It’s summer, and that means its BBQ season. As you sip on a beer while firing up your backyard grill, it may be time to rethink your choice of beer. Your palate deserves a pleasant contrast of bitterness against the spice, heat, and meat on your plate. Brewers and pitmasters agree that certain types of beer work well with different types of BBQ, and we can help you create the perfect flavor combinations.
WHICH BEER TO CHOOSE FROM?
When you walk into a beer cooler, there is Pale Lager, Blonde Ale, Hefeweizen, IPA, Irish Red Ale, Porter, Stout, and more. With so many kinds of beer available, it can be daunting to first identify which beer to buy, and then how to pair it with your BBQ dinner.
As a general rule of thumb, the more flavorful or spicier the dish, the stronger the beer needs to be. So, a lighter fish or vegetable grill will taste better with a refreshing light beer, whereas red meats will stand up to more heavier beers.
Secondly, you want to match the intensity of flavor of the pint to the plate. For example, you don’t want to pair a sweet beer with a sweet BBQ sauce—rather, contrast a mildly flavored light lager with sweeter foods.
However, tastebuds for beer are often subjective and you may enjoy a crisp, fresh brew on a warm summer day, or may have a favorite local craft brewery you love to drink at. Ultimately, it’s your choice!
TYPES OF BBQ
The type of meat (beef, fish, poultry), how you cook it (direct heat, slow braise), the type of fuel used for cooking (charcoal, pellet), and rubs and seasoning (southern style BBQ sauce, Korean gochugaru), also dictate the appropriate beer pairing.
Next time you stack your classic American beef burger, think of the fat, cheese, toppings, and condiments. If you are adding a slice of avocado, drink rich American wheat beer, Belgian golden ale, hoppy American pale ales, or an IPA; and if you are adding aged cheese, such as Swiss or Gouda, grab a bottle of savory Porter, Schwarzbier, or a nutty brown ale.
“Certain types of beer are definitely suited better for certain types of BBQs” according to Chris Jerrick, pitmaster at Two Bros BBQ Market in San Antonio. He advises drinking dark beer when eating brisket and beef ribs, Brown Ales with brisket, beef ribs, or a juicy steak, crisp Lager with poultry, and Hefeweizen with pork ribs.
There are four regional BBQ styles in the U.S., each corresponding to a suggested beer pairing – Blonde ale with Kansas City, Porter with Memphis, Rye ale with Carolina, and Dunkel with Texas BBQ.
THE PERFECT MATCH
Beer and BBQ seem like the perfect duo, complementing each other, yet the combinations are endless. According to Warren Stanko, head brewer at Chattanooga Brewing Co., “Lighter beers, such as lagers, ambers and blonde ales, are crisp and refreshing, which make them the best pairing option for slow cooked, flavor-forward meat. While IPAs are well-liked, their characteristic hoppy bitterness can take away from the flavor of the meat. Pairing a Stout or Porter with chocolatey notes can bring out the sweetness in a barbecue sauce.”
Other experts say that pairing the right beer will accentuate or alter the taste of your dish. Matt Pearce, owner of Old SLO BBQ in San Luis Obispo adds, “Rich, smoky, sweet, and succulent BBQ is most commonly paired with the dark and malt styles of beer like Amber or Brown ales or dark lagers to accentuate the roasted Maillard-reaction quality of the meats.”
There’s no doubt that good food deserves to be paired with good beer. If you aren’t sure what to pair with your meal, visit a local brewery, try new kinds of beers, and make your own beer and BBQ pairing rules!