If there’s any phrase with morale-boosting power, it’s “office happy hour.” With National Beer Lover’s Day and Oktoberfest both celebrated in September, there’s ample reason to start thinking of creative happy-hour pairing ideas, for your next office party.
Step one: think beyond bland trays of veggies or the same boring bowls of chips. To come up with a happy-hour idea that your office won’t just remember but might even tell their friends about, reach outside the box for office-party food ideas. Given the variety of beers put out by America’s almost 7,000 breweries, it’s easy to get creative when it comes to your food-and-beer lineup. Here are some of our favorite, unexpected combos.
Beer-pairing ideas for office happy hour: Doughnuts and coffee beers
Doughnuts and coffee are almost an office-party food cliché, but doughnuts and coffee beer certainly aren’t. The roasty tones in a coffee porter or stout help cut through frosting’s sweetness and cake’s richness, wrapping up the bite in a smooth, balanced package.
Beer-pairing ideas for office happy hour: Thai food and saisons
If your employees look forward to their Thai order each week, punch up the bright citrus notes in pad Thai or papaya salad with a few bottles of saison during office happy hour. These wheat-based beers are bright and lemony, with high levels of carbonation that feel especially refreshing after a spicy spoonful.
Beer-pairing ideas for office happy hour: Taco bar and Mexican lagers
The popularity of imported Mexican beer has exploded in the U.S. over the past few years, so offer your employees a variety of choices—Corona, Pacífico, Modelo, Tecate—and let them discuss which pair best with the happy hour’s build-your-own taco or nacho bar. Most imported Mexican beers are easy-drinking and summery, making them a fit for almost every palate.
Beer-pairing ideas for office happy hour: Pulled-chicken sliders and porters
As temperatures cool, malty but still easy-drinking porters fit the fall office happy-hour bill effortlessly. Their chocolatey, roasted-grain flavors temper a sweet barbecue sauce in a pairing that’s classically autumnal. You might find that employees who claim not to enjoy darker beers are won over by these light-bodied, balanced brews.
Beer-pairing ideas for office happy hour: Soft-pretzel bar and German lagers
Put a creative spin on this obvious Oktoberfest pair with a selection of flavored mustards—beer mustard, spicy whole-grain, or dijon—and artisan pickles. Classic German lagers like Oktoberfests, pilsners, and Kölsches are all fool-proof companions for tangy, bready pretzels and dipping sauces. Because they’re too heavy on the hops or the malt, they’ll appeal to even the light-beer drinkers at your office party.
Beer-pairing ideas for office happy hour: Burger bar and brown ales
Balanced and smooth, brown ales are the most versatile of food-pairing beers. Their smooth caramel-and-bread malt notes complement the slight char, creamy cheese, and savory toppings of a grilled burger. This pairing is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Beer-pairing ideas for office happy hour: Flatbread pizzas and IPAs
The country’s beloved pizza meets craft beer’s most popular style, the IPA, in a flavorful duo that’s sure to get the party talking. Make pizza an occasion with flatbread pies topped with seasonal vegetables. The range of earthy and spicy flavors in the abundant hops of the IPA highlights tangy tomato sauce or veggie toppings. Pick up a variety of IPAs to inspire discussion. Maybe even poll the team to find the “people’s choice” winner.