Red Ale & Tomato Soup

tomato soup and beer

So, it’s not exactly tomato soup weather today. It’s a beautiful and sunny warm (some might even say “hot”) day in the NW. There are those of us out there for whom soup knows no season, though. So put this pairing away for a gloomy day (you never know when those will pop up here) or nab it now for a quick and easy and satisfying lunch or weeknight dinner idea. 30 minute meals are better with beer, am I right? 

Three Reasons This Pairing Works

  1. Red ales vary a lot in sweetness, but most have a defined malt profile with a nutty caramel-chocolate background and a bit of residual sugar. This happens to work nicely with the acidity of tomatoes–they balance each other. soup and beer
  2. Not all tomato soup is made or garnished with herbs, but many are–and I would advise it. Dill, basil, thyme, rosemary, fresh parsley–there are certainly options. This herbal note (grassy, earthy, dusty, whatever you have working for you) is a good complement to the light roast and spice note of the caramel malts in the red ale.
  3. One word: umami. The last-to-be-officially-recognized and most memorable taste of savory, rich or meatlike flavors. Tomatoes have a great deal of umami. And guess what else has this quality? Malted barley, and especially some types of specialty malt. In beer umami doesn’t make you think of meat so much as just a full palate flavor experience. This is perhaps why a bright, light vegetable source of umami goes well with a lightly roasty and umami-showcasing beer. The more taste, the better.

It’s not easy to find well-made red ales around these parts–sadly it’s not a style that’s remained highly popular. But there are some good examples out there. They all vary significantly, so you can pick your favorite. Here are a few of mine.

Silver City Ridgetop Red (Silverdale/Bremerton, Wash.)

North Coast Red Seal (Fort Bragg, Cal.)

Ninkasi Believer (Eugene, Ore.)

Deschutes Cinder Cone (Bend/Portland, Ore.)

Boneyard Diablo Rojo (Bend, Ore.)

Chainline Recumbent Red (Kirkland, Wash.)

Lucky Envelope Red (Seattle, Wash.)

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