There are a lot of perceived rules when it comes to drinking scotch–some legitimate, some not. Yes, scotch can be enjoyed neat, by the fire, while sitting in a comfortable chair and donning a smoking jacket. But some prefer a drop of water or a few ice cubes. Others knock back shots without much thought. And others still think that a good dram is always better when sitting side-by-side with a good beer.
We don’t abide by too many rules. Sure, we’d prefer not to drink scotch out of a paper cup. But hey, if that’s what you’ve got, no problem. Make it a double. And beer, well, beer is delicious. So while our standard method of operation is to drink scotch by itself, we’re always up for mixing it into a cocktail or enjoying it slowly between sips of beer.
So after attending a recent event in which Highland Park whiskies were served alongside various beers, we asked Highland Park brand ambassador Steph Ridgway for some pro tips on pairing one with the other.
When pairing whisky and beer, are there certain complementary flavor notes you look for?
It depends on which whisky you’re pairing. Some have citrus notes, some have chocolate notes, etc. It’s all about finding the beer that will accent the notes you’re looking to enhance. I think it varies palate by palate, but for me personally, I like to find pairings that highlight each drink’s dominant notes. For instance, a lightly hopped IPA will bring out the honey sweet notes in a dram of HP 12, while the sweetness of the whisky will intensify the citrus notes in the beer. And with HP Dark Origins, I’m very fond of the stone fruit note. So I look to pair it with a beer that will enhance that. I find that a chocolate stout pairs wonderfully with it.
Any other favorites?
With our 15 year old expression, there’s nothing better than a chalice of Saison.
Are there any beers that do not pair well with whisky?
While there are definitely some styles of beer that work better than others, I believe that all beers work on some level. It’s just a matter finding one that works for you. Everybody’s palate is different so what may work well for some doesn’t work at all for somebody else. Personally speaking, I try to stay away from the uber hopped beers and uber peated whiskies. I find that my palate gets fatigued easily with those and I don’t enjoy the experience as much.
Sounds similar to pairing drinks with food. Speaking of, got any snack recommendations to complement the beer and whisky?
I can always find room for cheese, almonds and cured beef when I’m enjoying a dram and a craft beer. It’s all about the experience and occasion, after all, so adding some delicious bites just enhances the process.
Any other tips for someone looking to begin pairing whisky and beer?
Depending which side of the ‘fan fence’ you sit on, start out with your favorite whisky or beer. Think about what you like about it. What flavor really makes you smile when you sip it? And then go from there when choosing the pairing. If you happen to be sitting in a bar with a great selection of draft beer, don’t be afraid to ask your bartender for a wee taste of one or two of them to help you decide. At the end of the day, this is supposed to be fun so don’t be afraid to experiment a little. You never know what you might stumble on!