Barley wines and meads are lively and fruity, sometimes sweet, sometimes bittersweet, but always full of happiness—and alcohol. They’re like the antidote to cold Minnesota winters, like that fake bearskin rug in front of the fireplace with a great book. Good with both sweet and spicy, these fruity wines are in many ways like the cognac of beer—while they can be paired, they’re often best sipped alone.
Pairing Thoughts …
Barley wine is most definitely a digestif beer. Think Compari after a nice Italian dish. If you must pair, you need to only consider the richest chocolate desserts and the strongest of cheeses. Barley wines can age (as well as many dubbels, imperial porters, and stouts) for 25 years or longer. Their bitterness subsides over time, and the beers can take on sherry and port-like qualities. Aged barley wine can be a heavenly experience with the right cheese.
Meads, on the other hand, can be paired a little easier. Depending on the style of mead, it can be light enough to be beautifully paired with fruit soup but substantial enough to meld with a heartier prawns in green curry. Recommended by some with Ethiopian cuisine, its sweetness makes it a nice match with spicier foods and is a lovely partner with many fruit and cheese platters.