the first food that comes to mind, many types of sushi pair well with beer. Which beers should you be ordering with your sushi?

Traditionally, sushi is not paired with sake as they are both rice dishes; instead, choose tea, wine, or beer. Light beers with a hint of sweetness such as lagers, pilsners, and Kölsch tend to pair well with all varieties of sushi. Since there is such a wide range of types of sushi available, feel free to experiment with beer pairings.

Sushi is often a delicate food that can easily be overpowered. There are a few flavor considerations you should make when you pair beer with sushi. Let’s explore the flavors of each that go together.

Does beer mix with sushi?

When I typically think of sushi pairings my first thought is sake. After all, it is found in almost every sushi restaurant so it seems appropriate. That’s why I was surprised to find out that traditionally sake is not paired with sushi.

Sushi should be paired with drinks that cleanse your palate in order to allow you to appreciate the full flavors and subtleties of the sushi. A drink is only paired if it allows you to enjoy the meal more meaning beer can be a good mix with sushi as long as you choose one that’s light, refreshing, and has complimentary flavor notes.

Since there isn’t a truly traditional sushi pairing, beer serves as a palate cleanser just as well as other choices.

That said, in recent decades tradition has become less of an iron-clad law. Sake can be paired with sushi if you like. This also means that beers can serve as more than palate cleansers in this pairing.

Flavor profile of sushi

Typically the main flavor profile of sushi is savory or umami. This primarily comes from the seafood used, but also comes from seaweed and soy sauce.

Sushi can cover a wide range of flavors depending on the seafood and ingredients added.

Each ingredient will bring different flavors to the sushi depending on if they are served raw or cooked. These flavors are either enhanced or complemented by the various ingredients added to sushi.

Common seafood types used in sushi include:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Shrimp
  • Yellowtail
  • Mackarel
  • Octopus

The beauty of sushi is that it can be made with countless other ingredients. Each roll you get will have a description of the ingredients so that you can better understand the individual flavor profiles.

Common non-seafood ingredients include:

  • Wasabi
  • Ginger
  • Seaweed
  • Avocado
  • Cucumber

While there is a wide range of flavor profiles, you can get a sense of the focus by looking at the type. Some styles put more emphasis on the taste of the seafood. Others put more emphasis on other ingredients such as jalapenos. 

Nigiri

This style is one of the simplest types of sushi.

Typically it is just a clump of rice with a slice of seafood on top. Usually, the seafood is raw.

Nigiri focuses on the flavor of the seafood.

Maki

Maki sushi is the other main type of sushi along with nigiri.

It is rice and fillings, such as fish and vegetables, wrapped in seaweed. This style can range from a seaweed focus to an ingredient focus.

Maki is what most people consider a “sushi roll.”

Uramaki

One of the two substyles of maki is uramaki. The difference is that uramaki is almost inside out.

The filling is in the center wrapped up in seaweed while the rice is on the outside of them both.

This style has the same range of focus as maki but tends towards focusing on ingredients.

Temaki

The second substyle of maki is temaki. This style of sushi is cone-shape

ed. The cone is made out of seaweed with rice and fillings inside. It focuses on ingredients but can focus on seafood.

Sashimi

This last one isn’t actually sushi as it isn’t served with rice.

Sashimi is just seafood without any rice or other ingredients. Obviously, it is just the flavor profile of the seafood.

What kind of flavors pair best with sushi?

While it can vary greatly, there are a few general flavors that will pair well with most sushi.

In general, you will want to match umami with umami. This savory flavor with a hint of sweetness can be hard to find. Yeast can be a good source of umami notes.

Another great pairing is moderate hoppiness. This is not your IPA, but something more toned down. The bitterness and floral nature of many hops will combine with the sweetness and saltiness of sushi to create intense flavors.

A third flavor pairing is a touch of acidity. This will bring out the hints of acidity present in quality sushi rice. Bringing this flavor out will add complexity to your sushi.

The best beer styles to pair with sushi

All of the above flavor pairings can be found in beer. Those flavors work with other aspects of beer such as its effervescence to provide a great drink to pair with sushi. 

There are quite a few styles of beer that you can choose from depending on the style of sushi you’re having.

These types of beer go best with sushi:

  • Light lager
  • Pilsner
  • Hefeweizen
  • Witbier
  • Kölsch

Light Lagers

Light lagers are an ideal choice for pairing with most foods, including sushi, as they are fairly mild, inoffensive beers.

A light lager is a refreshing drink that will not pull focus from the meal.

Tasting notes

A light lager goes easy on heavy flavors. It has hints of hop bitterness as well as yeast notes. Some can also have a slight sweetness to them. Overall they are lightly flavored.

Why it pairs well with sushi

Lagers are often light, crisp, and refreshing, all of which are great characteristics for pairing with sushi.

The key reason this beer pairs well is its carbonation which helps clean your palate between bites.

The best sushi pairing

Light lagers pair well with any type of sushi. However, it is best with spicy and heavily flavorful sushi. These are often uramaki rolls.

Light lager beers that you can find in the store

Japanese lagers are usually the best for this type of pairing. Some good beers in this style include:

  • Asahi Super Dry
  • Orion Draft Lager
  • Echigo Koshihikari

Kölsch

Kölsch beers pair well with sushi because they are light, slightly fruity beers that work well as palate cleansers.

Tasting notes

Kölsch beers are generally light with notes of hop bitterness and a bit of wine-like fruitiness.

Why it pairs well with sushi

This is another style that focuses on cleansing your palate. 

The best sushi pairing

Pair this beer with maki or nigiri sushi. It will also do well with sashimi.

Kölsch beers that you can find in the store

  • Sünner Kölsch
  • Left Hand Travelin’ Light Kolsch
  • Reissdorf Kölsch

Pilsner

Similar to light lagers, pilsners tend to be a relatively light drink, but they are more hop-centric and can be more bitter. Because of the light body, pilsners are still fairly good palate cleansers.

Tasting notes

Pilsners are similar to many light lagers but are differentiated by their hop flavor notes. They are hop-centric and offer bitterness with some floral and herbal notes.

The same lightness from light lagers can also apply to pilsners.

Why it pairs well with sushi

This style provides a welcome added complexity to sushi without becoming overpowering. As it is still light, it can also cleanse your palate though not as well as a light lager.

The best sushi pairing

Pilsners pair well with maki. They complement the flavors that come from the ingredients aside from the seafood.

Pilsner beers that you can find in the store

  • Sam Adams Noble Pils
  • Allagash Truepenny Pilsner
  • North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner

Hefeweizen

Hefeweizens are fruity, yeasty beers that are not good for palate cleansing, but the flavor does complement many styles of sushi.

Tasting notes

Hefeweizens are yeast-centric beers. Their dominant flavors are fruits and spices from the yeast. These flavors typically present themselves as banana and clove.

Why it pairs well with sushi

This style is less focused on palate cleansing. Instead, it focuses on complementing flavors. This beer matches umami notes in addition to spices.

The best sushi pairing

Hefeweizens pair best with nigiri and uramaki.

Hefeweizen beers that you can find in the store

  • New Glarus Dancing Man Wheat
  • Troegs Brewing DreamWeaver Wheat
  • Live Oak HefeWeizen

Witbier

Witbier’s acidity pairs well with sushi rice and helps bring out the flavors of your meal.

Tasting notes

This Belgian-style beer is known for its coriander and orange flavors. It is sweet and fruity without being especially strong.

Why it pairs well with sushi

The acidity present in witbiers helps bring out the acidity in sushi rice.

The best sushi pairing

This beer style is best with nigiri, maki, and uramaki.

Witbier beers that you can find in the store

  • Avery White Rascal
  • Port City Optimal Wit
  • Hitachino Nest White Ale

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06/09/2022 01:55 pm GMT