Cheesy, buttery, hot or sweet, nothing provides a ready palette for flavors quite like popcorn. At once crunchy and fluffy, good popcorn seems to melt away before you can follow it with a draught and reach for another handful.
Just as a cut of meat will pair differently depending on if you grill, stew, braise, or broil it, popcorn will pair differently depending on how it’s popped and seasoned.
Rules of Thumb
- Pick bold popcorn flavors and contrasting beer flavors.
- Try not to match robust brews with mild popcorn (or vice versa). You don’t want one to overpower the other.
- Start with what you like, then try mixing it up. There’s no wrong combination, but you’ll find you like some more than others.
- Compare flavor profiles here to get an idea which profiles you might like to experiment with.
Cheddar Popcorn + a Rich & Malty Beer
Rich and malty brews range in flavor from toasted to caramel sweetness with mild bitterness. A brown ale like Negra Modelo will pair well with Cheddar popcorn’s savory, salty, and cheesy flavor.
Butter Popcorn + a Hoppy & Bitter Beer
Hoppy and bitter brews have a prominent hop aroma with an assertive bitterness. The fruity aroma and long hop finish of Goose Island IPA makes it an excellent complement to the salt-and-butter flavors of a traditional movie theater-style popcorn.
Kettle Corn + a Dark & Roasted Beer
Dark and roasted brews have roasted and chocolate malt flavors, and sometimes a pronounced sweetness. Since kettle corn is popped with oil, sugar, and salt and usually has a deliciously sweet crust, it makes the perfect partner to Guinness Draught’s dark roasted notes.
Parmesan Garlic + a Spiced & Complex Beer
Spiced and complex brews are fruity, subtly spicy, with high carbonation and low to mild bitterness. Brewery Vivant’s Farm Hand is rustic and mildly sweet and pairs well with butter, garlic, and the nutty earthiness of grated Parmesan. Try making it yourself and use real butter, garlic, and Parmigiano Reggiano for a taste you won’t get in a bag.
Caramel Corn + a Dark & Roasted Beer
The chocolaty malt flavors of dark and roasted brews also go well with caramel corn. Left Hand Milk Stout delivers rich dark chocolate, coffee, and anise flavors that nicely counter the thick and lingering sweetness of caramel corn. Look for a caramel corn that’s more corn than caramel.
Red Pepper Popcorn + a Dark & Roasted Beer
The best way to enjoy a hot and spicy popcorn is with a dark and roasted brew. New Holland’s The Poet has a creamy and soft mouth-feel with a rich and roasty malt character, perfect for carrying away the heat. Beware of adding too much red pepper; you want the burn to linger a little, but only as long as the malty and chocolaty notes of your brew.
Dill Pickle Popcorn + a Hoppy & Bitter Beer
Dill can be an insistent flavor and overpower your brew. Try something hoppy and bitter so you can focus on the dill and also enjoy the profile of your beer. Lagunitas IPA uses a little caramel malt barley to add richness and mellow the bitterness, which makes it a delicious combination with the sourness of the dill in your popcorn.