Perfect Beer and Wine Pairings for 8 Popular Local Dishes

We tapped the experts in a battle of the boozes to find the best drink pairings.


(page 1 of 3)

Illustrations: Emmy Reis 


Forget what you’ve heard about pizza and IPAs, or pork with pinot noir. When it comes to pairing food with alcohol, you don’t have to choose between beer and wine. Turns out, anything can be expertly paired with either type of beverage. We tapped some local connoisseurs for their picks from both sides of the booze fence to bring you the prime pairings for eight popular dishes, though not without a little controversy. “As much as I enjoy beer, its flavors don’t last long enough to thread for the next taste, allowing flavors to build,” says sommelier Kevin Toyama of the Halekūlani.


On the other hand, “Honestly,” says Bill Carl, certified cicerone (the beer equivalent of a wine sommelier) of Southern Wine & Spirits Hawai‘i, “how many times have you been to the beach with delicious, hand-pattied burgers sizzling on the grill and found yourself reaching for a Cabernet?” Them’s fightin’ words.


Let the battle begin!


Our experts:  


  • Bill Carl, certified cicerone (beer specialist) of Southern Wine & Spirits Hawai‘i, a wine, beer and liquor distributor

  • Donato Loperfido, president of Flavors of Italy, a wine and high-end beer wholesaler 

  • Anthony Messina, beverage director of REAL a gastropub


  • Brynn Burbach, certified sommelier and general manager of Town 

  • Jennifer Fiedler, author and former editor of Wine Spectator

  • Kevin Toyama, wine manager and lead sommelier of Halekūlani 





Beer: Stillwater Classique ($6) 

At REAL a gastropub

“Brewed with Pilsner malts, American hops, Farmhouse ale yeast and ingredients such as corn and rice, this light and flavorful beer will pair great with a ramen such as a char siu tan tan. With its Pilsner-like characteristics, this will hold up to all three main components of ramen: It will cut the saltiness of the broth and char siu and pair perfectly with the ramen noodle.”

Anthony Messina


Wine: Emilio Lustau “East India Solera” Sherry NV ($28.99) 

At Fujioka’s Wine Times 

According to Toyama, wine has a hard time fitting in with many popular styles of ramen. “This is when I yield to sherry and Madeira,” he says, because, “in a broth, flavors often dissipate quickly. I find the flavor persistence of a very cold, dry-style sherry to deftly add dimension to the heady flavors of pork and even shoyu-based broth. With a touch of fruitiness, this wine blends the dry style of an Oloroso and sweet Pedro Ximénez for a longer finish.” Fiedler agrees that sherry’s oxidative notes do well with salty foods and umami flavors found in light styles of ramen, such as shio or miso.

Kevin Toyama


Photos: Odeelo Dayondon 


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Honolulu Magazine June 2018
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